Telemark in Norway is best known for its stave churches and canal system. However, the beautiful rural Telemark region in Norway has much else to offer; lakes, mountains, forests and fjords.
The regional capital is Skien, where Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) spent his childhood. His home, Venstøp, forms part of the Telemark Museum. In summer, tulips bloom en masse there in the elegant English gardens, which are surrounded by stylish mansions.
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Northwest of Skien lies Ulefoss, a village that until the end of the 19th century was a major exporter of ice, which was transported along the waterways of the Telemark Canal, a 105 km (65 mile) long waterway linking Skien to Dalen. Blasted out of the rocks over 100 years ago, the canal wends a scenic route through 18 locks. From late May to early September, two venerable passenger launches – the M/V Victoria and M/V Henrik Ibsen – ply the watercourse on pleasure cruises lasting from 2 to 11 hours.
The small industrial town of Notodden is unremarkable in itself, but just 5 km (3 miles) along Route 11 is one of Norway’s top attractions, the medieval Heddal Stave Church, considered a masterpiece in wood. Its ornate carvings are rivaled only by the beautiful period rose paintings in the Ramberg room of the nearby museum Heddal Bygdetun.
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About 10 km (6 miles) further on, Route 17 branches north past Tinnsjø lake towards Rjukan. The principal attraction here is the former Vemork hydroelectro plant, just west of Rjukan. Dating from 1910 and surrounded by beautiful scenery, it now houses the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum (Norsk Industriarbeidermuseum).
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The museum details the story of the brave attempts of the Norwegian Resistance to sabotage the plant where heavy water was once produced which the Nazis were using to develop nuclear weapons. In 2010, a new exhibition was installed which focuses on the everyday lives of workers from 1950 until the present day.
The Beautiful Rural Telemark Region in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg