Newfoundland: Exploring the Viking Era

Recreation of a Viking hut

On the North Eastern shore of Newfoundland is a very special place. A place where the rawness of man in the 16th century mix with the raw beauty of Newfoundland. L’Anse aux Meadows is the only confirmed Norse site in North America.

To explore this place we must go way back in history. A time when North America was not a settled land. Oh there had been some discoveries of the America’s but here in what we call Canada, little had been explored. It is told the Vikings were one of the first European settlers to this brave new world. The Norse the first to settle on Newfoundland. With as it is with most things, it was an accidental find and one that was not even acted on right away.

In 986 CE a merchant ship owned by a man named Bjarni was going from Iceland to Greenland when a vicious storm occurred and he was  blown off course. When the storm settled he found himself not anywhere he had been before. The land blanketed with forest he was too far south. He turned his ship north noting the changing landscape as he went. From forested hills to flat heavily forested coastline to Glacier mountains. Once back in Greenland he spoke of finding this unknown land but being a merchant he had no interest in discovering new places.

Lief Erickson

In about the year 1000 CE Lief Erickson, the son of Eric the Red headed out to find the land that he had heard rumors existed here. When you think of a Viking, you think of a fierce warrior in longboat, pillaging with cries of warriors in battle. These Vikings were merchants, farmers, coming from Greenland where they built their communities through hard work. They did not have long boats but ships they called Knarrs. Smaller boats, able to carry more cargo with great masts but also had the ability to be rowed. The land they established would be called Vinland.

A Knarr Viking cargo ship

Today L’Anse aux Meadow has 2 fascinating exhibits. One is ran and guided by the National Historic Museum and just down the road a re-enactment of a Viking Port of Trade, Norstead.

The historic exhibit includes ruins of a Norse village.

Remains of an outbuilding
The remains of a Viking village

The ruins look like indents in the earth. You can see the shapes of the buildings that would have been made of sod walls and wooden roofs covered with grass. Built into the ground to insulate from the harsh conditions of the northern coast they almost look like small thatched houses but once inside there was more than enough room for all who gathered.

A Viking Village

I was so surprised walking in and seeing the craftsmanship in the woodworking. It always amazes me how they constructed houses and buildings all those years ago without the conveniences we have today!

Inside the buildings were people telling you the ways of the Vikings. The stories of the roles of the members of the community. They were informative as well as entertaining.

The Blacksmith

Just an FYI, there are 2 trails you can take. Take the short trail!!! Lol! One is a short trail leading you to the Viking Ruins then back to the museum and the other, on a coastal path, through a bog and over a few rocky outlets. Beautiful views but I did not think it was going to end.

A long Beautiful walk!
A beautiful sight!!

It was fun to walk the same path as the Vikings did. The boardwalk the museum built for it was appreciated! Lol!

I loved the little fairy or elves houses along the way. For the Norse, Elves we’re known as Nissers. Every Viking family had one. They could be pranksters but were also fierce protectors of the Viking family they chose. It is said they lived in the barn or yard and to keep them happy the Vikings would leave gifts. No one wanted a not happy Nisse. Lol!

Little Elves houses along the way!

When you go to L’Anse aux Meadows you must make time to visit both places. Norstead is a working Viking Port of Trade. Watch as weavers show you how they made the clothes that would keep them warm on the shores of the Atlantic and spin sheep fleece into yarn. There is also a full size replica of the Viking ship “Snorri” (pictured above)

So real they were even keeping the chickens out with a shield! Hahaha!

No chickens allowed!

So why do we not have Vikings for neighbour’s? No one knows for sure why they left. It is estimated they stayed for about a decade then packed everything they owned and went back to Greenland. Maybe is was the difficulty of Trade with Europe, creating large enough herds of cattle and sheep to feed a large colony, maybe it was the aboriginals who in that time had great numbers in this area or maybe they were just homesick for Greenland. Whatever the reason I am so glad they landed and left their mark.

Deciding to come to Newfoundland has been an excellent Chipmunk Adventure! It is all I ever dreamed it would be and a well deserved place on my bucket list. Visiting the only place in North America where Vikings like Leif Erikson stood is something I will always remember. I highly recommend visiting the Vikings on your tour of Newfoundland!

Make sure you check.out the video tour of the Viking Village on my YouTube channel. Click the link and thanks for coming along with me!

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure!

See you soon!


7 thoughts on “Newfoundland: Exploring the Viking Era

  1. Thank you for this. I was undecided but now I know I will save one of those special travel days for this great adventure back in time

    1. That’s wonderful Christine! Newfoundland was fabulous. You will have such a good time. The Vking Village was such a spectacular part of our trip.

      Have a wonderful time!!

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