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Narvik is located in northern Norway, in the Ofot Fjord. The district of Narvik stretches from Vidrek to Bjerkvik, measuring a total of 2041 square kilometres. Like most of northern Norway, Narvik is mountainous and 94% of its total area is at or above 150 metres above sea level. The district had 18,548 inhabitants in 1997, 10,000 of these living in the town of Narvik.
Narvik can very well be described as the hub of Northern Norway, mostly because, in this slimline country, the land is so narrow at this point that north and southbound traffic has to pass through Narvik. Efforts have been made lately to make Narvik a transport centre for both north-south and east-west traffic.
West of Narvik you will find Lofoten and Vesterålen, while to the east you'll be confronted with tall mountains, beyond which lies Sweden. North of Narvik there is not very much until you reach Tromsø, about 250 kilometres away, the largest city in northern Norway. South of Narvik is Bodø, about 200 kilometres away. A further 1,200 kilometres brings you to Oslo, the capital of Norway.
Narvik is located at 68° latitude, 17° longitude, north of the Arctic Circle. The weather is therefore rather cool. While temperatures of -10° Celsius are regular in the winter (October - March), summertime comes with temperatures exceeding 20° Celsius, although not every day. Instability is a typical weather feature of Narvik.
The history of Narvik as a settlement began in the Stone Age. We do not know very much about these people, but we do know that Vikings lived in this area.
The history of modern Narvik begins in the 1870s, when the Swedish government began to understand the potential of the iron ore mines in Kiruna, Sweden. If you look at a map, you'll see that the notion of obtaining iron ore from Kiruna had one significant problem: where could it be shipped from? After all, the nearest Swedish port, Luleå, has limitations: it is covered with ice all winter, it is far from Kiruna and it allows only medium-sized bulk freight vessels. Realising these problems, a Swedish company (Gällivarre Aktiebolag) built a railway to Narvik, as the port there is ice free thanks to the warm Gulf Stream, and is naturally large, allowing boats of virtually any size to anchor (208 metres long, 27 metres deep).
LKAB, the mining corporation, still ships the majority of its ore from Narvik (a total 25 million tons a year) and the corporation is still important in the area, both as an employer and landowner, although its influence is not as prominent now as it has been in previous years.
During World War II, Norway was invaded by the Nazis on 9 April, 1940. Later on, the Allies came to Narvik and reconquered it - the first military defeat of Hitler's troops. Because of this, the name of Narvik still rings a bell with old war veterans all over the world. However, Narvik was evacuated by the Allies a month later, putting the Germans in charge again for the next five years.
Today, Narvik is the northernmost point on the European rail network and is reputedly the northernmost town in the world with a discotheque.
In summer, Narvik is visited by a surprisingly large number of Backpackers, mostly on the 'InterRail' scheme, to see the midnight sun. The train from Oslo comes in late in the evening, and leaves again the next morning. If you go there, make sure you book accommodation ahead of time; the youth lodges (and almost everywhere else, for that matter) are usually booked solid before the train arrives, and they won't let you back on the train. Even though the sun doesn't set, it gets mighty chilly sleeping on the platform.
The midnight sun is well worth seeing, as much for the social impact as for the spectacle; where else would you see someone washing their car at 1am?