Aug 14, 2008
|Norse history and the lure of wild berries - Thursday, August 14
It rained all night and the day dawned cold, damp and foggy. We took advantage of having WiFi to catch up on some business and correspondence and by the time we got underway it was still cold and damp but the fog had lifted. Enough to see the scenery we missed last night arriving in the rain.
The end of Newfoundland’s northern peninsula is flatter and less wooded than the landscape farther south, and the bluffs that look out to sea are open and home to grasses and wildflowers. You can see great distances (when there’s no fog) and the shoreline is dotted with rocks - some small enough to be covered at high tide, and others large enough to be called islands themselves.
Our first destination was five miles down the road - one of Canada’s National Historic Sites that goes by the name of L’Anse aux Meadows. It seems I was not the only one mystified by the name. This odd mixture of French and English bewilders even the guides at the park, and they are at a loss to explain what it means or even how to pronounce it.
Oddest of all is the fact that it’s importance has nothing to do with either the French or the English, but that it is the site of the first known settlement of Norsemen on this continent. At the entrance to the site’s attractive Visitor Center stands a memorial to Dr. Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine, the Norwegian couple who are credited with discovering the site and bringing it to the world’s attention.
Dr. Ingstad was an historian and an explorer, and his wife Anne Stine was an archeologist. For years they had been searching for the legendary ‘Vinland’ told of in Norse sagas. In 1960 their search brought them to the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and there they met fisherman George Decker who led them to the kind of ruins they had been looking for.
Years of research followed, and while the Ingstad’s believed the ruins were the remains of a thousand year old Norse settlement there was no conclusive proof of the origin of the settlers. They found a blacksmith shop and three long houses, as well as a number of other out buildings. Finally in the debris recovered from one of the smithies they found the smoking gun - a small pin used by the Norsemen to pin their shawls. That was the proof they were looking for, and the proof needed to enlist the help of the park service.
The excavation and research were eventually taken over by Parks Canada, who declared it a National Historic Site in 1977. Among other things, this declaration recognized that:
It is the first known Viking site in North America, and provides the earliest evidence of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere.
It contains extensive evidence of Viking presence.
In 1978 U.N.E.S.C.O. declared it a World Heritage Site primarily because of what it tells us about the world movement of peoples.
We spent an hour looking at the exhibits in the museum and then took the guided tour out to the remains of the Village. Our guide was a nice young man with a good sense of humor and we enjoyed the tour. After that we visited a reconstructed village they have built, and it was interesting to see the buildings as they actually may have looked.
In the parking lot we photographed a moose in the distance, and then treated ourselves to a good lunch at a gourmet café a few miles away on the waterfront. The rest of the afternoon was spent driving the roads that wind around the waterways and give you a good view of this scenic and historic peninsula.
Our last activity was a visit to a store that sells products they make from local berries. The name of the store and company is Dark Tickle, and behind the kitchen of the building there are bogs with berries and you can walk a boardwalk that lets you see the berry growing close up. There is also a fine overlook where we took some good pictures.
"Tickle" by the way, is the term locals use for a narrow waterway that lies between two pieces of land.
We crashed for the night at an RV park in St. Anthony, and Madolyn made reservations for a whale watching tour in St. Anthony tomorrow. We are never at a loss for something to do - and that is a good thing!