Downhome Magazine

Leif Eirikson and L'anse aux Meadows

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A co-worker lent our daughter, Christine, a copy of your magazine, and she in turn lent it to me. I found it interesting to read about people and places so far away from us in Prince George, British Columbia. As you were asking for people to send in articles, I decided to tell about the trip my husband, our 2 poodles and I had to the east coast of Canada in 2013. We travelled by truck and 28 ft. trailer, so we could stop anywhere we wanted to.

We are both born and raised in Norway, but came to Canada on Feb 1, just after we had turned 20. I was travelling with a girlfriend, and another girlfriend had gone here the year before. The mode of travel most reasonable and popular then was by ship from Norway to New York. I met my future husband, Mons Aase, who was travelling alone, on the ship. But that is another story. We just celebrated our 65 th Anniversary!

Our main reason for this trip was to see a Leif Eirikson statue that was to be erected at the northern point of Newfoundland, at L'anse aux Meadows, which is declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Sons of Norway association had lobbied the US Government to change the history books, in stating Leif Eirikson as the first to discover America, not Columbus. So. in 1964, US Congress authorized the President to proclaim October 9 annually to be Leif Eirikson Day! Sons of Norway Lodges all over the world mark that day, too.

The Leif Eirikson International Foundation of Seattle was erecting the statue there, in a ceremony on July 28, 2013. That statue is a replica of the one in Seattle, which we saw and photographed in 1962. Being born and raised in Norway, we are interested in anything Viking, and in this case my husband, Mons, is actually a 3rd cousin of Leif Eirikson, about 35 times removed! That is written in a big, thick book of the family tree on his mother's side. We are both from the area of Norway where the father of Leif Eirikson, Eirik the Red, came from.

Many years ago we had also seen on statue of Leif Eirikson in Gimli, Manitoba, and a few years ago, one in Reykjavik, Iceland. There is also one in Brattalid, Greenland, but with the Covid restrictions in travel, and our advanced age, we will probably never see that one.

The foundation was still asking for donations to pay for the statue and the freight, which must have been very expensive. Anyone who donated $100 would get their name chiseled on to some tall stones brought over from Iceland, and placed near the statue. We both did, as well as a bunch of people from our local Sons of Norway club. I'm sure lots of people from all over Canada and US had already donated.

We had roughly calculated how much time we would need to get there in time for the unveiling, but for some unknown reason, my husband's blood pressure dipped so low, that our doctor advised us not to leave. However, 3 days later it was back to normal, so we left. But we missed the ceremony, which was too bad.

I don't remember the date we left Prince George, but the trip across Canada, plus the ferry ride from Sydney to Port au Basques, and on to L'Anse Aux Meadows, took about 2 weeks. The ferry was lovely, almost like a cruise ship. They even had a movie theater on board. The ride was pleasant, with a totally calm ocean. But a drawback for us, was that the dogs had to stay locked up for the 6 hours it took to cross. The door to the car deck was locked, so we could not go down and check on them. (No pet room was available, like we have on BC ferries}. If we had taken the ferry to St. Johns, that ride would have been more than twice as long, I seem to remember.

By looking at the map, we had not realized how big the island of Newfoundland actually was. It took us a couple of days, with a side trip to Stephenville, to get to the north end. We could not go wrong, as the signs along the highway said: "Viking Trail" - Route 430, and with a Viking ship picture on top. The road went through fields and forests, then along the ocean, past small, tidy fishing villages, one after the other. To the right side of the road, in the distance, were rows of high mountains.

In several places, along the highway, with no house in sight, we saw stacks of firewood for sale. Prices were listed on a board, and hanging on the side, was a can for the money to be deposited in. So I guess they can count on the honour system there, which is so unusual in these times. Nice to see!

The second evening when reaching our destination, we found a nice trailer court called Viking R.V. Early next morning we drove direct to the viking village, called Norstead. There were many replica Viking buildings. We were warmly welcomed and shown around by people dressed in Viking costumes. A Knarr Viking ship was in one building, and in the others, people were demonstrating knitting, weaving and tool making. The shallow bay was littered with rocks, so we wondered how Leif Eirikson in the year 1,000 could have gotten his ships safely in to shore.

The statue we found in a little village nearby. It was placed there in honour of the village people, as they had been of great help to the Norwegian Archeologists, Helge Ingstad and his wife Anne Stine, who, along with their daughter, had spent 5 years with the diggings, and finally proving beyond doubt that this was the place where Leif Eirikson first discovered the American continent in the year 1,000, way before Columbus.

The place was perfect for the statue, as he seems to be looking at the ocean to the east. When we went down for a closer look and take pictures, we could see where it had been dragged into place 3 days earlier. Too bad we missed that ceremony!

The beautiful Visitor Centre was about a mile away. Between there and the village with the statue was a trail across a big area of land, seemingly unused. But we were told that area is the actual place where the Viking village was originally. Since there is still a lot of digging going on from the Viking era, the replica village for the tourists to visit, was placed a safe distance away.

On both sides of the trail, the ground was bog-like. I took pictures of cloudberries growing there. They look exactly like the ones growing in the mountains of Norway, there called "multer." A Park Warden told us the ground is usually yellow with them, but this was a poor year. We saw 2 large moose running across the land not far from us. The warden said one of them come back every year to have her calf there behind the Visitor Centre, was a metal statue (I don't know what else to call it) showing 6 Vikings, including a woman, carrying swords and spears, scouting something ahead. When my picture was developed, I got a kick out of noticing that the last man was looking back at my husband, Mons, who was just standing there!

The next day we drove to the nearest town called St. Anthony. It was nice to be in a modern town again for some shopping and fuel. They even had a Tim Hortons there! After 2 days and nights we left the Viking RV site, and headed south again. At Deer Lake the road splits, with one going back to Port Aux Basques, and the other going to the capital St. John's. We contemplated going there, as we really would have like to see that side of the island, too. But it was 900kms. away and as we had to come back the same way or face the extra long ferry ride, we decided to go back on the ferry we came on, as we knew the way home to Prince George was still a long one. On the ferry we met a couple of people who had been to the Viking tourist centre, and they had not realized the replica village was a few miles away, so they had missed all that! We felt sorry for them, as it was too far to go back.

We did take a few days to visit Peggy's Cove, Lunenburg and Halifax before turning west. We found the landscape very beautiful.
Hilsen, Elsa Aase, Prince George, B.C.

PS! I realize the people living in these places I wrote about, know these sceneries, etc. But my story at that time was for us to remember the trip, and to tell people at home, like family and friends, who have never been to Newfoundland. I know of a few people from here that travelled there after they heard me telling about it.

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