Tag Archives: Haugesund

Vikings in the USA, Leif Ericson and the Axe Factor

Viking Longship

Outside Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s Lutheran Cathedral, is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson who was an Icelander born about 970 and who explored the oceans and the lands west of Iceland, establishing colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland and who according to legend reached America long before Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucchi.

The statue was a gift from the American Government in 1930 to mark Iceland’s 1,000th anniversary and in the United States October 9th is commemorated as Leif Ericson Day.  The date is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson’s life, it was chosen because the ship Restauration sailing from Stavanger in Norway, arrived in New York Harbour on October 9th 1825 at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Vikings and a possible starting off point for long ships full of heathen bullies on their way to the British Isles to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

Lief Ericson Reyjkavik Iceland

The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.  These Norsemen used their famous long ships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known (not very imaginatively) as the Viking Age.

Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research.  A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely embellished for over a hundred years.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers is part true, part fable and part exaggeration and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio of good and bad and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

But now it seems historical revisionism has gone too far for some people  especially for Professor Simon Keynes, an Anglo-Saxon historian at Cambridge University – ‘There’s no question how nasty, unpleasant and brutish they were. They did all that the Vikings were reputed to have done.’

They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It’s likely they carried off women, too, he says. ‘They’d burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction.’ It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first.’

It is now widely believed that Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group. In Minnesota, nearly a million claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.

No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th1960 a name that is meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.  Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams.

epcot-norway-viking

It probably also explains why Norway features at World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World in Florida.

In actual fact however there is no real evidence that Ericson actually discovered America at all  and rather curiously his statue in Reykjavik faces east as though gazing back to the Old World of Scandinavia rather than the New World of America.

Today he looked out over Viking skies full of Icelandic drama with mountainous clouds as big and as grey as a medieval cathedral that closed around the city like a soggy cloak.

Steinunn first Icelandic cSettler

Weekly photo Challenge: Circle

Tyre Circles Haugesund Norway

One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe.

The reason that Norway in particular is so expensive is that after World War Two, thanks to shipping, the merchant marine industry and a policy of domestic industrialisation the country experienced rapid economic growth.  Then, from the early 1970s, there was further accelerated growth as a result of exploiting large oil and natural gas deposits that had been discovered in the North Sea.

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Wales, Rainy Days and Mondays

To be fair to Wales and to set the record straight, it isn’t the only place that we have visited where it has rained a lot…

Sigulda LatviaIceland Traditional HouseHaugesund Sailors NorwayFolegandros RainStreet Cleaners Alghero Sardinia

COMPETITION!

Ten points for each country that you can identify in the pictures!

1  S*******

2  L*****

3  I****

4  S****

5  I******

6  S****

7  M******

8  N*****

9  G*****

10 S*******

 

EPCOT World Showcase – Norway

EPCOT Norway

At EPCOT the Norway Maelstrom ride is on water with the occasional splashes that leave a few damp patches on your summer clothes but Norway in January in the driving rain and penetrating drizzle is a much more authentic getting wet experience I can tell you!

We joined a handful of intrepid local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and sturdy hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason to stop and stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea as though searching the horizon for long lost Viking ancestors returning from a raiding expedition.

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Favourite Street Art

Street Art Mellieha MaltaMellihea, Malta
Bratislava Street ArtBratislava, Slovakia
Sólfar suncraft Reykjavik Iceland
The Solfar Suncraft, Reykjavik, Iceland
Agincourt ArchersAgincourt English Archers, France
L'Escala Costa Brava Street ArtL’Escala, Catalonia, Spain
Burgos Weary PilgrimBurgos, Castilla y Leon The Pilgrim, Spain
Marilyn Monroe Haugesund NorwayHaugesund Marilyn Monroe, Norway

Krakow, Poland

I Love Wroclaw DwarfWroclaw, Poland
Irish Famine
The Potato Famine, Dublin, Ireland
Anonymous Pedestrians Wroclaw Poland
Wroclaw, Poland – The Anonymous PedestriansBelfast  Beacon Of Hope
Belfast, Beacon Of Hope

Weekly Photo Challenge: Containers

Haugesund COOP products Norway

… if you have ever wondered why sometimes products change their name to be more universally accepted then here here are some examples why…

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Iceland Meat Balls in a Tin

Norway – an Impressive World Performer

One of the reasons that we have tended to avoid travelling to Scandinavia is because of the notoriously high cost of living and the lofty prices relative to southern and eastern Europe. Read on…

Norway, Haugesund and The Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

The Axe Factor

Sure enough, in the morning, it was still steadily raining and over the first cup of tea of the day there developed an awful realisation that this might turn into a ‘killing off time’ sort of day.

We took our time and then stretched breakfast out for as long as we realistically could and discussed our rather limited choices.  I could read but Kim hadn’t brought a book with her and she wasn’t excited by my spare one which was a rather heavy going ‘history of modern Spain’ so that meant that a library sort of morning also seemed to be ruled out.

As we lamented the weather and talked through the options however the rain started to ease off and by half past ten, although it had not stopped completely it was at last possible to go outside.

It was another depressing morning, the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky, as we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Huagesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a couple of kilometres outside of the city.  We joined a handful of local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason than to stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

 

Viking Explorers

They could certainly travel that’s for sure.  The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.  These Norsemen used their famous longships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known as the Viking Age.

Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research.  A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely propagated for over a hundred years.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers are part true, part fable and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

Viking Ship

But now it seems historical revisionism has gone too far for some people  especially for Professor Simon Keynes, an Anglo-Saxon historian at Cambridge University – ‘There’s no question how nasty, unpleasant and brutish they were. They did all that the Vikings were reputed to have done.’

They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It’s likely they carried off women, too, he says. ‘They’d burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction.’ It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first.’

Jorvik Centre York Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group. In Minnesota, 868,361 Minnesotans claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.  No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th 1960; the name is partly meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.  Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams. Their traditional nickname is ‘The Chemics’ after the main industry in Widnes, but the club now generally use their more modern nickname.

Haraldshaugen was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 by Crown Prince Oscar to commemorate the one thousand year anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, wet day in January.

We walked back along the same route and into the suburbs of the city which felt a bit like a deciduous tree coping with winter; existing, hibernating, waiting and watching for the first signs of spring.  The people with pale complexions, weary streets, grass burned brown by frost and houses battered and besieged and firmly closed to the outside world, a city beaten to the edge of submission by winter and still only part way through.

Vikings Rape Murder Pillage Plunder004

Reyjkavik, Vikings and Explorers

Norway, Bjørge Lillelien, Football and Winter Weather

Haugesund Norway

The rain showed no sign of easing off so we settled in to an afternoon of sport on the satellite television which was promising a full afternoon of English Premier League football.  I sampled the first can of Frydenlund and was pleased to discover that it was very nice indeed and then sat down for the match.

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Norway, Vinmolopolet and Marilyn Monroe

Mermaid Haugesund Norway

To be honest the shops in Haugesund weren’t especially thrilling but we did stop at a co-op supermarket to see what sort of things Norwegians eat and how much they pay for them.  We had some difficulty in understanding the prices and everything seemed horribly expensive but then we realised that a box of cornflakes couldn’t possibly be £25 so finally understood that prices were in øre which is a hundredth of a krone and effectively therefore the equivalent of a penny or a cent.

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