My sincerest apologies for postponing this post for too long. I guess a syndrome called “travel or viking hangover” is to be blamed. A syndrome probably familiar to most reenactors. After months and months of running around like mad rabbit you feel too lazy to even move a toe, dreams of hibernating in your new comfy bed are in the forefront. But I’ll try to dream a bit of past summer then…
Borre Viking Market is probably one of the biggest viking events in Scandinavia. It takes place after every 2 years (only every second year) in Norway, Oslo Bay, right beside Horten, in a place called Borrekaupangen – the historical Borre Park. It is the region from where Borre style comes from.
We registered already in February. Then we waited and waited and waited for months, started making travelling plans and all. And finally in May we got the invitation! We were shocked! We were overjoyed!
Of course, being master pathfinders, we approached the market from the wrong side, unbeknownst to us, we slipped through so-called back-door. Thanks to shopping-adventures we arrived on the other side of Oslo bay quite late in the evening. After departing from Moss-Horten ferry, we drove around aimlessly a bit, finally asked the way and parked our car to some fancy museum building which seemed to be made mostly of glass.
In front of us was a huge park with ancient trees and burial mounds. At the farthest end of the park you could see some tents. So, holding hands we started “the hike”. We could barely take a few steps in the market camp, when we were attacked by a small and energetic hugging-machine — our friend Silja. We were extremely relieved and glad to see her.
Silja hugged us, tried to lift us in the air and then told us that our camp site is right beside where their “small family” resides. She also directed us towards main gate and thought it would be wise to drive our car through it, right to the camp site… and deal with the organizers later (unless they are waiting at the gate at this late hour). So we hiked again, back trough the ancient park, then drove around a stone church and at last found the right way to the marketplace.
We barely managed to get our tent up, things inside and all, when according to Kaspar one of the organizers came and told us to move it 3 meters. Another tent was supposed to arrive later (try to guess if it did it come). Finally we managed to move it — so hungry that I felt almost like fainting and definitely grumpy, accompanied with lots of cursing, laughter of our friends and our heroic “Oh no, of course we don’t need any help!”. We wished fervently that this time we manage to move it so that everyone is satisfied and that there will be no repetition of this circus. Luckily we were given thumbs up.
We are very grateful to our friends Silja and Lars, whom we had met already during previous winter in an Estonian viking camp. They made our stay in Borre much more homely and pleasant. We also met rest of their group: Silja’s daughter and a family from Denmark. Guess what the name of the head of other family was? Lars, of course. In the evenings Lars&Lars sat by the fire and sung until morning. And they sung very well. Later, when on Langö, Kaspar couldn’t get any sleep, it was too quiet.
Men also took care of most of the cooking in their group. Mainly. It seemed to be their prerogative. And no wonder, the food they made was totally delicious. I am afraid it will take some time until I gain the same level in cooking on live fire. Yummy! Although, I must say, with fresh meat you can work wonders — I made meat with cider on live fire a couple in September and it was delicious too. Being in foreign country and thinking that fresh ingredients are too expensive made the task of cooking harder during our Scandinavian trip. So perhaps there is hope.
That evening we managed to identify one of the organizers — the same woman, who had ordered us to move our tent. We stumbled upon her quite by accident. Toilets were right beside the main gate and some idiot had miscalculated the height of his trailer and toppled the gate. Kaspar helped to move the poor fallen gate out of the way. We were again told to search for organizers next day, their camp was supposed to on the main street, a tent with a large skull…
Next day we started hunting down the strange and thus far elusive organizers Have you any idea how many tents with skulls there were in Borre Vikingmarket??!
Every other tent seemed to be ornamented with some kind of skull, one fancier than the other.
We roamed around the street that went directly through the camp — from main gate to the end. We were pretty sure that this IS the main street. It seemed logical and beyond doubt. We discovered the “secret” location of their camp only after I gathered together all the courage I had and approached the chieftain of Borre Vikingelag after a midday-meeting and asked where to find Vicky.
I had been listening intently for the Norwegian talk in hope of someone dropping at least a little clue. The talk seemed very important and informative, but sadly Norwegian. The English translation sounded something like this: “Yes.”
I also sat through the questions-from-public part. Being unable to locate the camp of organizers and say hello and register properly was nothing I wanted to advertise in front of all other vikings. So I waited patiently until all questions had been asked and finally…
Despite being rather awe inspiring figure, the chieftain turned out to be very kind and helpful. He took me into his tow and took me to their camp. It was right around the corner! The corner, which we didn’t know existed. And the main street was of course a parallel street to the totally logical “main street”.
And there, around the corner, was Vicky. She was in the process of trying to put her socks and boots on. A very difficult mission if you are an organizer. There’s not a moment of rest. All the time someone wants something from you. To ask advice, to register… I was not the first one there. I waited calmly until she had managed to solve all the problems and even put her socks’n’boots on. We are very glad she exists! We are grateful for her help in the camp, for giving us advice beforehand and answering all our questions! Thank you!
