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Small Town Series: Norway

Updated: Jun 10, 2020


Here is another installment of the Small Town series. Today's country is Norway. All of these small towns have 50,000 inhabitants or less. I will be covering 10 different towns in today's post. I have included as much as I can about each small town.

Population numbers come from worldpopulationreview.com

 

Ålesund- 44,096 inhabitants


Ålesund is a municipality in Møre og Romsdal County,Norway. It is part of the traditional district of Sunnmøre and the centre of the Ålesund Region. The town of Ålesund is the administrative centre of Ålesund Municipality, as well as the principal shipping town of the Sunnmøre district. The town is a sea port and is noted for its concentration of Art Nouveau architecture. Although sometimes internationally spelled by its older name Aalesund, this spelling is obsolete in Norwegian. However, the local football club Aalesunds FK still carries that spelling, having been founded before the official change.

In 1835, Ålesund had 482 inhabitants. By 1900, the population had increased to 11,777. On the night of 23 January 1904, the town was the scene of the Ålesund Fire, one of the most terrible of the many conflagrations to which Norwegian towns, once built largely of wood, have been subjected. Practically the entire town was destroyed during the night, a gale aiding the flames, and the population had to leave the town in the middle of the night with only a few minutes' notice. Only one person died in the fire, the 76-year-old Ane Heen, but more than 10,000 people were left without shelter.

Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany had often been on vacation to Sunnmøre. After the fire, he sent four warships with materials to build temporary shelters and barracks. After a period of planning, the town was rebuilt in stone, brick, and mortar in Jugendstil (Art Nouveau), the architectural style of the time. The structures were designed by approximately 20 master builders and 30 Norwegian architects, most of them educated in Trondheim and Charlottenburg, Berlin, drawing inspiration from all over Europe. To honor Wilhelm, one of the most frequented streets of the town is named after him. The town has an unusually consistent architecture, most of the buildings having been built between 1904 and 1907. Jugendstilsenteret is a national interpretation centre, visitors can learn more about the town fire, the rebuilding of the town and the Art Nouveau style. Ålesund is a partner in the Art nouveau network, a European network of co-operation created in 1999 for the study, safeguards and development of the Art Nouveau.

The term "Little London" was often applied to the community during the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germany due to the Norwegian resistance work that took place here. Among other things, the city was central to the flights to Scotland and England.

 

Haugesund- 40,321 inhabitants


Haugesund is a city and municipality on the North Sea in Rogaland county,Norway. The town is the main population centre of the Haugaland region in northern Rogaland. The majority of the population of Haugesund lives in the main urban area surrounding the city centre, with the northwestern part of the municipality being fairly rural. Despite being a fairly young town, the areas around Haugesund were lands of power during the Viking Age. Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway, had his home at Avaldsnes, very close to the present town. Fairhair was buried at Haraldshaugen, a burial mound adjacent to the Karmsundet strait. This site is the namesake of the town and municipality of Haugesund. The national monument at Haraldshaugen was raised in 1872, to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872. The Battle of Hafrsfjord has traditionally been regarded as when western Norway was unified under a single monarch for the first time.

The urban village area of Haugesund (population: 1,066) was declared to be a "town" and it was separated from the municipality of Torvastad on 1 February 1855 to become a separate municipality of its own. On 1 January 1911, a small urban area of Skåre (population: 3,847) that directly abutted the town of Haugesund was transferred to Haugesund. On 1 January 1958, the remainder of the municipality of Skåre was merged with the town of Haugesund, creating a larger Haugesund municipality. On 1 January 1965, the island of Vibrandsøy (population: 70) was transferred from Torvastad municipality to Haugesund.

Haugesund has a strong historical bond to the sea and especially the herring. In the earlier years, the coastal waters of Haugesund were a huge source for fishing herring, and the town grew accordingly. The protective straits of Smedasund and Karmsund gave the town potential to grow in both fishing and shipping. Even to this day, Karmsund is one of Norway's busiest waterways. The town is still growing geographically even though the population has increased only moderately the last decade. Today the herring is long gone, and the town is turning more and more towards the petroleum industry, like its neighbouring town to the south, Stavanger.

