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eep in the Norwegian soul, not least because for thousands of years skis were the only practical means of winter transport in much of Norway.
Not surprisingly, Norway is a leading winter-sports country and has won more medals at the Winter Olympics than any other country.
At the 1998 Winter Olympics, Norway finished second on the medal table, matching its 1994 medal tally when it was the host nation.
The success turned to domination in 2002 when Norway topped the medal table, but no-one quite knows what happened in Torino in 2006, when Norway trailed in 13th with just two gold medals.
As you can imagine, the sudden decline was reported as close to a national tragedy.
A measure of national pride was restored in 2010, when Norway came fourth on the medals table with nine golds and 23 medals in total.
Among Norway?ˉs enduring Olympic legends are Sonja Henie, the Olympic figure-skating gold medallist who won gold in 1928, 1932 and 1936; speed- skater Johann Koss, who won three gold medals at the Viking Ship Arena in Hamar in 1994; and cross-country skier Bj?rn Daehli who, at the 1998 Olympics, won his eighth gold medal, making him the most successful athlete in Winter Olympics history.
The word ??slalom?ˉ derives from the Norwegian words sla l?m, or ??slope track?ˉ, which originally referred to a Nordic ski competition that wove over hill and dale, dodging thickets! Football Football (soccer) is another hugely popular sport, with the domestic league season running from March to early November.
Trondheim?ˉs Rosenberg is the most successful club in Norwegian history with 21 league titles, including 13 consecutive years from 1992 until 2004; the club again won the title in 2006 and 2009.
At a national level, the Norwegian men?ˉs football team climbed briefly to 2nd in FIFA?ˉs world rankings in 1993, but by August 2010 had fallen to 22nd, and the failure to qualify for the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups has cast a pall of gloom over the sport in Norway.
Ole Gunnar Solskj?r, Tore Andre Flo and John Carew are among Norway?ˉs most famous football exports.
The Norwegian women?ˉs national team has strutted the world stage with much greater success, clinching the Women?ˉs World Cup in 1995 and the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000; the team came 4th at the 1999 and 2007 World Cups and had dropped to 7th in the world rankings by May 2010.
Its best-known players are Heidi St?re, who played 151 times for Norway between 1980 and 1997; and Bente Nordby, the goalkeeper who saved US superstar Mia Hamm?ˉs penalty en route to a famous tournament victory in 1995.
Top of section Norway?ˉs Landscape Norway?ˉs geographical facts tell a story themselves.
The Norwegian mainland stretches 2518km from Lindesnes in the south to Nordkapp in the Arctic North with a narrowest point of 6.
3km wide.
Norway also has the highest mountains in northern Europe and a landmass of 385,155 sq km (the fourth largest in Europe, behind France, Spain and Sweden).
But these are merely the statistical signposts to landscapes of rare drama.
Their secret lies in the sheer diversity of Norwegian landforms, from glacier-strewn high country and plunging fjords to the tundralike plains of the Arctic North.
Geological history can seem to move at a speed indiscernible to the human eye, but Norway?ˉs coastline remains in a state of flux.
In the early 1990s, Blomstrandhalv?ya in northwestern Svalbard ceased to be a peninsula and became an island.
The Coast Seeming to wrap itself around Scandinavia like a protective shield from the freezing Arctic, Norway?ˉs coastline appears to have shattered under the strain, riven as it is with islands and fjords cutting deep fissures inland.
Geologists believe that the islands along Norway?ˉs far northern coast were once attached to the North American crustal plate ¨C such is their resemblance to the landforms of eastern Greenland.
Further north, Svalbard is geologically independent of the rest of Europe and sits on the Barents continental plate deep in the polar region.
In the North Sea lie two rift valleys that contain upper Jurassic shale bearing the extravagantly rich deposits of oil and gas.
Fjords Norway?ˉs signature landscape, the fjords, ranks among the most astonishing natural landforms anywhere in the world.
The Norwegian coast is riven with these inlets distinguished by plunging cliffs, isolated farms high on forested ledges and an abundance of ice-blue water extending deep into the Norwegian interior.
Norway?ˉs network of fjords is so vast ¨C and each fjord so rich in its own character ¨C that you could spend months exploring the fjords and never grow tired of the sheer wonder and beauty of it all.
BIGGEST & HIGHEST Jostedalsbreen (Click here ) is continental Europe?ˉs largest icecap.
Sognefjorden (Click here ), Norway?ˉs longest fjord at 203km (second only in the world to Greenland?ˉs Scoresby Sund), is 1308m deep, making it the world?ˉs second-deepest fjord (after Skelton Inlet in Antarctica).
Hardangerfjord is 800m deep and is, at 179km, the second- longest fjord network in Norway and the third-longest in the world.
Galdh?piggen (Click here ; 2469m) is the highest mountain in northern Europe.
Hardangervidda (Click here ), at 900m above sea level, is Europe?ˉs largest and highest plateau.
Utig?rdsfossen , a glacial stream that flows into Nesdalen and Lovatnet from Jostedalsbreen (not readily accessible to tourists), is placed by some authorities as the third-highest waterfall in the world at 800m, including a single vertical drop of 600m.
Other Norwegian waterfalls among the 10 highest in the world are Espelandsfossen (703m; Hardangerfjord); Mardalsfossen (655m; Eikesdal); and Tyssestrengene (646m in multiple cascades; Click here ), near Odda.
V?ringsfossen is one of Norway?ˉs most visited natural landmarks.
Norway?ˉs fjords are a relatively recent phenomenon in geological terms.
Although Norwegian geological history stretches back 1.
8 billion years, the fjords were not carved out until much later.
During the glacial periods over this time, the elevated highland plateaus that ranged across central Norway subsided at least 700m due to an ice sheet up to 2km thick.
The movement of this ice, driven by gravity down former river courses, gouged out the fjords and valleys and created the surrounding mountains by sharpening peaks and exposing high cliffs of bare rock.
The fjords took on their present form when sea levels rose as the climate warmed following the last Ice Age (which ended around 10,000 years ago), flooding into the new valleys left behind by melting and retreating glaciers.
Sea levels are thought to have risen by as much as 100m, creating fjords whose waters can seem impossibly deep.
Not surprisingly Norway?ˉs fjords have many admirers.
In 2005, Unesco inscribed Geirangerfjord and N?r?yfjord on their World Heritage List because they ??are classic, superbly developed fjords?ˉ, which are ??among the most scenically outstanding fjord areas on the planet?ˉ.
And then there are travellers who are drawn again and again to the water?ˉs edge or along a narrow trail hundreds of metres above the shoreline, to marvel at the silent, pristine drama of these remarkable cathedrals of ice and rock.
Glacier Hikes ? Jotunheimen National Park ? Hardangerj?kulen glacier, Hardangervidda ? Folgefonna National Park ? Nigardsbreen ? Br
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