Thanks to the Hands on History Travelling Foundation, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Gudvangen Viking market 2017. Here follows a short summary of my trip as well as some personal reflections.
Travelling to Gudvangen was done by car on a sunny summers day, the weather was absolutely amazing. This made the trip very beautiful but also made the lack of AC in the car very noticeable. The compensation for us being boiled in our own sweat was amazing scenery, a fair trade to say the least.
For you who don’t know about Gudvangen, it’s located in the western region of Norway in the municipality of Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane county.
We arrived to Gudvangen at midday but waited until evening to put up the tent in order to avoid the busiest, as well as the hottest, hours. This unfortunately gives us no pictures from the first day with its sunshine so the majority of these pictures were taken on other days when it was cloudy (all pictures except one but you’d have to figure out which one that is by yourself).
It’s a scenic place, to say the least.
The fjord water was cold and had an amazing aquamarine colour, which was difficult to capture without the equipment of a professional photographer.
On the second day we ventured out along the fjord to go swimming in the cold fjord water. Despite it being at least 20°C during the cloudiest day it was no more than 10°C in the water due to mountain water and the ocean being close at hand. Nevertheless, going for a swim was refreshing and appreciated but also fascinating because you see the mountains at all time but you tend to forget that the fjords are the opposite of mountains. That is, when you go swimming you can see how the mountain disappears down into the deep, clear fjordwater. Beautiful, cold and awe inspiring.
Gudvangen being in a fjord makes it perpetually surrounded by the green mountains. It sound reasonable enough but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t breathtaking when you see it.
Turned out that green was an exceptional nice colour that worked very well with the surroundings. The particular green as seen in the picture above was made using yellow onion skin and indigo.
Above is one of the dinners; beer, salmon, cabbage, bread and butter. Tasted amazing, 10/10 would eat again.
The Nærøyelva flows through the bigger part of Gudvangen, even though it’s difficult to see it from these picture Nærøyelva continues quite a bit in.
It’s difficult to not be impressed by Gudvangens scenic nature but not only does it look unique, it smells and sounds in a particular way as well. I remember waking up one night wondering why there was such heavy traffic in the middle of the night. Took me a while before I understood that the low murmur that my modern brain translated as traffic was in fact the sound of the many waterfalls that surrounds Gudvangen.
It was an amazing trip and one of the many thoughts that I will take with me from this trip is that environment is not purely there for the aesthetics. There is a roughness to nature which I think is a part of its beauty and partially responsible for the fascination we have for it. But the roughness also bring demands; demands about how we dress and how we work to survive in it. Or at least it did.
There is an ingenuity with mankind that is rare, an ingenuity that gives us unique tools and skills based on the region and the time we happen to live in. Based upon these tools we develop a society surrounding them, cultivating and developing them for new possibilities. In order to understand more about a culture, understanding tools are crucial. To understand tools, we must use it and evaluate its products. For this purpose, I try to put my reenactment close to what available sources there are from each century. There is a reason to such a life, a feeling and a way to value workmanship and knowledge that is hard to come by without experiencing it.
There is, of course, different ways to approach reenactment and history but this is my approach which has been reinforced by my experience in Gudvangen. I want to understand, work and learn new skills in my reenactment and I want these skills to be based of what we actual know about a certain time and place. By working to learn these skills I will see what they saw and feel what they felt; curiosity, frustration and (hopefully) success. Hopefully I’ll learn something; if not about history then maybe about myself.