Friday 1 October 2010

The good (?) old Viking times

Does Greenland have any bad weather at all?! – we ask ourselves. Another day full of bright sunshine and blue sky lies behind us. Another day full of highlights with more landings, more Viking remains, more scenery. 
However, when the alarm clock rang this morning the first reaction was an “oh no!” as it was still dark outside and very early. But yes, a tough program was waiting for us and the first landing started at 7.30. Hvalsey was the destination and once awake, everybody was delighted to presence a spectacular sunrise.
When we arrived, the ruins of the Vikings were still in the shadow, but as time passed by, we could almost see how the first sunrays began to illuminate the old buildings. Hvalsey offers the best preserved Viking church and it was here that the last documented wedding took place, back in 1408. It is also the last written record of the Norsemen before they disappeared from Greenland.
Around 9 o’clock we lifted the anchor again to reach out for our next landing place: Qassiarsuk. It was an amazing sail through the Tunulliarfik Fjord (Eriksfjord) with new snow on the peaks at the starboard side. Despite the sunshine, there is no doubt that winter is approaching – we could clearly see the sea starting to freeze. In Qassiarsuk, the beaches were covered with thin little ice plates and in some parts there was still frost even in the afternoon.
Qassiarsuk is an important historical place as it was here that Erik the Red, the first Viking to settle in Greenland, established his farm around 1000 years ago. Ruins of the old church and other buildings reminded us of those times, and despite the Vikings have gone long ago, still today the area is very green (for the first time we understand the word Green-land!) and used for sheep farming.
Local guides gave us a tour through the 40-souls village. At the end, by the replica of the Norsemen’s church and a longhouse, Tjorhilde, Erik the Red’s wife, was waiting for us. Ok – not she in person of course - but she did look very authentic! It was Edda from Iceland who in a dramatic one-woman-show made history become alive. We could imagine it all: violence, murder, passion and the strong will to colonize this new country.
And now we will follow Leif the Lucky (whose monument watches over the settlement) on his explorations that took him even farther…to the west…and to find another continent – today called North America!