Happy National Day, Norway!

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Written by Jan Larsen

CEO at BUZZ.travel powered by World Travel Nation

Published: May 15, 2020

On May 17th Norway celebrates Constitution Day. A huge congratulation to our Scandinavian Friends! On May 17th ,1814 the Norwegian Constitution was signed.

Denmark – Norway were in “the good ol’ days “a united Kingdom with Norway being the junior partner. During the Napoleon Wars England was afraid that the French would get access to the substantial Danish fleet; and Lord Nielson raided Copenhagen twice to get the fleet. After the second raid in 1807 Denmark – Norway joined, for obvious reasons, Napoleon.

After the Napoleon Wars Norway was ceased to Sweden in 1814 in the Treaty of Kiel (one year before the Treaty of Vienna). The Norwegian Viceroy and Crown Prince of Denmark began working on a Norwegian independence movement; a constitutional meeting was called – his intention was probably to get Norway back to Denmark; but that is another story.

A national assembly met, and within 5 weeks a new constitution was written. The second oldest constitution in Europe (after the Polish). The Constitution was progressive for the time; the powers of the King were curtailed, about 50% of the men in Norway got the right to vote. On the other hand, monks, Jesuits, and Jews were banned from Norway.

Sweden, of course, was not happy about this. And as Norway failed to get international support for the new Constitution a short war broke out. The Norwegians fought bravely but did not have a professional army which could stand up to the Swedish one – lead by one of Napoleon’s former Marshalls, Count Bernadotte of France. A peace was agreed; the Norwegians could keep their Constitution but accepted the Swedish King as Head of State; the Norwegian one abdicated.

In 1905 the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) had had enough of Swedish kings and offered the job to Prince Carl of Denmark. Prince Carl insisted on an election by the Norwegian people. 77% voted thumbs up. Norway had its own monarchy.

A Few Lines on History

The Norwegian Vikings traded with, raided and settled in Ireland, Scotland, and the North Atlantic Islands (Iceland, Shetland), Greenland (from Iceland) and Canada (from Iceland or Greenland) – the Danes went to England, the Baltic Coast, and the Normandy (and from there later to Sicily); the Swedes went East to Russia.

In 1397 the Danish Queen, Margrethe I, united the three Scandinavian countries in the Kalmar Union. Sweden left the Union in 1523; Norway stayed until 1814, as we wrote above.

The North German trade association, Hanseatic League, was active in Norway from the mid 14th century. The city of Bergen was the main trading post; and one still see reminiscences of the Hanseatic times today.

Norway in the Middle Ages like the rest of Europe had serfdoms and aristocrats living of the peasants. However, the oppression was never as bad as in the rest of Europe; a huge country with a small population; the farms were wide-spread, and the minds of the serfs were relatively free. Historians have estimated that 20% of the income of the peasants went to the aristocracy; much less than in other European countries.

…. and of Economics

Farming was until about 100 years ago the key source of income for most countries in Europe. Norway does not have the best conditions here; too cold, too wet, too many mountains and cliffs. Norway was therefore a bit poorer than the Scandinavian neighbors (GDP / capita in 1985 USD for the year 1960); Norway: 5,600; Denmark: 6,700; Sweden: 7,600; USA: 9,900).

That changed in 1969 as Norway struck gold – black gold. Today Norway is one of the largest producers of oil and gas (GDP / capita PPP in USD: Norway: 65,500; USA: 63,000; Denmark 56,000; Sweden 53,000). Norway has used the proceeds well and clever – no big army, no huge unproductive class of aristocracy; the infrastructure got modernized and Norway made a state investment fund (the Word’s biggest investor), to prepare for the “after oil day”.

A small story; the oldest Norwegian oil field, “Ekofisk”; is in the South Western corner of the Norwegian base. When looking at the map of the North Sea one could get the impression that Norway made a very good deal and Denmark a bad one, when the borders of the North Sea were negotiated in the 1950 and 60-ies. Rumors are that the Danish Secretary of Foreign Affairs had had a drink too many on the day the deal got settled.

Tourism in Norway

Tourism in Norway is mainly fantastic nature experiences. Fjorde, Artic, and skiing.

In 2018 Norway had 33.8 million stays – up 134% from 2012; 30% were foreign visitors – Germans were by far the single biggest group. The number of cruise visitors grew by almost 33%.

A large number of visitors stay in lonely cabins in the countryside; something unique for Norway.