Far Viking Lands

Faroese waterfallGreenland and Vinland: In the Wake of the Vikings 3
By Mary Jo

The harsh lands of Scandinavia produced a hardy race of warriors, explorers, and colonists, and part of the value of our two week September cruise was how much I learned about this part of the world and how it affected history.

The three countries of Scandinavia are Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, and they directed their attentions in different directions. Swedes tended to head eastward to the Baltic area and Russia. The Danes swept down on the British Isles, and the Norwegians explored ever westward, all the way to North America.

 


Vikings colonized settled the Shetlands and the Faroes and Iceland, and those settlements took hold and became permanent. However, these two of the farthest Viking expansions had relatively brief lives as Nordic colonies.

Greeenland sunriseGreenland

One of the appeals of this cruise itinerary was to visit Greenland,  which sounded way cool. (No pun intended. <G>) Though it's not as large as distorted Mercator projection maps makes it appear, it is the world's largest island. (Australia is larger but is considered a continent.)

Geographically Greenland is considered part of North America, but its orientation Qaqortocis toward Europe and it is now an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of Denmark. Three quarters of Greenland is covered by a permanent sheet of ice, and with about 55,500 inhabitants, it has the lowest population density in the world. Norwegian Vikings established a colony in the 10th century, but it disappeared about five hundred years later. Most of the population is Inuit, descended from peoples who migrated from Canada.

So much for the statistics. What is Greenland actually like? After sunrise, it’s a rare treat to be cruising in comfort and eating a fine breakfast while looking out the windows at the rugged stony coast of the Davis Strait.

Though we were supposed to stop at two towns in Southern Greenland, stiff winds prevented the ship from stopping in Nanortalik. Luckily, we were able to visit Qaqortoq the next day. The largest town in Southern Greenland, the area has been continuously inhabited for something like 4300 years. The population is only about 3,300, but it has a small college and students from there were good natured guides for us tourists. Greenland hostess window

As for the people–they're a whole lot like us. <G> We were told that something 98% of the population have smart phones, so it's Greenlanders a very wired population. I signed up for a home visit that had about a dozen of us having coffee and (very good) cakes in a local home.

Our hostess was a very nice grandmother with Greenland hostess a very nice shaggy dog, and like grandmothers everywhere, she had lots of family pictures on the wall. Four kids, one a daughter a doctor, another a teacher, two sons with government positions. I took a picture out her kitchen window: note geraniums inside and giant satellite dish outside. <G>

The town is also an open air sculpture garden. In the early '90s, a well known Danish artist came up with the idea of these "Stone and Man" sculptures, and a number of other artists joined her. There are more than 30 Stone and Man  Qaqortoqof them scattered around the town. Delightful! I need to go back to see them all!

Vinland

The farthest western outreach of Viking explorers was Vinland, the name they gave to a settlement they made in the farthest north corner of Newfoundland. I'm told that driving the length of Newfoundland is difficult, but by boat is was easy; there was a National Geographic cruise ship there at the same time.

Viking reenactor Viking sagas described the great explorers, including the discovery of Vinland, but it seemed to be half-legend. Then in 1960, the Norwegian husband and wife archeological team of Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad discovered the remains of an ancient Norse village at L'Anse aux Meadows.

The settlement lasted only a few years before conflict with the natives persuaded the Vikings to return to Greenland.  But the sagas told the tale, and it was true.

The site is now a Canadian national park, with reconstructed turf buildings and a bog iron forge and friendly re-enactors to set the scene for visitors. (It also had a GREAT gift shop at the visitors' center; clearly a lot of wonderful craftsfolk live in Newfoundland and Labrador.) Here's a copper cloak pin made with a technique called "Viking Shopping Viking Knitting Cloak Pinknitting" that I wasn't able to resist.

MJP in Viking VillageThis was the end of our Viking journey. The cruise continued to the civilized NewfoundlandMapports of Quebec and Montreal. But I won't forget the vast northern seas, nor the explorers who crossed them in open boats to see what they could see.  (L'Anse aux Meadows is at the far northern tip of Newfoundland.)

