|Jorge Sanchez (Spain):|
L'Anse aux Meadows was declared a UNESCO National Historic Site in 1978.Since there is not bus service in that part of Newfoundland Island, you can only get there by car (or hitch hiking, as I did) along the Viking Trail Route 430
Local people are very nice and they all want to help you to visit their tourist attractions. First, I visited the small fishing village, where I noticed a sign saying: 'NORSTEAD: A Viking Port' and I walked there. Soon I saw a complex with barracks, a reproduction of a drakkar, or ship used by the old Vikings, plusother artefacts. Then I entered in a kind of longhouse covered with earth and herbs, reproduction of a supposed Viking settlement around the year 1000 AD. The place was in the open air, by the beach, without fences, in an attractive environment, facing an island and icebergs. There was an almost extinguished fire in the house that I chose to spend the night. Inside I saw kitchen utensils and animal hides everywhere. The place was very warm. Next day I would learn that a 'Viking' show had been performed that night for the tourists. The next day I visited the UNESCO site, just next door. The entrance fee was cheap. Inside, there were a museum, a shop selling souvenirs and a cinema showing a didactic film about the discovering of the archaeological site. When I watched the film and studied all the artefacts and documents exposed, I walked until the place where the Vikings were supposed to have spent more than a winter. There I saw several grassy mounds with explanatory signs: small and large dwellings, furnace and smithy, workshop, room for Irish slaves, the chief Viking dormitory, etc. In a reconstruction of the site there were several 'Vikings' (Canadians dressed with Viking clothes) smiling at the tourists, who took them pictures without coercion. They were preparing their breakfast (lots of eggs and bacon) and invited the tourists to participate in the feast (I gladly accepted, since I had not eaten since the sandwich that I was given in the airplane the previous day). After that visit I went back to the museum. In the museum I read that some Iceland Sagas (legends and historical tales written in prose) affirm that, in the year 985 or 986 AD, a merchant from Iceland, called Bjarni Herjolfsson, claimed to have seen Helluland (perhaps Baffin or Ellesmere islands), Markland (perhaps Labrador peninsula), and Vinland (perhaps Newfoundland island). Leif Erickson (the son of Erick the Red, the discoverer of Greenland) met him and bought him his ship to repeat Bjarni journey to those places around the year 1000 AD.When he sailed back to Greenland, he described Vinland as a place where grow wild grapevines everywhere. Some years later he gave his boat to his brother Thorvald, and in the year 1004 or 1005, Thorvald travelled to Vinland, where he was killed by the local Aborigines, called in the Sagas 'Skraelingjar', what means in old Norse language 'Barbarians', term that was also used by the Vikings to describe the People of Thule, or Greenland Inuits.In the sixties (of the XX century), the Norwegian historian and explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine, an archaeologist, spent several years travelling along the coasts of north east America determined to find the legendary sites mentioned in those Iceland Sagas, especially Vinland (land of wines) after the wild grapes that Leif Erickson had found during his hypothetical journey from Greenland. In 1967, Helge and Anne found this site in L'Anse aux Meadows, thanks to the information that supplied them a fisherman of the village. They excavated the place searching for artifacts and discovered an iron nail, a Viking coin, a needle and several other items, and resolved that it was the legendary Vinland, and that in that place had been founded the first forge in America. But, where are the grapevines? They only grow in Massachusetts and Maine, but not in cold Newfoundland inland. They did not find any tombs or weapons. After Genoese sailor Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) disembarked in Newfoundland in 1497 and Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte Real did the same in the year 1500, many European whalers and fishermen have called in that island, where they spent winters. So, why attribute that archaeological site only to the Vikings? It is right that if the Vikings could navigate from Greenland to Norway, a distance of over 1400 kilometers, then, why not to North America, at less than half that distance? But I found that the proofs in that