Trading and Great Table Hunt
Our tent was on the corner of Vingle street. At first we didn’t have a table. But despite that trade was blossoming. Things made by Kaspar, Vana Karu and Egge are quality craftsmanship and people saw and sensed it. We had lots of interested people and buyers already before we managed to officially open the shop.
We also got lots of good and wise ideas from Borre and other viking markets — how to present ourselves, what we need for that, what prices are ok and so on. Hugs and thanks to all our advisors!
One thing we learned very quickly — without a table you are a very sorry trader. Being born and raised in rainy climate, this knowledge should have been natural to us, obtained via mother’s milk. But oh well!
After a night of rain pouring down the sky and beating the ground muddy, the need for a table became immediate. Harsh light revealed all the muddy “village roads”, which were — have to give credit to the organizers — quickly covered with wood chips. It was obvious though that sitting in front of your tent with only a blanket separating us from the ground was not an option anymore. Thus the Great Table Hunt began! The camp was big and we were sure that someone must be selling a table or two — it is a necessity after all.
It turned out that there wasn’t even one tiny table for sale at Borre Market. All kinds of useless and barely useful things were available, but our most critical need — nowhere to be found. Having almost given up hope, we arrived to the tent of German blacksmith Götz. We thought we would rest our legs and chat a bit. We had drank friendship with him last night — from a very fancy wine goblet, if I may add. We were couriers who delivered to him a very special custom order: a very warm nalbinden sweater made by Mari. But back to the present… After having heard our sorry tale and our admission that yes, we are those idiots who came to a market without a table, Götz walked to his tent and after some searching and swearing conjured a totally decent table out of it! He said he doesn’t need it at the moment and we can use it. We were bursting of happiness and gratitude. As it happens, by the end of Borre Market we owned that table. Bartering at its best. “Tortoises” for a table.
New friends and nice reunions
There are friends I already mentioned. There are others we met in Borre, but who play main part in Birka or Gudvangen. To make this post at least a bit shorter I will write about them in the next posts.
We were delighted to become friends with Inger and Martin. It all started with a shared love for ravens. They are both very warm and friendly people. So we gladly accepted their invitation to their home and promised to visit them after Birka Viking Market. And so it happened that after Borre, after resting a bit with Lars and Silja we drove to Sweden for a week and then back to Norway. Our last viking camp, Gudvangen took place in Norway and visiting Inger and Martin seemed only “a slight detour”. They live in the middle of mountains not too far from Borre…
To wake up, mountains surrounding you and with smoking “troll fires” everywhere — it was all an awesome experience. It felt truly like the world of trolls, Ronja Rövardotter, brothers Lionheart and all other Nordic creatures. A world where sky and earth meet and strange things happen. Where mountains are covered with wild strawberries and yummy mushrooms… and mythical people minding their own business. Thank you Inger and Martin! Takk! The dried chanterelles you gave was very tasteful addition to our menu in Gudvangen. We made a very Vikingish mushroom-cheese-pasta for ourselves!
During our visit Inger showed me photos of her children and grandchildren. We later browsed through our pics from Borre — and, lo!, I had accidentally managed to capture Inger and her granddaughter (before getting to know them). Such coincidences are not rare in re-enactment camps + we were after all in the same camp all the time.
I will this photo. It also shows the inside of a viking tent. Some items for sale, skins on the floor, shelf at the back and lots of things to sit on. Everything is as it should be.
And like in most of the vikikg camps I’ve been to, Tryzna was also present in Borre Viking Market! Namely Michal, Karina, Darek and their crew.
It was a very merry reunion, full of enthusiastic hugs. Michal gave me lots of useful advice about marketing and Karina offered lukewarm mead, which tasted very good despite it’s temperature. Not too sweet, just right. Karina also bought Urnes style earrings from Kaspar — my favorites! And Michal was wearing a tiny pendant we had given him last spring in Cesis.
Of course there was a smithy in Borre. How could it be otherwise? Kaspar was too busy trading and had no time to hang around there. But we did go and make friends.
And one of the friends we made among smiths was Jens Jorgen, a friend of Silja and Lars. In Viking camps you can describe most of your new friends with words: “Oh, and he has a beard and long hair.” I must admit that Jens Jorgen lacked long hair, but he had a beard, accompanied with real blacksmith’s apron.
Rushing a bit ahead in our adventures, I will also briefly tell you about Tove, Nille and Magnus. They too were in Borre, but we didn’t “meet” them. We probably passed each-other by a dozen of times, but in camp as big as Borre it takes time, effort and freedom to roam around to get to know everybody. Time and freedom we did not have. Nonetheless Tove managed to take a picture of us, totally by accident. None of us knew at that moment that our roads will cross at Birka Viking Market, where we will barter, become friends and where Elo will learn from them how to grill a marshmallow on live fire and how to eat it.
Nille ja Tove sold beaaaauuuutiful self-dyed yarn, fabrics and clothes. They had taught people how to dye textiles in a workshop that took place in Borre camp before the official market started. I will try to add some more photos about them and their goods in the next post, the one about Birka Viking Market.
