Posted by: travelrat | July 26, 2013

Norway and Sweden

Riksgransen 2

Riksgransen: 21st March 2013

The restaurant at Riksgransen overlooked a frozen lake, across which people were frequently driving snowmobiles. Our guide explained that many people came up from Narvik to do this, because driving on frozen lakes is forbidden in Norway.

That’s not the only reason Norwegians travel to Sweden. In this part of the world, Norway is a ‘long thin’ country, so it’s quite easy, and several of the guides on our tour said they often drive into Sweden for their shopping, as it’s cheaper there.

It didn’t use to be quite so simple, for, up until 1966, the Swedes drove on ‘God’s side’ of the road, like we do. The confusion at the border, as motorists changed sides, can only be imagined. But, with Norway on one side and Finland on the other, I suppose the change was inevitable. Unlike Britain, which is an island, where we stubbornly insist on being able to get at our swords if set upon by footpads or highwaymen.

However, Norway, as it exists now, has only been an independent country since 1905; before that, it was part of a union with Sweden … the arrangement, I would guess, was something like that of the United Kingdom. Before that, though, it was united with Denmark, who was forced to cede it to Sweden after the Battle of Copenhagen (famed, of course, for Nelson’s ‘I really cannot see the signal!’)

Denmark had held it since the Middle Ages, when they broke away from the Union of Kalmar, a federation of all the Scandinavian countries.

To add to the complicated history, there’s also a loosely-defined area called Finnmark, covering the northern part of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Some call it Lapland but, in Norway, at least, that term is regarded as somewhat politically incorrect. Certainly, the people who live there don’t like being called Lapps; they’re the Sami. And, we’ll be meeting some later in our travels.

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