Because of its unique industrial history, the Rjukan valley in the Telemark country in southern Norway was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2015. The whole town in the valley was built and designed by the Norwegian aluminium and renewable energy company, Norsk Hydro, between 1905 to 1916. The complex consists of hydroelectric power plants, transmission lines, factories, transport systems and residential village, and it was chosen mainly because of the Rjukan falls, a 104-meter waterfall able to create large amounts of energy.
Let me try to explain the significance of Rjukan in a brief and simplified manner. 😉 Central to Rjukan becoming a major industrial center in the early 1900s is the construction of the hydroelectric power plant at Vemork. It was the world’s largest power plant when it opened in 1911, and its original purpose was to fix nitrogen for the production of fertilizer. Later on, when heavy water was dicovered, Norsk Hydro operated the first commercial heavy water plant at Vemork in 1938. Heavy water is used for the production of nuclear weapons. The plant was controlled by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, but thanks to a series of sabotages from the side of the Allies, key components of the plant was destroyed and the accumulated heavy water ended up down the factory drain. Read more about the Norwegian Heavy Water Sabotage here, about how and why it’s a UNESCO world heritage site here.
After the world wars, the heavy water plant was shut down. It was opened again in 1988 as the Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum, where the history of industrial development in Norway, particularly in Rjukan, is presented. A tour to the said museum culminates the University of Oslo International Summer School excursion in Telemark. Our bus parked at the foot of the hill and could not go further, so we hiked up to Vemork factory, and on the way, we were astounded by the surrounding mountains and canyons. Bungee jumping was made possible at the entrance bridge. I had no idea where those bungee jumpers got their guts!
The walk up was tiring yet exhilarating! A student from NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Techonology) gave an explanation about the history of the museum, from the discovery of heavy water to its operational heavy water plant period. He also showed us a small flask with heavy water! Oh yeah, at the museum shop are books and CDs about the heavy water sabotage and souvenirs of small vials filled with real heavy water! How cool is that?
It was an amazing, educational tour at Vemork! They also show a documentary on what would have happened “if Hitler had the bomb”. I was so glad to have chosen the Telemark excursion, and lucky enough that I experienced Telemark all arranged! There is no hassle for individual visitors though, as information about entrances fees, free shuttle buses, etc are readily available on the museum’s page. Most of the historical background are in Norwegian though.
I tried to enjoy the descent, taking pretty photos and engulping the fresh Norwegian air from the valley of Rjukan. At around 2pm, the batch headed back to the University Blindern Campus, with all the stuff we learned from the tour and the wonderful memories of amazing Telemark.
The International Summer School was a memorable experience. It was brief, consists only of 6 weeks, and I was happy to have passed and finished Norwegian trinn 3, which hopefully would give me access to Norwegian public universities and colleges. I am super anxious to get the results in the later months! I luckily got accepted at NMBU, but the degree program is in English, so I had to turn it down.
Anyway, this is all for Telemark! Hoping to visit the remaining Norwegian counties in my list, before they revise the administrative divisions, joining some counties together, etc. Cheers to Norwegian industrial development! #spreadlove