Viking and Norse Stuff: Visiting L'Anse aux Meadows & Norstead
Thors-day, June 23
One of the premiere attractions of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula is the fact that about 1,000 years ago, Vikings became the first Europeans to land and live in North America. The local tourism industry has embraced this with great fervour, and everywhere you go on the Northern Peninsula, there's viking-this and norse-that.
Although one may consider it all a little over-hyped, there are real reasons to celebrate this significant historical achievement. L'Anse Aux Meadows, the spot at which archeaological discoveries proved that this area hosted the first European settlement in 1000 A.D., is a Canadian National Historic Site and a UNESCO world heritage site. It is indeed quite amazing that explorers in 50-foot open wooden boats were able to manage the very harsh Northern Atlantic to travel to here.
Given the norse-ness of our activities for the morning, it was appropriate that today was thursday -- or "Thor's day", in honour of the Norse god Thor. We drove north from St. Anthony towards the location of the Viking Settlement, about 30 minutes' drive north. The weather continued as blustery as ever, with a forecast of rain, wind, and a projected high of about 8 degrees C (remember, this is the end of June, and it is summertime!). Our first stop was at the L'Anse Aux Meadows site.
After briefly visiting the visitor center and watching a video about the Norwegian archaeologists who discovered the L'Anse Aux Meadows site, we headed back outside for a short hike along a trail that showcases the harsh but beautiful coastal tundra terrain. The harshness was highlighted by the stormy weather, of course, and we donned full upper and lower goretex to prevent us from becoming completely soaked and hypothermic.
The trail we took -- the Birchy Nuddick trail -- is a short loop of less than 3 kilometres. Much of the first part of the trail crosses tundra and bog on a very nice boardwalk, and the second part follows the coastline, eventually leading to the archeaological site.
If you are interested in reading more about our Birchy Nuddick hike at L'Anse aux Meadows, along with extra pictures not in this main narrative, please click here
After completing the Birchy Nuddick trail, we briefly toured through the archeaological site (which, although interesting, consists of not much more than raised outlines in grassy ground), then moved on to the recreations of the norse sod buildings. These are quite detailed and interesting. There are a number of outbuildings and one long, large 'chieftain's hut'. Inside it is fully decorated and staffed with 'in-character' vikings, doing a variety of tasks: ironsmithing, weaving, etc.
Once finished with our bit of live viking history, we headed back to the parking lot, stopping along the way at the visitor center and learning a bit more about the heroic travels of Leif Eriksson.