I’m in the mood for more Viking living history and Norstead, a non-profit attraction, is just 2km away from the National Historic Site and UNESCO site of the L’Anse aux Meadows-Viking settlement. NLFD I step into the tourist office, which is much smaller than it appeared on the outside. Squeezed into the space are shelves with trinkets and hand-knitted mittens and hats with pompoms, books, and postcards. A “Hello” catches my attention and I turn to look towards a lady behind a counter. I walk towards her. “Good afternoon,” I reply. “Can you tell me what this place is and how much to enter?” She said, “One adult will be $12.” There is a moment of silence and I say, “And … what am I getting for the twelve dollars?” She blinks her eyelids a few times then says, “A re-created Norse village.” Then adds, “Snorri is our main attraction, a replica Norse ship.” She adds they are out of brochure maps. I puff my cheeks up and hand over the entrance fee despite my tight-fisted instincts. Then I follow her directions, pushing open the squeaky back door that opens into a Norse world. The Newfoundland guide book assures me it is good value; without a brochure I will have to poke around and guess what I am seeing.
Following the walkway, I come to two smalled fenced pens. I assume would house pigs or chickens but I see no livestock, just an overgrowth of fireweed and goldenrod. The big sod-covered building up ahead will be my first stop. I step through the doorway and let my eyes adjust to the darkness, once I am able to see I find myself standing in front of a large wooden viking-style ship. I look her over with a quizzical eye, tracing her keel and linear boards of her hull, lingering on the iron rivets.
While my head is tilted back staring up at the her stern, a man comes out from the shadows and asks if I have any question about Snorri. “I do,” I reply, still gawking upward. Without waiting for me to continue, he tells me her dimensions, and history but with his mask on, his words are muffled, and I failed to fully capture what he said. In summary: She was christened Snorri after a Viking child. She was built to re-create Leif Eriksson’s journey from Greenland to Newfoundland, she was acquired from a group in Maine. Her first attempt at the crossing in 1997 was unsuccessful -a broken rudder. But she and her brave crew persevered and completed the 1500-mile voyage across the Labrador Sea, arriving in L’Anse aux Meadows in September 1998. He tells me there is a documentary about the voyage, I should check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XORSpUUy0lQ. “She is Norstead’s star attraction.” I nod my head in agreement. “She is impressive.”
( If you google Snorri, Youtube, it will return links to Theodore Tug Boat and Snorri . A childrens cartoon show that aired in the 90’s on CBC- Canadian Broadcast Corporation, Television. There was an episode where Snorri visits the Big Harbour of Halifax. the link is below. I watched it -a wholesome delight.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ywRqma2CFk
He points out her mast lying beside her, and the sail lashed up on the back wall. I catch the words ” Open deck” and I see a cat-walk along her starboard side and I ask,” Can I go up have a look inside?” He says, “Yes of course.”
I trot up. Placing my hands along her side beam and leaning inward scanning the deck. I conclude, I wouldn’t be reserving a seat for her next north Atlantic crossing. I turn my heard and look down towards the man standing below with his arms crossed behind his back. I ask, “Does she float?” He replies, “no” and explains her riviets are rusted from the salt air – she wouldn’t be seaworthy. (Sorry for the failed photography skills below. ) “Ah, makes sense,” I nod, and take another look then
head back down the plank. I step around her bow to her port-side to have a better look at the mast. It is just about as long as the boat itself. I am back near her stern now with a full appreciation of her size, All that is left to see is the square sail, which is draped from rigging all creased and stained but otherwise in fair shape. I turn to the man and say ” Thank you for the tour” he nods and closes with “My pleasure” Back out into the bright daylight I head to the lower village.
Local community members play the roles of the Norse residents, and in the next building I encounter a women sitting on sheep skins knitting. She raises her eyes to look at me and says, “You better earn your keep around here missus,” then drops her gaze back to her needles and continues to work away. She is actually very friendly and I learn she is making strappings to secure pant legs. as in the saying; pull you up by your boot straps.
Further over I spy a big chair and I give into the urge to take a seat. Just as I snuggle down into the soft fur, a man tells me I could be hung for sitting in the chieftain’s chair. I snap back, “I am the chieftain, and you could be hung for questioning me, no?” He smiles, and I hold my camera out to him and ask if he will take my picture before I am hung for inpersonating a king.
With the photo session over, I am off to the church, then the blacksmith shop where I am given a demonstration of using the bellows, I watch two women pretending to be curing seal skins (not really) then I am invited to join an ax-throwing competition.
“No, thank you,” I decline, standing to the side of a woman in period dress gripping an ax with both hands, her gaze drilling through a wooded bulls eye. She winds up and releases the handle and it sails end over end, landing with the ax head buried in the target.
I am passed an axe in spite of my refusal. I hav been challenged by the maiden. With little choice – throw or be run out of town – I grip the handle and let it fly. It arches promisingly then knocks against the wooden platform and rattles to the ground. I shrug my shoulders and declare my opponent the winner. I bow out and depart for the dockyard.
I have a date with a tall legendary man- you may have heard of him, Leif Eriksson. Just a short distance away is his bronze statue. I place my camera on the ground and set the ten second timer -running back to his side I clasp his hand in mine. I may not have the courage to set out across the ocean in a square-sail open-deck ship, nor am I handy with an axe or a set of knitting needles, but we share a love for adventure and that spirit has led us to the very same spot-the top of the great Northern Peninsula on the island of Newfoundand. Thank you Leif Ericsson for going exploring.
Please join me again as I go whale watching. Happy Travels from Maritimemac
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