The Birth of a Viking Town
How exciting to playing a part in the growth of a Viking town. There are massive plans for Viking Valley here in the magical Gudvangen. Already world-renowned as a place of Viking life, the long dreamed of project is now launched.
A Viking town. Situated here in this place where visitors already flock; within the valley walls of this fjord between the long falls (I count 14 flowing down to God’s waters as I write this).
Right now at this moment I observe the valley. A wide expanse with different areas; the narrow flowing village of spacious timber dwellings, the far farm houses below the steep goat trail, the central encampment all along the riverside where Vikings have landed and gathered each summer. Nestled quietly beyond the silver birch is a throng of arrival – a ‘landing stage’ from the world. Cruise ships in a trail along the supremely beautiful Sognfjord disembark their eager passengers. Flåm railway has dispatched its host of visitors to their ferries to come here, (you can hear their multi-national voices cheering as they sight their destination), and Aurora, Alexsson, Benevista, Viking Tours etc accompany a hiss of air, a whoosh of door with, ‘We have arrived at our destination.’
There is plenty to experience here in the Viking Valley, especially in a week or so when the Vikings arrive on mass for our annual market, yet we are only at the start of our journey.
Gudvangen is already high up on the list of places to visit in Norway, and within a year or so it will be higher up, it will probably be top of the list of Viking places to visit. For here we stand at the very beginning of our new journey.
I was privileged to be involved in the launch banquet, to see the presentation for the media and for all the tour operators; as plans were unveiled for Njardarhiemr.
I will attempt to present a ‘picture’ of what is in store for us, but first, the food!
It is of course a major part of all life, not just Viking. I am enjoying the simplest of tastes of Norway by buying kaviar and having my favourite snack; Brunost (dark brown cheese) with sliced pear and honey. I expected far more of course, but I didn’t expect to be invited to a banquet. The chef team here have been working hard at bringing us dishes which are authentic and of restaurant quality. As the fire pit is being unearthed we are told how we know of the techniques, such as fermenting, curing, drying etc etc, and that we know of the ingredients, yet we have very little in the way of recipes. It is creativity and imagination from talented chefs which adds the final ingredient. This is authentic, for it was true then as it was now. The three main factors in Viking age food are the techniques, the available foods and the talents of the cook, and Vikings were very good cooks – So are the chefs here!
We had a savoury cream porridge topped with fermented carrots which was delicious and I am planning to have a go myself. Marinated cod with green leaves was wonderfully delicate, although I was a little concerned during the introduction, (There is a lovely tradition here of the chefs introducing the dishes as they appear), when we were told the marinade was made from wee, it turned out to my great relief that this was a mispronunciation of whey. Another dish of the several courses I enjoyed was the smoked mackerel with cheese; the cheese was soft whipped cheese which appeared at first to be whipped cream and I was a little surprised when Janett a hotelier from the region commented that it was liquorice cheese; It was delicious, especially with the rye bread and local butter. The fire pit had contained lamb and celeriac, both tasting excellent.
Viking rice will be a popular staple during the camps, festivals and markets I am sure; a delicacy new to me where barley is served in the way rice would be, often with wild garlic.
This year as always I will be enjoying wandering from tent to tent being offered tastes from the pots upon the fire. I will be cooking that way myself of course. Another highlight will be the new team from within the Njardar Vikings who have been researching and practicing methods from the time, they too will be providing meals of an authentic nature.
Personally I will no doubt be making an offering of Neolithic cave bread, not Viking age exactly but I am sure they would have known of older techniques such as cooking upon stone. In previous years this has proved to be great fun, with me starting cooking around six and still at it at nearly midnight.
I have another plan this year too. An English Viking dish! Well I am sure they would have eaten eels, so why not jellied eels. I am going to have a go. It is with great pleasure that I hear there will be fishermen among us doing presentations of their catch and I am hoping to procure some eels.
If anyone has any idea of how ‘liquer’ is made to go with the eels do let me know.
Another way food ideas will be expanded is by the consideration of vital aspects of Viking life; raiding and trading. We ruled an empire. All sorts of foods will have been brought up this fjord from around our ‘globe’. All sorts of people will be taking part in our camps too, we have had over twenty nationalities living here as Vikings in previous summers, many of them will be bringing their Viking-age knowledge.
We will all be bringing skills and talents too. This new town will be full of drama, real life, entertainment, activities and courses. From horsemanship to Viking weddings.
Be ready to be part of our town as we bring Viking life – to life!