Norwegian Vikings settled the Shetland Islands (circa 700 CE), the Faroe Islands (c. 800), raided the holy island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria (794), then invaded the coasts of Scotland and Ireland (between 795 and 821), where the founded Waterford, Cork, Dublin and Limerick. They went on to colonise Iceland (c. 860) and Greenland (982). It is now generally accepted that the expedition led by Leif Ericson to Vinland (probably in the Canadian province of Newfoundland) circa 1000 was the first discovery of the American continent by Europeans.
The unification of Norway was achieved in 872, the year the Kingdom of Norway was founded, with Harald Fairhair as its first king. From 1319 to 1905, the Kingdom of Norway existed as a union with Denmark, Sweden, or both. The modern Kingdom of Norway only exists as an independent entity since the dissolution of the personal union with Sweden on 18 November 1905.
Land & Construction
Norway is the European country (Russia excluded) with the longest coastline - 53,199 km according to the World Resources Institute.
Hornindalsvatnet, in central Norway, is Europe's deepest lake, reaching a maximum depth of 514 m (1,686 ft).
Vinnufossen is Europe's highest waterfall (860 m / 2,822 ft) and the world's sixth tallest.
The Lærdal Tunnel, on European route E16, is the longest road tunnel in the world (24.5 km / 15.2 mi).
The Eiksund Tunnel is the deepest undersea tunnel of its kind in the world. It is 7,765 metres (25,476 ft) long and reaches a depth of 287 metres (942 ft).
All but one of the original stave churches, medieval Scandinavian wooden churches with using the post and lintel technique, surviving to this day are found in Norway. The other one is in Sweden. There are about 30 of them, built mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Society & People
As of 2011, 37% of Norwegians have completed postsecondary education, making them the best educated people in Europe.
Norway has one of the most generous maternity/paternity leave scheme, allowing mothers to take 44 weeks (13 months) off at 80% of their salary, or 34 weeks (10.5 months) at 100%. An extra 12 weeks paid leave is reserved for the father. Norway was also the first country to introduce paternity leaves in 1993, and now 90% of Norwegian fathers take time off after their child's birth.
Norway has topped the Human Development Index from 9 out of 11 years from 2001 to 2011. The other two years (2007 and 2008) it came second after Iceland.
Norway is the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita after Luxembourg, with approximately 100,000 US$ per person in 2011. Even adjusted for purchasing power parity, Norway's GDP per capita is only exceeded city-states like Singapore, Macau, Doha (Qatar) and Luxembourg.
The World Audit has ranked Norway first in the world for Freedom of Press in 2012. Norway ranked 4th for democracy (after Finland, Sweden and Denmark) and 7th for corruption, out of 150 countries surveyed.
Norway has one of the lowest income inequality in the world, along with other Scandinavian countries.
Although Norway is not a full member of the European Union, it has been a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) since its ratification in 1992 and of the border-free Schengen Area since 2001. Additionally the Norwegian Parliament has implemented more EU directives than any of the actual EU member states, in part to be legally ready once Norway joins the EU as a fully-fledged member.
Norway has won more Winter Olympic medals than any other country on Earth, with a grand total of 303 medals (including 107 gold medals) as of 2012, 50 more than the USA. Norway also has the highest number of combined Summer and Winter Olympic medals per capita, with 451 medals for 4.7 million inhabitants, or 95.9 medals per million people.
The arctic region of Norway, north of Trondheim, has been traditionally inhabited by the Sami people (also referred to as the Laps), the descendants from the Mesolithic inhabitants of Fennoscandia. They speak various Uralic languages related to Finnish (or Suomi). Genetic studies confirmed that the Sami are also closely related to the Finns.
Inventions, Sciences & Arts
The Norwegians claim to have invented modern skiing as a sport. Cambered ski were first developed in Telemark, in southern Norway, around 1850, while the Rat Trap Ski Binding, also known as Rottefella, was invented by Bror With in 1927.
The modern cheese slicer was patented in 1925 by Thor Bjørklund. Incidentally, one of the most popular kinds of cheese in Norway is brown, a caramelised whey cheese known as brunost.
The aerosol spray can was invented in 1926 by the chemical engineer Erik Rotheim from Oslo.
As of 2012, Norway had produced 12 Nobel prize laureates, including 3 prizes for Economics, 3 for Chemistry and 2 for Peace. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo each year.
Norway's most famous artists are the playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910), the novelist Jonas Lie (1833-1908), the composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), the writer Alexander Kielland (1849-1906), and the Symbolist painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944).
Economy & Politics
As of 2011, Norway was the world's fifth largest oil exporter, ahead of Kuwait, Nigeria, Canada or the United States. Norway is also the third largest exporter of natural gas after Russia and Canada.
Petroleum and natural gas accounts for 57% of the Norwegian economy and a third of tax revenues.
The largest Norwegian company is Statoil, an oil and gas giant owned at 67% by the Norwegian goverment.
Norway is one of the few Western countries that still practices state capitalism, like in China. As of 2012, state-owned companies represented over one third of the Oslo stockmarket.
Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. In 2012 it was ranked most expensive European city by the Economist Intelligence Unit and by ECA International.
In 1972, Norway became one of the first countries to establish a Ministry for the Environment. Most countries still don't have one.
Norway has an annual hydroelectric production of 140.5 TWh, the highest in Europe and 6th highest in the world. 98.5% of Norwegian electricity is generated by hydropower, the highest ratio of any country.
The first Secretary-General of the United Nations was Trygve Lie, serving from 1946 to 1952.