The Telemark Canal
Skien is the gateway to the Telemark Canal, which was completed in 1892. Five hundred men labored for 5 years on this canal, blasting their way through mountains. Today it contains a total of 28 lock chambers, and the route runs from Skien in the east to the ancient Norwegian town of Dalen in the west. The canal affords a sailing route of 105km (65 miles) with an elevation difference of 72m (236 ft.).
At the turn of the 20th century, the canal became known as the "fast route" between eastern and western Norway. Nostalgic canal boats, the MS Victoria, the MS Henrik Ibsen, and the MS Telemarken, will take you from Skien to Dalen, a 10-hour trip on this historic waterway, costing around NOK880 ($176/£88) round-trip. Although not the equivalent of the Panama Canal, we highly recommend this trip. It's a comfortable, easy way to penetrate some of the lakes and rivers of inland Norway. As you sail along, you'll pass farmland so neat it appears landscaped, and a countryside dotted with scenic summer homes (often owned by residents of Oslo) and churches. Along the way you'll also encounter panoramic vistas in many directions, with views of deep, dark forests, which some Norwegians claim are still inhabited by trolls. Swift-flowing streams add to the landscape drama, as do forested hillsides and deep valleys, some of which draw skiers in winter. The engineer in you may also be fascinated by viewing the original stone walls of the canal, as well as the closing mechanisms.
For information and bookings, contact Telemarkreiser, Handelstorget (tel. 35-90-00-30 or 35-90-00-20) in Skien.