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He was formerly called Georg Hansen, but he now prefers “Olafr Reydarsson”. Here, the chieftain of the Gudvangen Viking town of Njardarheimr tells us how he earned such an impressive title.
Georg Olafr: It is a fascinating life, no wonder I’ve been a full-time Viking for 22 years. There are many important details in the town, such as our rules for presenting everything based on that era – both as regards building methods and everyday life.
There must not be anything here, which did not exist during the Viking Age some 1,000 years ago, aside from certain established exceptions.
If a Viking is seen holding a cigarette or mobile phone inside the town, we only give the person one warning. If it happens again, you’re out of here. If a Viking wants to take a picture of something, he or she must change into their street clothes before entering the town as a tourist with a camera.
Vikings in traditional clothing are also not allowed to walk around carrying a plastic shopping bag – only one made of linen cloth. The rules apply around the clock. So, if you want to have a beer in the evening, it must be in a drinking horn or a glass that is period-appropriate.
In 1993, I had a fairly conservative appearance. I wore nice trousers, and a shirt and tie. My hair was cut short, and I had a moustache. I worked as a t-shirt and souvenir salesman.
Everything got turned upside down when my wife found someone new that year. I became a hippie again, as I had been back in the 70s, and let my hair and beard grow long. When someone mentioned that I was starting to look like a Viking, it got me thinking that it was probably more hip these days than looking like a hippie.
I visited the director of the Viking Ship Museum, and told him I wanted to become a Viking. Then I asked him if he could be my mentor. As a government-employed archaeologist, he was only allowed to express what he believed, but he offered me constructive criticism and tips on how to make corrections.
So, I would go to him and bring along miscellaneous clothing, weapons, historical merchandise and other items, and ask him for his opinion.
The name of the Viking town Njardarheimr means “the home devoted to Njord, the Norse god of trade”
Located in Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane
Open to the public from May to October
Designed as a living cultural heritage site where the Viking Age and the history of the Vikings is presented without the feel of a museum
Consists of more than 1,500 square metres of buildings
The buildings are built based on previous experiences with reconstruction, as adapted to the project requirements and local materials
Smithy work, such as door hinges and locks, were crafted by a blacksmith with long experience at the trade
Read more at vikingvalley.no
Just like the women of the era, the menfolk were very vain during the Viking Age, and especially chieftains such as myself. The pants I wear are made of extremely thin wool, handmade in Finland.
My linen shirt has many more seams than is absolutely necessary, as well as different types of stitching and many small panels that are intricately sewn together. On top, I wear a red wool shirt with an embroidered ring of dragons. The dragons’ eyes are made of mica so that they will shine while I’m sitting near the bonfire.
My cloak is very valuable, so I only use it on special occasions. For daily use, I wear a long wool jacket with bronze buttons, a silk ribbon and linen lining. My footwear includes leather shoes and socks that are of course single-needle-knitted, not knitted or crocheted. Knitting dates from the 1200s.
I also use jewellery, several silver arm rings and finger rings made of silver and gold. It’s not cheap being a chieftain. Around my neck, I wear several “Thor’s Hammer” pendants that show which Norse god I worship. They are gifts from friends, whom I honour by wearing them.
Of course, I get hot and sweaty wearing so much wool when it’s 25 degrees Celsius. I also have a fur-lined wool cap on my head. But, if I remain calm, relax and don’t stress, everything is fine. Wool breathes in all kinds of weather. And if you get wet, it takes a long time before you feel cold.
One problem is that moths love wool, which is why modern Vikings keep their clothes in the freezer when they’re not wearing them.
My father, who was an author and historian, died the same spring when I entered my Viking life. He was proud that I had decided to go for it. I took his name, Reidar. Olafr Reydarsson is what I’m called while I’m in the Viking village. Olafr is a variation of Olav, which is my middle name.
I was in Gudvangen in 1995 to sell souvenirs to the hotel. In the evening, while I was sitting out on the terrace with the hotel manager, I pointed over toward the plain on the other side of the river and said that we could build a Viking long house there. Then, I could live there and he could arrange special events.
He wasn’t really sure whether or not that was a good idea or if I was just some nutcase. He therefore waited a while before mentioning it to his wife, Torill Hylland, who also happened to be fascinated by Vikings. She got in contact with me a short time thereafter.
Meanwhile, it has taken 20 years before we could claim a victory: funding from the municipal council was awarded in December 2014.
In 2002, Torill and I gathered together 50 Vikings from Norway and other European countries for a market in Gudvangen. The following year, I founded Njardar Viking Association along with some Viking friends, which currently one among 49 such associations here in Norway, with a total of 2,000-3,000 Vikings.
Although there has never existed a Viking town here, neither historians nor archaeologists have any doubts that there was a trading post on “the plains of the gods by the water”, which is the meaning of the place name, “Gudvangen”.
Over the past four months, 18 buildings have been erected here, which are built and painted using construction methods from the Viking Age. Several hundred litres of tar, linseed oil, and ox blood has been used. The chieftain’s hall is painted green, which was the costliest pigment one could obtain back then.
I cannot take credit for the town being built – only for sticking in there for 22 years. Those deserving credit are Frode Tufte, Torill Hylland, Johnny Steensen and Bernd Hobohm. And, most of all, project manager, Steen Bjerg, a Danish architect and woodworker who has built long houses and other historical buildings in the past, but never an entire Viking town.
The construction work will continue until autumn. The buildings will include a banquet hall and a stave church, which we haven’t have time to set up yet. We plan on having everything finished in 2019, so that we can have our “Grand Opening” then.
This summer, Vikings will be coming both Bergen and the USA to live here. We have capacity for 50 or even 100 if they bring tents. During the Viking market in July, which we are arranging for the 15th time, there will be nearly 500 of us.
As for myself, I will probably live here for the rest of my life. I have three daughters who are all members of the Viking Association, and my oldest grandchild says he wants to be the next chieftain.
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