Background

The following extract from a speech will give the prospective visitor to Rjukan and Tinn an idea of just how eventful the area's local history is. It was delivered by the then Mayor of Tinn, Olav Ulleren, during King Harald and Queen Sonja's official visit to Rjukan in 1996, and is translated and reproduced with Ulleren's kind permission.

When King Haakon VII visited Tinn in August 1909 to open The Rjukan Railway, he met a local community on the threshold of a change unique in modern times. The opening of a modern transport system between the Hardangervidda and the coast meant that the industrial adventure in Vestfjorddalen was ready to supply a product for which the rest of the world was crying out. It also meant that Tinn and Rjukan were not just an exotic destination for scenery-seeking tourists and artists, nor were they just a community which, in addition to hunting and agriculture, also used the products of the widely known Tinn craftsmen to provide for themselves.

Rjukan became, with the help of air, water and human vision and courage, one of the central points in the growth of the new industrial welfare state.

Local history after the royal visit is filled with events which were dynamic, dramatic and important. It is the story of a community under rapid economic and social development, of solidarity and strength, of heroes of the ski slopes and of heroes of the campaign against the forces of occupation.

But it is also the story of conflicts which crossed cultural and social divides, of stagnation and depopulation, and of a population which at times felt itself betrayed by society at large.

When, on this day in August - 87 years after the opening of The Rjukan Railway - the royal couple make their way to the most northerly municipality in Telemark and the town under Gaustatoppen, it is to a community which has learned to treat change as a challenge and which recognises that progress and well-being are first and foremost dependent upon individual effort and local mobilisation.

The forces of nature and history have taught us to face uphill battles, at the same time as making us aware that the values which our natural resources and history have had and have for the community's development must be reasonably compensated for, so that we too can continue to live inland and play our part in the nation's common development.

We will show that we use our culture, history and natural treasures as a means for meeting the morrow, that our industrial and handicraft traditions give a basis for new, forward-looking companies, that nature - including a dried-up Rjukanfoss - create both well-being and wealth through power and tourism and that agriculture maintains its vitality through the use of a combination of traditional and modern methods.