 

Arendal- 30,916 inhabitants

Arendal is a municipality in Agder county in southeastern Norway. Arendal belongs to the region of Sørlandet. The administrative centre of the municipality is the city of Arendal (which is also the seat of Aust-Agder county). The village of Arendal was established in the middle of the 16th century, and was then called Arendall. Initially, it had no formal town status. When the town of Christianssand was founded by King Christian IV in 1641, he granted the citizens a monopoly on all trade in Nedenæs and Lister og Mandal counties (including the area of Arendal). This grant, intended to subsidize Christianssand and its fortifications, placed existing towns in a difficult position. Both towns and the peasants in the rural countryside protested the hardships this caused. As a result, Arendal received royal permission in 1622 to continue as a loading-place for timber until a means could be found to transfer its trade to Christianssand.

The town of Arendal was given market city privileges in 1723. However the peasants in the surrounding district, who by law were to sell their goods only at Arendal, were smuggling their goods out on cutters and selling them in Denmark, in the Baltic, and in Britain. This continued until 1735, when Arendal was granted a full town charter. This charter, combined with Danish imposition of a monopoly on grain imports, caused great poverty and starvation among the peasants in the surrounding districts, leading to several famous rebellions.

As a result of the rebellions, the age of privileges for towns like Christianssand and Arendal came to an apparent end in 1768 by royal proclamation. But the problems did not end then; a farmer, Christian Jensen Lofthuus, in nearby Vestre Moland led a rebellion in 1786 which resulted in the government actually remedying some of the most repressive trade policies, but Lofthus died in prison. The charges against Lofthus were that he dealt in grain and other commodities to the detriment to Arendal's privileges. Shipping, shipbuilding, and timber trade as well as mining and ironworks were important branches of industry in Nedenæs county for many centuries, especially in the Arendal region. Frequent contacts with the world abroad put their mark on our culture and traditions. In 1880, it was the country's biggest port in terms of tonnage handled. At the end of the 19th century, Arendal was recognized as a major shipping centre with many wealthy shipowners. However, this came to an end following the 1886 Arendal crash, in which Axel Nicolai Herlofson had defrauded many bank customers in the city, leading to bankruptcies and extreme unemployment. At one point in the middle of the 18th century, Arendal was one of Norway's biggest mining cities. The main production consisted of iron ore and magnetite.

Around the turn of the twentieth century, when thousands of Norwegians sought to take advantage of the more stable economic climate of the United States by emigrating, many of those from Arendal took their economic traditions with them. In New York City and the surrounding areas, a great deal of Americans who claim Norwegian ancestry can trace their roots to Arendal, as a great deal of Norwegian sailors, trimmers, shipbuilders, and carpenters from Arendal settled in areas of New York such as Brooklyn, Port Richmond (Staten Island), and several industrial centers in northern New Jersey such as Jersey City, Bayonne, Perth Amboy, and Elizabeth. In 1939, Arendal had the 4th largest Norwegian tanker fleet; only Oslo, Bergen, and Stavanger were larger. During the German invasion of Norway on 9 April 1940, Arendal was captured by the German torpedo boat Greif. Today, the town has small boat manufacturing, mechanical industry, electronics industry, as well as one of the world's largest silicon carbide refining plants.

 

Harstad- 19,433 inhabitants


Harstad is the second-most populated municipality in Troms og Finnmark county,Norway. It is mostly located on the large island of Hinnøya. The municipal center is the town of Harstad, the most populous town in Central Hålogaland, and the third-largest in all of Northern Norway. The town was incorporated in 1904.The town of Harstad was established as a municipality on 1 January 1904 when it was separated from the municipality of Trondenes because it had just been declared a ladested. The initial population of the town of Harstad was 1,246. During the 1960s, there were many municipal mergers across Norway due to the work of the Schei Committee. On 1 January 1964, the town of Harstad (population: 3,808) was merged with neighboring municipalities of Sandtorg (population: 7,512) and Trondenes (population: 6,567) to form a new, larger municipality of Harstad with a population of 17,882. Prior to the merger, the town of Harstad had 3,808 residents. On 1 January 2013, the municipality of Bjarkøy (to the north) was merged with Harstad, forming a new, larger municipality of Harstad. On 1 January 2020, the municipality became part of the new Troms og Finnmark county which replaced the old Troms county.