site did not meet the requirements to confirm that L'Anse aux Meadows was the legendary Vinland.In fact, according to the documents and opinions given by several scientists and historians about L'Anse aux Meadows that were exposed in that museum, it was speculated that, most probably, that site was not the real Vinland, but a sporadic settlement of the Vikings, that must have been used one or twice before abandon it forever. Vinland continues to be a mystery. The Aboriginal people living in Newfoundland in the past were the Beothuk (a tribe extinct at the beginning of the XX century, owing to the cruelty of the white men, who killed them and made them slaves). Before disappearing they said that many years ago they were visited by white men in boats looking for wood (and also for slaves), but those foreigners killed the inhabitants of a whole village of Beothuk, including women and children. Only one Beothuk escaped alive. He reunited many Beothuk men, then camouflaged a canoe with ice, looking like an iceberg, and went to the place where the Vikings were sleeping, to punish them. The watchful Viking saw the canoe moving, but he thought that it was an iceberg, so he did not alert the sleeping men. Then the Beothuk disembarked and killed all the Vikings. Only one Viking survived (perhaps Thorvald?), but nobody knows his whereabouts. The Icelandic Sagas say that, after some incidents with the natives, the Vikings stopped sailing to Vinland. Today, Vikings are too much idealized and seen with sympathy (when I was a boy I loved the charming and marvelous little animated series of Vicky the Viking). Yes, they were great navigators, explorers and good artists, but they also were horrible criminals who looted villages after killing everybody, women and children alike, kidnapping the stronger and younger men to use them, or sell them, as slaves. They came several times to Spain and pillaged Cadiz and Sevilla killing much of its population and robbing the gold inside the churches. That is why the tale of the Beothuk is a better and more solid (although rather sinister) proof that the Vikings had arrived to North America before Columbus. After L'Anse aux Meadows I continued hitch hiking to visit another UNESCO wonder: Gros Morne National Park, arriving two days later. I enjoyed the place very much, and then followed until Port aux Basques, where I took the ferry to Nova Scotia to continue my long journey around North America.
|Date posted: July 2013|
|I first heard about Dr. Instad's excavations of a possible Norse site in the New World in "newsreels" (remember those!)in 1960 when I was 14. I knew at that moment that I HAD to make a pilgrimage there one day - and so I did so in 2007 to celebrate my 60th birthday. It was fascinating to walk through the ruins and look out on the Bay and see what the Norse saw 1000 years ago, and to realize that Lief Ericson had been here. The Visitor Center was excellent, as was the hospitality of the local people we met. I only wish the Museum/Visitor Center had small replicas of the sculpture commemorating the contact between the Norse and Native Americans-representing the final leg of the circumnavigation of the globe that had taken place starting with Homo sapiens' African Diaspora ~60,000 years ago.|
On the way back to the U.S. Gros Morne national park was a geological wonderland.
I'm definitely going back - this time with bicycle, kayak and camping gear on my Element.
--Glenn Chinery, GChinery@aol.com
|Date posted: September 2010|
|Emilia Bautista King (U.S.A.):|
|My husband and I went here in August 2005 and were greatly surprised by the well-organized Visitor Centre and knowledgeable tour guides. Make sure to watch the film regarding the site's discovery by Dr. Helge Ingstad and his wife, Dr. Anne Stine. A meal at the nearby Norseman Restaurant is also a must!|
|Date posted: February 2006|
|Kelly K. Henry (USA):|
Visited in May, 2004 and even though the Visitor's Center was still closed, we were able to tour the huts and wander the coastline. The site in Newfoundland is allegedly where Lief Ericcson landed from Greenland. 2 sod huts have been completely restored and authentically furnished. A blacksmith's hut is also restored. The foundations of 6-8 other huts remain. The coastline is spectacular complete with mammoth icebergs, rocky cliffs and unusual plant life. Lots of reasonable places to stay in St. Anthony and the drive up from Gros Morne while 5 hours is beautiful.
Have you been to L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site? Share your experiences!