The largest population centers are Skien, Porsgrunn, Langesund, Notodden, Rjukan and Kragerø. Other important places are Bø, Fyresdal and Vinje. Commerce and industry in Telemark is very varied, with Norsk Hydro and the petrochemical activities in Bamble as important cornerstones. Telemark is Norway’s fourth largest forestry county, and forestry is an important source of income for the farmers.
The Telemark Canal 150 years in 2011
The Telemark Canal, which stretches 105 kilometers from Skien to Dalen, can offer cultural history, bustling crowds, constantly changing landscape and lock passages just as they were over 100 years ago. In 2011 The Telemark Canal celebrates its 150th anniversary. When the canal was completed in 1892 Europeans described it as the “eighth wonder” – with its 18 lock chambers it opened up a waterway from coast to mountain. The two nostalgic canal boats M/S “Victoria” and M/S “Henrik Ibsen” sail in regular routes between Skien and Dalen from May to September. The somewhat newer M/S “Telemarken” regularly sails between Akkerhaugen and Lunde.
On the Telemark Canal you can choose between trips lasting from 2 to 11 hours, and there are a number of possible combinations. Why not take the boat one way and cycle back? For those who wish to enjoy a bit more, there are package deals where you treat yourself to an overnight stop at one of the area’s comfortable hotels. To canoe along the canal is a fascinating experience, and here you can choose the distance according to your needs, whether you have small children or want a really challenging trip with friends. For families we recommend the stretch from Kviteseid to Ulefoss.
A range of Telemark’s cultural treasure lie a stone’s throw from the Telemark Canal: , the tourist centre of Vrådal, the stave churches at Heddal and Eidsborg, Rjukan with its war history, Ulefoss Manor House, Ibsen’s birthplace in Skien, and the fairytale Dalen Hotel with its dragons and spires.
Above all Telemark is known as the cultural county; with museums, traditional villages, churches and a variety of exhibitions which all provide visitors with cultural memories to bring back home. Ever since the mid 19th Century, Telemark has played host to numerous artists and folklorists, attracted by the cultural traditions present locally and the significant interest in national traditions. World-renowned painter Edvard Munch was especially inspired by Kragerø, which he described as the pearl of the coastal towns. More recently, these traditions have been upheld by Henrik Sørensen and Harald Kihle who for decades have found their inspiration in Vinje in particular. Their work can be viewed at the gallery of Vinje Biletgalleri (picture gallery).
The cradle of skiing
Morgedal is a tiny village nestled in the mountains of Western Telemark, set against a backdrop of picturesque forest-clad mountain ridges and slopes, which are decked in wild flowers in the summer and snow in the winter.
One of Morgedal’s most famous sons is Sondre Norheim, the skiing legend who was born here in 1825. Sondre and his contemporaries from Morgedal and throughout Western Telemark had adopted a style of skiing which was unique at that time. Their skills were exceptional in comparison to those of Norwegians elsewhere. The type of ski, with its increased side cut, is still in production to this day, and the Telemark turns and landings, expressions and jargon from 19th Century Western Telemark and Morgedal are still used in the terminology of modern alpine skiing. His childhood home is open to the public and also a visit to the Norsk Skieventyr visitor centre in Morgedal is a must for skiing enthusiast and other interested in the history of skiing.