Have I whetted your appetite to visit some of these beautiful northern lands?  I hope so!

Mary Jo

 

65 thoughts on “Far Viking Lands”

  1. More armchair traveling for me! I didn’t realize that Vinland had been so far north. (I think I should have done so!)
    The crafts and the scenery fascinate me. I wish I were younger and could go there!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful 3-part visit.

    Reply
  2. More armchair traveling for me! I didn’t realize that Vinland had been so far north. (I think I should have done so!)
    The crafts and the scenery fascinate me. I wish I were younger and could go there!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful 3-part visit.

    Reply
  3. More armchair traveling for me! I didn’t realize that Vinland had been so far north. (I think I should have done so!)
    The crafts and the scenery fascinate me. I wish I were younger and could go there!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful 3-part visit.

    Reply
  4. More armchair traveling for me! I didn’t realize that Vinland had been so far north. (I think I should have done so!)
    The crafts and the scenery fascinate me. I wish I were younger and could go there!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful 3-part visit.

    Reply
  5. More armchair traveling for me! I didn’t realize that Vinland had been so far north. (I think I should have done so!)
    The crafts and the scenery fascinate me. I wish I were younger and could go there!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful 3-part visit.

    Reply
  6. I’m with Sue, Mary Jo — I’ve really enjoyed this brief glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been to. One day . . .
    I love that “viking” cloak brooch — but what’s that small door leading into? The one you’re standing beside.

    Reply
  7. I’m with Sue, Mary Jo — I’ve really enjoyed this brief glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been to. One day . . .
    I love that “viking” cloak brooch — but what’s that small door leading into? The one you’re standing beside.

    Reply
  8. I’m with Sue, Mary Jo — I’ve really enjoyed this brief glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been to. One day . . .
    I love that “viking” cloak brooch — but what’s that small door leading into? The one you’re standing beside.

    Reply
  9. I’m with Sue, Mary Jo — I’ve really enjoyed this brief glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been to. One day . . .
    I love that “viking” cloak brooch — but what’s that small door leading into? The one you’re standing beside.

    Reply
  10. I’m with Sue, Mary Jo — I’ve really enjoyed this brief glimpse into a part of the world I’ve never been to. One day . . .
    I love that “viking” cloak brooch — but what’s that small door leading into? The one you’re standing beside.

    Reply
  11. Mary Jo, I really enjoyed reading about your adventures through Viking Lands, but my question is: does the Vinland national park sell those cloak pins online? I would really love to have one, it would be perfect for fastening my knitted shawls!

    Reply
  12. Mary Jo, I really enjoyed reading about your adventures through Viking Lands, but my question is: does the Vinland national park sell those cloak pins online? I would really love to have one, it would be perfect for fastening my knitted shawls!

    Reply
  13. Mary Jo, I really enjoyed reading about your adventures through Viking Lands, but my question is: does the Vinland national park sell those cloak pins online? I would really love to have one, it would be perfect for fastening my knitted shawls!

    Reply
  14. Mary Jo, I really enjoyed reading about your adventures through Viking Lands, but my question is: does the Vinland national park sell those cloak pins online? I would really love to have one, it would be perfect for fastening my knitted shawls!

    Reply
  15. Mary Jo, I really enjoyed reading about your adventures through Viking Lands, but my question is: does the Vinland national park sell those cloak pins online? I would really love to have one, it would be perfect for fastening my knitted shawls!

    Reply
  16. I’m in love with the cloak pin too! I’d love to go on that cruise. The furthest north I’ve been in Canada is Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

    Reply
  17. I’m in love with the cloak pin too! I’d love to go on that cruise. The furthest north I’ve been in Canada is Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

    Reply
  18. I’m in love with the cloak pin too! I’d love to go on that cruise. The furthest north I’ve been in Canada is Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

    Reply
  19. I’m in love with the cloak pin too! I’d love to go on that cruise. The furthest north I’ve been in Canada is Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

    Reply
  20. I’m in love with the cloak pin too! I’d love to go on that cruise. The furthest north I’ve been in Canada is Nova Scotia and P.E.I.