In recent years, a 3000-year-old bronze axe and a 2600-year-old bronze collar have been found at the Trondenes peninsula, just north of the city center. These, together with the burial cairns built close to the sea, are indications of a well-developed Bronze Age culture in the Harstad area. There is also substantial archeological evidence of a well-developed Iron Age culture in the area, around 200 AD. Trondenes is mentioned in the Heimskringla as a power centre in the Viking Age and a place to meet and discuss important issues (Trondarting). Trondenes Church, the world's northernmost medieval church, which dates back to the 13th–15th century, is situated just outside the town. Adjacent to the church is the Trondenes Historical Center and nearby is the Adolf Gun, an enormous land-based cannon from World War II, and the last of four cannons originally constructed by the Nazis. Harstad is one of the few towns in this part of Norway which were left largely undamaged by World War II.

 

Askøy- 17,224 inhabitants

Askøy is a municipality in Vestland county,Norway. The island municipality is located in the Midhordland district of the county, sitting in a large group of islands immediately northwest of the city of Bergen. The administrative centre of the municipality is the urban village of Kleppestø on the southeastern shore of the island of Askøy. In the village of Strusshamn are old wooden houses, dating back to the early 19th century. Strusshamn then served as a quarantine harbour for Bergen. Today, Strusshamn is one of the cultural capitals of Askøy, with a lot of activities and a museum of its own showing life on Askøy in earlier times.

 

Ski- 12,513 inhabitants


Ski is a town and kommune (municipality) in the Follo district, in Akershus fylke(county),Norway. Ski is the most populous kommune in Follo, and Ski town is the largest town. Ski town serves as the de facto district capital, and the hospital,tingrett (district court), police station and other public services are located there. Archaeologically, remains from settlements dating as far back as 11,000 years have been found in the Ski and Ås areas. Stone age tools are still being found when fields are ploughed, and Ski has more than 300 registered ancient historical artifacts. From the Middle Ages and up to modern times the areas of Kråkstad and Ski were originally administered as medieval church parishes, and each have a medieval stone church from the 1150s. During the 19th century, Kråkstad was the political and administrative centre of the municipality. On July 1, 1931 the rural, but rapidly growing municipality of Kråkstad was split into two separate municipalities.


The village of Ski was chosen as the administrative centre of the northern part, thus giving its name to the new municipality. The village of Kråkstad remained the administrative centre of the southern part, retaining its original name. By 1964 Ski had developed into a busy town and trading hub for the surrounding, rural areas. Ski municipality had by far outgrown its southern neighbour economically and population-wise. Consequently, on January 1, Kråkstad was officially absorbed into Ski municipality, ceasing to be a municipality of its own. Today, the name "Kråkstad" simply refers to the village, just southeast of the much larger town of Ski.

 

Alta- 12,077 inhabitants


Alta is the most populated municipality in Troms og Finnmark county,Norway. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Alta. The rock carvings at Alta, located near the Jiepmaluokta bay, dating from c. 4200 BC to 500 BC, are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The Komsa culture was named after the Komsa mountain in Alta municipality, where the first archeological remains of this culture were discovered. In the aftermath of the Sami Kautokeino rebellion of 1852, rebel leaders Mons Aslaksen Somby and Aslak Jacobsen Hætta were decapitated at Elvebakken in what is now the town of Alta on 14 October 1854. Their bodies were buried in graves just outside the Kåfjord Church graveyard in the village of Kåfjord in Alta, but their heads were sent on to the Anatomisk Institute at the Kong Medical Frederiks University in Oslo, where they were kept for more than a century as part of the university's skull collections. The two skulls were only relinquished by the university in 1985, following a controversy and protests by Sami activists, and were in November 1997 buried at the Kåfjord Church in Alta, at the same spot as their bodies were buried over 140 years earlier.

