What kind of country has a town called Hell, does not know how long its own coastline is and does not even use its own name?
We’ll give you a hint. Its landscape is legendary: deep fjords, jagged coast and expansive ice fields form a geography that is nothing short of cinematic. And the culture is fascinating too, influenced by Viking folklore and ancient Norse mythology.
Ready to make a guess? It’s Norway! Or Norge as the Norwegians call it.
Norwegians are famous for being some of the happiest, friendliest people on the planet. They're masters of the arts (from the painter of The Scream, Edvard Munch to the Romantic composer, Edvard Grieg) as well as world champions in winter sports (garnering more Winter Olympic medals than any other country).
To learn even more about this spectacular part of Scandinavia, we enlisted Classic Journeys expert local guide, Vibeke, who shares seven surprising facts.
We know about the capital Oslo and the quaint fishing village of Bergen that is UNESCO protected, but what other towns or places are noteworthy in Norway?
No offense meant, but you can actually go to Hell, where you’ll find about a thousand or so Norwegians actually live!
There is a Hell Railway Station, a Hell Hotel and a Hell Retirement Home.
Because of the sub-arctic climate, every winter this Hell really does freeze over!
It's not at all like you would imagine hell to be like though—a peaceful, picket-fenced settlement near the Stjørdalselva river
Norway is famous for its lutefisk, but what other foods have come from Norway?
If it wasn’t for us, sushi wouldn't be the same!
We introduced the Japanese to salmon in the 1980’s, persuading them to try it in their sushi.
It has been a staple ingredient in sushi ever since.
Norwegians are world class skiers and Norway invented skiing. Anything else that Norway has invented that we love in the US?
I’ll bet you use it almost daily but do not know it came from Norway...
It is the cheese slicer!
It was invented here in 1925 by a carpenter named Thor Bjørklund, who was fed up with how difficult it was to cut cheese with a knife.
We know you have more reindeer than anywhere else in Europe, but what other animals are popular in Norway?
Our most ‘royal’ animal is a penguin!
Brigadier Sir Nils Olav II is a knight of the Norwegian King’s Guard.
He lives in a zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland and was appointed a brigadier in 2016.
He is the third penguin of this position and like a true Norwegian, eats a lot of fish!
The geography of Norway is truly cinematic. We know Norway is famous for its fjords and mountains, what else?
Beyond the fjords, our coastline includes some wonderful bays and islets, but it's impossible to measure just how long it is, nobody knows!
We also have the northernmost tropical island in the world, called Flor og Fjare, which has some of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.
We have a volcano! Named Beerenberg, it is actually the northernmost subaerial active volcano in the world.
We know Norway has the world’s deepest fjord, what other world breaking claims do you have?
We have the biggest gingerbread town in the world!
Named Pepperkakebyen in Bergen, volunteers of all ages (kindergartens, schools, local businesses) build it every year and have held the world record since 1991!
There are gingerbread houses, cars, trains, fairgrounds and more, one year there was even an airship!
Norwegians read more books than any other population, is there anything else you do more than the rest of the world?
We are the highest spending country on...dog food!
Norwegians love their dogs and they dine like kings, often on organic, locally produced meals.
On average, we spend the equivalent of over $600 a year to feed our pups!