About Nille’s son Magnus I will talk a lot in the next post too. He played a big role in our adventures there. He is a bit like Rasmus the Vagabond, but with a lion’s heart.
The rumpus, cooking and pants in Borre
The life in Borre was a rumpus. Lots of vikings, lots of trade items — most of which you either wanted a bit or a lot — and a very ancient park. We had very few moments to just wander around and enjoy entertainment. Someone had to be by the stand all the time and in my opinion it was more fun when we both were there. Cooking took quite a bit of time too. So most of the time we were together and that feeling of being together a lot with Kaspar and having friends in nearby camps is what made Borre such a fond memory. It was like having your own little haven among a sea of viking tents.
Lars&Lars, Silja and Gunvor were very kind and allowed us to use their fire. It turned out that in most of the Scandinavian Viking camps it is prohibited make fire on the ground — you have to have a large pan on which to build the fire. So our brand new kettle and frying pan was of use, but was not enough. In order to test our new frying pan, I made pancakes. Lots and lots of them! I think I spent hours after hours in bent position over the fire, puffing and red-faced. Tourists walked by and were wondering what is this delicious smell and what ancient food am I cooking and is it for sale. I looked at my puny pancakes that tended to stick to the pan (a rookie in using such pan I was!) and told them that if they buy jewelry from us, I will give pancakes with honey as a bonus. Just looking at me in action was an experience for them. Most of the pancakes found eager eaters in ourselves, our friends and those poor lads and lasses who played so-called Viking Age chess with Kaspar.
I owe great thanks to my foresight and canned soups made by Salvest. Their borscht is pretty good and so quick and easy to cook! Same can be said about canned beans, which fried with canned meat made our bellies happy. We hadn’t taken any raw meat with us and thank god for that. Even ham didn’t like our travelling conditions and decided to go bad. I am a bit wiser now though: in Estonia the food is not much cheaper than in Sweden, in both countries it depends on super market chain and products, hint hint.
Thanks to all this I was not chained to the fire all the time and could replace Kaspar by the stand, allowing him to go wandering around the camp and come back with all kinds of loot. I myself had a little time to look around too. I found a couple of very interesting items on my spying excursions and dish washing trips…
One of them was a huge book about Baltic jewelry — it was as big as a shield and about the same weight too, made by Lithuanians. South-Estonian and Latvian finds have lots of overlaps, so this book is a real treasure for us. It is filled with high quality photos, but so heavy, that you want to keep in one place, at your home. I spied “The Art of Balts” on one of my dish washing trips, but I had been looking for it ever since I saw it at the smithy of Daumants in Cesis. I had to have it, no matter the cost! Kaspar had all our cash. So it took a day or two of convincing him that a book that costs 600 NOK (80 EUR) is one of the most important things we could by on this trip. The sum made Kaspar hesitate and linger. But that was before he saw it. His exact words upon glimpsing the cover and size of this “bible” were: “WE WILL TAKE IT!”
Bartering went well in Scandinavia — in all the camps. From Silja and Lars we got a nice Viking Age lantern. And Kaspar bought two black buffalo horns, one for me, one for him. He wants to make a fancy drinking horn set. Soooo cute!
Oh, the story of pants must be told too! It was priority no 1, 2 and 3 to find them in Borre. In great packing panic I had totally forgotten to pack Kaspar’s Viking pants. We were about 100 km from Tartu, on our way to port in Paldiski, when Elo suddenly remembered this. We arranged it so that our friend Laura, a bead maker, brought them with her when she came to Birka. But until then Kaspar had to run around pantless (read: in modern pants).
We had arrived in Borre fancying that there are decent Viking pants in every stand. But it was oh so hard to find a pair. Almost impossible! There was an abundance of Slavic baggy pants — Kaspar said that no real man would wear them. Not his style, too fancy, too, khmm, girly. I myself would have enjoyed to see him strutting around in those, but my curiosity was left unsatisfied…
We had almost lost hope in finding “real” pants, when one day we went to visit our “backyard” neighbor, a Belgian chap named Werner, who makes bows, arrows and other interesting things. Kaspar was negotiating a great barter with him — total set of Lewis chess pieces from Kaspar, Byzantine chess and fancy arrows from Werner. It made Werner a very lucky man, since many had yearned this Lewis chess piece set, but admitted defeat upon hearing the price.
While men were doing trade, by gaze started wandering. And there it was, just past the fire pit — a tent full of clothes. I edged nearer. By the stand was a gray-haired man, whose eyes started twinkling when he heard we are from Estonia. It turned out his roots are from Estonia. And that his wife can make REAL pants — there they were hanging, like waiting for Kaspar. And they fit perfectly! Thus Kaspar is now the owner of two pairs of Viking Age pants, one pair from abroad and one made by Egge.
There were many sights and things to look at in Borre. A half-naked techno-viking, a Scot with nice legs, warriors and men with braided beards and so on… of course vivid and desirable fabrics and yarns… lots of things…
Until next post in our tales of Scandinavian travels!