During World War II, the German battleship Tirpitz used the Kåfjorden, an arm of Altafjorden, as a harbour, and was damaged here by attacking Allied warplanes. The town Alta was seriously destroyed by fire near the end of the World War II. It was rebuilt in subsequent years. The Altasaken in 1979 made headlines for weeks, as many people (especially Sami people and environmentalists) demonstrated and used civil disobedience to prevent the building of a dam on the river Altaelva in order to produce hydropower. The dam was built, however, and the river still offers good salmon fishing. The King of Norway usually visits the river once in the summer to fish.


 

Grimstad- 9,561 inhabitants

Grimstad is a municipality in Agder county, Norway. It belongs to the geographical region of Sørlandet. The administrative center of the municipality is the town of Grimstad.

The municipality is centered around the little maritime town of Grimstad which is surrounded by many small islands (Skjærgård). There is a harbor, a long pedestrian shopping street, a small market square, Grimstad Church, and a museum dedicated to the early life of Henrik Ibsen, who served as an apprentice to Grimstad’s local pharmacist Reimann, from 1844 to 1847, before leaving Grimstad in 1850. Ibsen's intimate knowledge of the local people and surroundings can be seen in his poem Terje Vigen. The majority of the inhabitants live in and around the town, while the rest of the municipality is rural and heavily forested.

Grimstad lies within the boundaries of the ancient parish of Fjære. It is reportedly first mentioned as a harbor in the 16th century. Eight years after he was deposed, Christian II of Denmark–Norway (1513–1523) attempted to recover his kingdoms. A tempest scattered his fleet off the Norwegian coast, and on 24 October 1531, they took refuge at Grimstad. On 1 July 1532, he surrendered to his rival, King Frederick I of Denmark, in exchange for a promise of safe conduct. King Frederick failed to honor his promise and imprisoned Christian until he died.

An inn is recorded at Grimstad as early as 1607.

In 1622, Grimstad became a recognized harbor under the town of Arendal. By 1747, Grimstad was identified as a sailing community and a recognized haunt of smugglers. During the Napoleonic Wars, England blockaded Norway. In 1811, an English brig entered the harbor to capture blockade runners, but was vigorously repulsed and did not return. John Frederik Classen, who owned the Frolands Værk (an ironworks), obtained concessions to export and import through Grimstad and bypass Arendal with its customs dues. Grimstad was awarded market town status in 1816. The Nørholm farm in Grimstad was the home of Knut Hamsun in the early 20th century.

 

As- 7,961 inhabitants

Ås is a municipality in Akershus in Viken county,Norway. It is part of the Follo traditional region. The administrative centre of the municipality is the village of Ås. The parish of Aas was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838.

 

Å- 150

Å is a village in Moskenes Municipality in Nordland county, Norway. It is located about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) southwest of the village of Sørvågen on the island of Moskenesøya, towards the southern end of the Lofoten archipelago. It is connected to the rest of the archipelago by the European route E10 highway, which ends here. This part of the highway is also called King Olav's Road. Until the 1990s, Å was mainly a small fishing village specializing in stockfish, but since then tourism has taken over as the main economic activity. The town features the Lofoten Stockfish Museum and the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum as two big tourist attractions. In May 2004, Å became the starting point of a cycling trip from A to B (with B represented by Bee, Nebraska).

The village (originally a farm) is first mentioned in 1567 ("Aa"). The name is from Old Norse á which means "(small) river". The name was spelled Aa until 1917 when the Norwegian language reform changed the letter aa to å. The village is sometimes referred to as Å i Lofoten ("i" means "in") to distinguish it from other places named Å.

 

Hope you enjoyed today's post. Remember I am always looking for new ideas, if you comment below an idea and I decide to use it you will be given a shout-out in that post.

 


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