Opening Ceremony 2016 Viking Valley, Gudvangen, Norway
Welcome, welcome, you are all welcome. So good to see you all gathered here for the opening ceremony of this the 14th Viking Market here in Gudvangen Viking Valley.
You are safe here, welcome; you can relax and enjoy yourself, even though you will be spending the day among huge, hairy, heavily armed Vikings.
We are glad to have you here eating our food, drinking our mead, looking at our stalls.
Yes welcome, so relax you will be safe here – it is when we visit you that you need to worry.
“And we won’t be emailing, there will be no polite email asking if it is OK to visit. We will suddenly be there but you will know straight away. You will be well aware we are among you.”
This is a very special place; there is something magical about this valley. Everyone says so. You begin to feel the effect of being here straight away.
These Vikings here, as soon as they step off the ship they calm down, which is unusual I assure you. All the time they are here they are friendly, easy-going and peaceful – well most of the time.
Look at me. When I am at home I am a wild, dangerous, rampaging mad thing.
You will enjoy yourselves! Do you hear what I say, and can you see the shine of sharpness along the edge of my axe. You will enjoy yourselves!
Besides, we have many things on our stalls which we want you to buy. We have been to many lands and learnt many skills; old, well-tried, traditional skills. We will enjoy showing you; try not to be nervous when you generously show your appreciation.
Yes, we have sailed to many nations. We have landed on a wide range of shores, seen people of many types – and robbed them, traded with them, I mean traded with them, yes, traded.
“Can we ask where you are all from?”
“Spain.” “Poland.” “Canada.” “Ireland.”
“Ah, those are the places we robbed.”
That’s where we got all these things we are selling.
“Hey, stall holders, lower your prices.”
Yes visitors we will sell your things back to you quite cheaply.
“And you will be safe here. Adrian remind them how welcome they will be, and how safe.”
Yes, yes, safe, yes. We have sworn an oath, an oath. We wanted to reassure you so we oathed an oath, and when a Viking makes an oath they make an oath and the oath that they oath is an unbreakable oath which we have oathed; an oath is an oath is an oath. Let it be known that we have oathed.
“What is an oath?”
A promise; and a promise is a promise and…
“Don’t start that again.”
No, right, of course, but we did; there is a ritual and a belief. To make that oath the first thing you have to do is – spit in a barrel.
Well we skipped that bit.
“Yes well we are selling lemonade and mead to you. So we thought it best not to spit in the barrels. Or talk about it even…”
No sorry. No spitting. The barrels are fine!
A promise is a promise though, and it has to be kept. We worry about where we will go when we die.
Oath-breakers have to walk through a river of gushing ice. This ice is formed into axes, spears and knives – then, you step out – to be kept in a tower made of living serpents. Bitten and sprayed with burning poison for ever and ever and ever and ever.
Or until Ragnarok; the end of the world.
“So we keep our promises; enjoy.”
If, you enjoy hearing of the old mythos – watch out for the ravens…
A shadow will flicker over you. As you look up, the second raven will fly in from the world waters, by you see the third raven it will be too late. There it will be upon the mast of an incoming ship; a ship so terrible you will quake at the sight of it. The Vikings are coming, and they are no ordinary Vikings. These are Njardar. Njardar Vikingslag.
We are coming to you and charging onto your land. Hear the roar. See the gleam. A huge army of huge warriors are upon you. These are the best (the Mayor of Aurland himself said that we were second in exports and visitors and soon to become first, so it must be true). It is like the sky itself is filled, and they wait, with weapons high, only for a command to charge. Step forward the chieftain; Olafr Reydarsson. When he speaks we listen. He is big! Very big!
Well, his beard is big anyway. He will give the command; the word and we will all, roaring, act upon that word.
The word is…
“Welcome; you are all welcome to come and visit us in Gudvangen. Everyone is welcome, except those who do not make others welcome. Come visit.”
And so they do, in their thousands, from all over the world.
We have had a battle though, a long, hard fought battle – a battle to build.
As you step though those gates into the fourteenth Viking Gathering here at Gudvangen you step back into the past. Now. The long battle is over. Now. As you step through these gates you are stepping into our future.
By the fifteenth Viking Gathering there will be a Viking Town. It is a two year project with the first row of Viking houses ready by May – I have put my name down for one of these already.
Here is the first of the timber being delivered now…
You will be able to take part in the Glima wrestling…
With hardly any risk to yourself….
Hear Galda upon the holy hill…
Learn leather skills with Hamish, or buy his bags from Annabelle…
Visit Lady Chaga…
Be warned; slavers are in the area and you are at risk…
And it is no use complaining, we know that now.
But no, no, no, do not worry, as we have promised, you are completely safe here, well, until six o’clock. Once the market closes at six all promises are off!
Don’t spit when you speak!
Vikings will become Vikings again.
You will be greatly at risk – unless you buy a tunic and a pair of boots and stay here.
Then you will be welcome.
Before we actually open the market and get on with selling you your treasures back, there is one rather tricky thing which must be dealt with.
“Don’t tell them Adrian.”
No, we must.
“There is a rumour.”
A terrible rumour.
“It has been whispered over and over as people come through the gate.”
We are now going to deal with that rumour.
“People have been saying that they have heard that a group of tourists with plastic wrist bands came here to visit and were never seen again.”
“It is true!”
Never seen again!
They bought Viking outfits and became part of this marvellous experience.
“Now we must warn you.”
This may happen to you.
“This valley is such a wonderful, unique place that once you have visited you never wish to leave. Many choose to stay and be here forever.”
This we must warn you of.
“But there is a greater risk, a great and terrible sadness and yearning which may come upon.”
“If you do choose to leave here you will regret it forever.”
You will always feel that you are not where you belong and will feel terribly, terribly sad that you did not choose to stay.
“Terribly, terribly sad.”
“Now, finally, we welcome you with one piece of explanation about what you might expect here, here is the secret – it is all about love.”
“We will be opening the market again tomorrow.”
And this worries me greatly.
“I will be wearing my helmet. It was a wonderful gift to me and is an accurate reconstruction of a Viking age helmet.”
And why does it have a figure of a boar on the top?
“This is to signify that I command a team of specialist warriors.”
What kind of warriors?
And you are wearing it tomorrow? This worries me greatly. I have pledged to always stand by your side. To dress appropriately and be there in the way that you need me whatever you ask of me. What does a Berserker wear?
“A small fur collar.”
And that’s it!
Right I will have to get my outfit ready then.
“It worries me as well, I don’t think I will be standing next to you tomorrow.”
(“And if you blog about it tomorrow Adrian, do not do a drawing.”)
Thinking about it, I will make a great berserker. If you put all the fighters and all the wrestlers in the field ready I will be able to beat the lot of them, I will clear the field.
If I come screaming across to them wearing nothing but my berserker outfit they will scatter. I will see off the lot of them.
They will run.
“So will I!” “Enjoy yourselves today, because tomorrow is berserker day.”
We now declare the Viking Market open!
“This is a marvellous experience, with Vikings and visitors from all around the world, none of the differences you might notice elsewhere matter at all here, all beliefs, all life styles are for elsewhere; here everyone gets along and shares the wonder which is Gudvangen.”
So it is spoken by Olafr (Georg) and this is the world.