When envisioning Norway most people think of the enchanting majesty of the fjords. You may think of the seafaring Vikings, who departed the shores of Norway centuries ago to conquer distant lands, or perhaps the blissful snowy winter wilderness of the Arctic Circle. Maybe what springs to mind is the name of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who left a legacy of the Nobel peace-prize that has left the small country’s stamp on the world forever. Norway is all these things, and a visit here will leave visitors with natural phenomena and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.
The fjords are easily country’s biggest attraction, and millions come to marvel at the majestic deep water inlets towered over by soaring cliffs. There are over 3,000 fjords in Norway, and most people choose to experience the main ones by boat cruise. There are plenty of other outdoor pursuits to take advantage of though, like hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking, and camping. Norway is a country that can be enjoyed equally both in the summer and cold winter months.
Norway boasts excellent accommodations and infrastructure and is regularly on the top 20 best countries to visit list. Aside from a large choice of high quality hotels, there are top restaurants which showcase the country’s delicious cuisine. Due to a historically strong economy, it is an expensive place to travel to, but this doesn't seem to deter the millions of annual visitors that come here and leave having had an inspirational experience.
The best time to visit Norway is the spring, which is May and June. During this time the weather is most pleasant, and the landscape highly scenic. Temperatures are better on the west coast, which is where the main fjords are situated. By summer the temperatures are warmer in the southern areas of the country. You can expect plenty of sunshine, although as the sun rises higher in the sky for the Norwegian summer this also brings a cloud cover. If you intend to go on a fjord cruise, the best views are in the spring, although prices will be more than any other time of the year.
Currency: the krone (NOK)
Official language: Norwegian
There is proof that civilization in Azerbaijan started as early as the late Stone Age from evidence found in the Azykh Cave that proves the existence of Guruchay culture. The caves of Zar, Damcili, and Tagilar have also yielded evidence of settlements from the late Bronze Age and Paleolithic age. The Scythians were supposedly the earliest people to have lived in Azerbaijan in the 9th century BC, but afterward, Iranian Medes dominated the territory and established an empire sometime between 900 to 700 BC. Eventually they merged with the Achaemenids in 550 BC, spreading Zoroastrianism. A few years later, the territory was claimed by Alexander the Great and became part of his empire. The area’s original citizens were Caucasian Albanians, who formed their own independent kingdom sometime in the 4th century BC.
The feudal era began when the Caucasian Albania kingdom was transformed into a vassal state by the Sassanids in 252 AD.By the 4th century, King Urnayr declared Christianity the state’s official religion. Although the Byzantines and Sassanids launched several conquests, Albania remained distinctive until the 9th century. By then, the Umayyad Caliphate, an Islamic group, had driven the Byzantines and Sassanids from the region, turning the kingdom into a subordinate following Prince Javanshir’s Christian resistance, which was stopped in 667. Several local dynasties were formed when the Abbasid Caliphate declined, including the Sajids, Sallarids, Buyids, Rawadids, and Shaddadids. The territory was gradually taken over by Central Asia’s Turkic Oghuz tribes at the start of the 11th century. The Ghaznavids were the first of the dynasties to be established when they arrived in 1030, on the land now known as Azerbaijan. Before the Turkic Azerbaijani era, the natives spoke Old Azari language, which is derived from Iranian. When the Turkic Oghuz tribes came, there was a shift to Turkic language, but this became extinct by the 16th century.
Atabegs ruled the Seljuq Empire’s possessions, serving as the Seljuq sultans’ vassals, and considered de facto rulers. Persian literature was dominant during this period because of poets like Khagani Shirvani and Nizami Ganjavi. Later, Timur won the Jalayirids state, while the local Shirvanshahs became the vassal for his empire. After his death, two rival but independent states were formed: Ak Koyunlu and Kara Koyunlu. Eventually, the Shirvanshahs came back and became autonomous, electing local rulers from 861 to 1539. When they were persecuted by the Safavids, the final dynasty forced Shia Islam to the Sunni population where they fought against the Ottoman Empire. The Iranians of Zand and Afhsar ruled the territory after the Safavids, while the Qajars took brief control over Azerbaijan. When the Zand dynasty collapsed, de facto khanates started arriving in the area and became more evident.
