138km (86 miles) S of Oslo; 30km (19 miles) W of the Larvik-Frederikshavn (Denmark) ferry connection

Long proud of its association with playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), who was a native of Skien, this bustling industrial town and government center for Telemark is visited not only for its literary associations, but also because it is the principal gateway to Telemark.

Skien is an old town, dating from 1100, although it wasn't until 1358 that it received its royal charter. Fire and floods ravaged Skien over the centuries, destroying the entire town at times. The last disastrous fire occurred in 1886, and a new town had to be created out of the debris. Skien covers an area of 786 sq. km (307 sq. miles), with nearly 50,000 inhabitants.

The main reason most visitors go to Skien today, other than its Ibsen associations, is that it is the gateway to the Telemark Canal and the starting point for many trips.