Hafrsfjord saw in 872 AD one of the most decisive battles in the history of Norway. King Harald Hårfagre defeated a number of petty kings starting a dynasty of kings of a united country.
What we saw
Last weekend the Vikings were back with more peaceful activities. The Hafrsfjord “kaupang” (old Norse word for market-place) was larger than ever and it was a huge success.
We are going to the innermost bay of Hafrsfjord, called Møllebukta. Here a creek flows into the sea, old beech trees tower high above us and across the sandy beach the three “Swords in Rock” rise from a rocky outcrop in memory of the Battle of Hafrsfjord in the year 872.
A large number of tents stood on both sides of the creek. Here they stayed, the Viking descendants, for three days on end. This is an annual rally, taking place on the second weekend of June.
The Viking market, or festival, boasts: “A great atmosphere filled with the sounds, smells and other sensations inspired by the Viking era. The sound of hammer against anvil and screaming warriors, the aroma of freshly made Viking sausages and dried spice plants, beautiful costumes and colorful handicrafts are part of these impressions.”
And they are certainly right.
The program is varied, and fascinating for visitors of all ages. Many will appreciate fights and archery. The bangs are loud as well when real swords and axes with full force are beaten against protective shields. Some shields looked like they had been employed in many fights before.
Children will love to climb up on the back of a Viking horse, or listen to saga narratives. Musicians wander around summoning the crowd for a party.
The tent walls are opened up and reveal a wealth of handicraft products: Bows, knives, glass, ceramics, jewelry, carpets, fabrics, woven textiles and so on. Viking fights obviously act as a draw for even more visitors, but otherwise the festival is characterized by the market and what Viking life in reality consisted of – peaceful trade across national borders.
Viking festivals elsewhere
The fact is that Møllebukta sees the gathering of “Vikings” from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Belarus and Hungary. When we walk around among exhibition tents we hear actually even more tongues among us guests and hosts. This is appreciated.
A Danish couple among the exhibitors expressed that this year they will “only” take part in two such events. For this is almost like a traveling circus. Participants from countries around the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are meeting throughout the year, in many places.
According to this website the season starts in January with the large Shetland adventure “Up Helly Aa” in Lerwick, and then continue with the greatest of all Viking festivals, “Jorvik” in York in February. It gathers a crowd of 40,000 annually. In Norway new and old Vikings meet at Karmøy on the first weekend in June and at the “Lofotr Viking Festival” on Vestvågøy in Lofoten in August – just to name a few.
Back in Møllebukta
In Møllebukta many local voices can be heard as well, and one may wonder where they are hidden away in everyday life, these burly men with braided beard and leather trousers, and ladies in woollen dresses and colourful waistbands.
It is striking that the Viking Age is a field of interest that gives so much to so many. Old handicraft techniques are kept alive, the exhibitors and performers have their own communities and certainly also friendships that develop over years as they travel from festival to festival. The techniques involve “brikkebånd”, “pjoning”, “firfletting”, “ullseilveving”, “håndteinspinning” and “nålebinding”. These are words I hardly have a clue about in Norwegian, let alone an English translation of.
The Hafrsfjord kaupang with the Viking camp is an annual event. Some years there have also been theatre productions and Viking ships involved. It had been several years since I was last here, but this year’s visit in lovely sunshine tempted a return next year. Moreover, it was twice as big as last year according to one of the exhibitors, and at the entrance on Sunday morning they told us that about 2500-3000 visitors had been here on Saturday. Based on the number of visitors this morning, that number seemed to be beaten by a good margin.
The pictures below are best enjoyed in a large format. Click.