The treaty of Gulistan ended the Khanates’ dominion, but they maintained control over affairs involving international trade routes to West and Central Asia. Eventually in 1813, the khanates became part of the Russian Empire. Russia occupied the territory, particularly the area to the north of the River Aras. Persia recognized the sovereignty of Russia over the Nakhchivan, Lankaran, and Erivan Khanates through the Treaty of Turkmenchay. The Russian Empire collapsed in World War I, and Azerbaijan was transferred to part of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic, which ended in May 1918, leading them to finally become the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
The Azerbaijan’s parliament was the first to acknowledge women’s suffrage. They also established Baku State University, the first modern Muslim college. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan became a republic and again waved the flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Despite the wars that overshadowed the first years of independence, Azerbaijan continued to improve in terms of economy. Today, they are one of the most progressive governments with a foreign policy based on mutual interest and equality.
Azerbaijan’s culture is heavily influenced by Europe and Islam with Russian, Turkish and Iranian heritage. The Azerbaijanis of today inherited the customs and practices of different ancient civilizations such as the Iranian Scythian tribe, the indigenous Caucasian Albanians, the Oghuz Turks, and the Alans, while western influence continues to seep in.
Azerbaijan is home to many ethnicities, most of them belonging to the Azeris group. Azerbaijanis are well-mannered and reserved people who treat their elders and women with utmost respect. It is impolite to blow your nose or pick your teeth during meals, touch someone without their permission, chew gum in public, or prop up your feet up while seated. It is also rude to slap someone on the back, give a bear hug, swear in public or shout in a public place so remember to be respectful and act proper.
Summers are cool and winter is mild. A cold climate with cool, dry summers covers the middle and high mountains of Nakhchivan AR between 1,000 and 3,000 meters (3,300 and 9,800 ft). Annual precipitation accounts for 50 to 100 percent of possible evaporation. Summers are cool, and winter is cold enough for snow.
Norway is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Norway for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. You need sufficient funds and a return airline ticket.
Driving in Norway can be a good way to get around if you are prepared to navigate the long distances between cities. It must be taken into consideration that driving conditions can be dangerous since snow and ice are common. The government recommends that all drivers have advanced hazard training before driving in the Norwegian winter, although this is not mandatory. Many roads are closed by the authorities during winter, so always check your route before setting off. Driving is often slower than going by rail since the speed limit in Norway is relatively low, only 50 miles per hour on freeways. Gas is also expensive, as is the cost of renting a car, but you can get one through Avis (+11-47-6725-5510), Budget (+11-47-2201-7610) or Hertz (+11-47-2210-0000).
Along the western coast there is a network of fast catamaran boats called Hurtigbat which connect cities and islands between Stavanger and Tromso which are impassable by roads and bridges. Some journeys take only ten minutes, while others are longer and may require transfers. Ferries can be a pleasurable and leisurely way to get from place to place, although those short on time may wish to consider other transportation options. None of the boats requires a reservation so you can approach the quay and board the next departure, although you may have to wait for a while. During the day, ferries usually leave every thirty minutes, although after midnight services can be less frequent, like every two hours or cease altogether until the morning. A popular way of getting up and down the coast is by taking the famous passenger ferry called Hurtigruten. This route travels all the way from Bergen in the south to Kirkenes in the north, making several stops along the way. The total journey takes six days, and many tourists choose to traverse the entire distance, although in doing so you are required to stay in a cabin, which adds to the cost. Deck seats are available for shorter hops for a more reasonable price.
Norway has a decent rail network for the size of the country. Train travel is often a tourist attraction in itself since all the routes are extremely scenic and a practical way of getting around the country. Lines run west from Oslo to Bergen and Stavanger, and as far north as Bodo in the Arctic Circle via Trondheim. The longest route takes over eighteen hours, and requires traveling through the night in sleeper cars that require a reservation. The journey between Oslo and Bergen takes six to seven hours, while the Oslo to Stavanger trip takes seven to eight hours. There are usually four departures per day for each leg. Admire the beautiful mountain passes as you fly by bridges passing alpine streams and cut through pine forests. All of the trains are extremely comfortable and provide top of the line service that allows you to really unwind.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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