The Scandinavian country of Norway has a rich history that goes back to the Vikings from 800 AD to 1066 AD. The Vikings’ quest for conquest of foreign lands resulted in establishing towns in Ireland and Normandy (France), battles with King Ramiro in northern Spain and the Moors in southern Spain, treks as far east as the Caspian Sea, and voyages as far west as Iceland, Greenland, and even Canada (Nova Scotia).
The Age of the Vikings ended with the fall of Harald Hardråde (King of Norway), when he unsuccessfully attempted in conquer England in 1066 AD. By that time, Norway was Christianized, and in 1397, entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden (a unification of sorts among these Scandinavian countries). Eventual political differences with Sweden broke up that union by 1523 – with Norway maintaining a union with Denmark until 1814. That union included the overseas Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands.
In 1814, Norway was ceded to Sweden after that country (and Denmark) were defeated in the Napoleonic wars. By the time that happened, Denmark-Norway had colonies in various parts of India (including the towns of Tranquebar and Serampore – sold to the United Kingdom in 1845) and even some harbors in Africa (at the so-called “Gold Coast” – present-day Ghana), which were sold to the UK in 1850. An ongoing economic crisis in Norway resulted in the mass migration of its population to the USA by the 1860s (continuing into the early 20th century) – with many of them settling in the American Midwest (such as Minnesota).
During World War II, Norway (which was neutral) was still invaded by the Germans in 1940, and stayed there until the end of that conflict in 1945. Norway (which received $400 million in U.S. aid in 1947 as part of the Marshall Plan) was a founding member of the western military alliance NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 1949, and by the late 1960s (as a result of successful oil exploration efforts off its lengthy coastline), Norway became an oil exporter (possessing among the largest offshore oil fields in the world, and becoming Europe’s largest oil producer by 1990).
Unlike other European countries, Norway is not part of the European Union/EU (opting instead for an “association” with the EU through membership in the European Economic Area), which means that it does not use the Euro as its official currency (maintaining instead its local currency, the krone). The Norwegian population rejected EU membership in two referendums, in part, to maintain its welfare state, and to protect local industries like agriculture and fishing (the country’s second-largest industry, after oil).
In terms of tourism, that sector has played a growing role in Norway’s economy, contributing 6.2% to the country’s total GDP, as well as accounting for 8.4% of Norway’s total employment in 2012. Germans, Danes, Swedes, Dutch and Brits are the most frequent visitors to Norway. Along with its attractions (natural beauty, winter activities, etc.), the cheaper cost of visiting the country are a factor that favors drawing in tourists (the average cost of a hotel room in the country’s capital Oslo, is just €132 a night). Also, a large number of tourists visiting Norway arrive via cruise ship. In 2012, for example, Norway had more British cruise passengers than the Caribbean: 197,000 Brits chose to visit Norway via cruise ship, vs. 189,000 who went to the Caribbean. A number of visitors are also attracted to the country’s northern region to see the “Northern Lights” natural phenomenon.