    Reply
  21. Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Mary Jo. I enjoyed all of your posts – especially since I get seasick and am not sure if I could handle such a cruise.

    Reply
  22. Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Mary Jo. I enjoyed all of your posts – especially since I get seasick and am not sure if I could handle such a cruise.

    Reply
  23. Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Mary Jo. I enjoyed all of your posts – especially since I get seasick and am not sure if I could handle such a cruise.

    Reply
  24. Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Mary Jo. I enjoyed all of your posts – especially since I get seasick and am not sure if I could handle such a cruise.

    Reply
  25. Thanks for sharing your travels with us, Mary Jo. I enjoyed all of your posts – especially since I get seasick and am not sure if I could handle such a cruise.

    Reply
  26. Not only have you whetted my appetite, but actually retracing their voyages on the dangerous seas with Viking lore and history uppermost on the mind sounds like an amazing journey. Easy to imagine those small boats in the distance without benefit of modern technology and size.
    I remember being taught that Greenland should have been named Iceland and vice versa, since Greenland is mainly ice, and Iceland is more inhabitable and green.

    Reply
  27. Not only have you whetted my appetite, but actually retracing their voyages on the dangerous seas with Viking lore and history uppermost on the mind sounds like an amazing journey. Easy to imagine those small boats in the distance without benefit of modern technology and size.
    I remember being taught that Greenland should have been named Iceland and vice versa, since Greenland is mainly ice, and Iceland is more inhabitable and green.

    Reply
  28. Not only have you whetted my appetite, but actually retracing their voyages on the dangerous seas with Viking lore and history uppermost on the mind sounds like an amazing journey. Easy to imagine those small boats in the distance without benefit of modern technology and size.
    I remember being taught that Greenland should have been named Iceland and vice versa, since Greenland is mainly ice, and Iceland is more inhabitable and green.

    Reply
  29. Not only have you whetted my appetite, but actually retracing their voyages on the dangerous seas with Viking lore and history uppermost on the mind sounds like an amazing journey. Easy to imagine those small boats in the distance without benefit of modern technology and size.
    I remember being taught that Greenland should have been named Iceland and vice versa, since Greenland is mainly ice, and Iceland is more inhabitable and green.

    Reply
  30. Not only have you whetted my appetite, but actually retracing their voyages on the dangerous seas with Viking lore and history uppermost on the mind sounds like an amazing journey. Easy to imagine those small boats in the distance without benefit of modern technology and size.
    I remember being taught that Greenland should have been named Iceland and vice versa, since Greenland is mainly ice, and Iceland is more inhabitable and green.

    Reply
  31. You have definitely whetted my appetite. … though you look mighty bundled up and this was summer, yes?
    Your pin made with “Viking Knitting” looks amazing.
    Thank you for posting this article for us to drool over.

    Reply
  32. You have definitely whetted my appetite. … though you look mighty bundled up and this was summer, yes?
    Your pin made with “Viking Knitting” looks amazing.
    Thank you for posting this article for us to drool over.

    Reply
  33. You have definitely whetted my appetite. … though you look mighty bundled up and this was summer, yes?
    Your pin made with “Viking Knitting” looks amazing.
    Thank you for posting this article for us to drool over.

    Reply
  34. You have definitely whetted my appetite. … though you look mighty bundled up and this was summer, yes?
    Your pin made with “Viking Knitting” looks amazing.
    Thank you for posting this article for us to drool over.

    Reply
  35. You have definitely whetted my appetite. … though you look mighty bundled up and this was summer, yes?
    Your pin made with “Viking Knitting” looks amazing.
    Thank you for posting this article for us to drool over.

    Reply

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