reto mag

about the land and the people

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what is a pizza? by ann-kristin schöne

June 22nd, 2013 by nina · article, reportage, sightseeing, sweden

it is quiet, very quiet. there is only the sound of the wind to hear while a breeze of the baltic sea is looming. from the hill you have an unlimited view of the öresund and a little bench which is surrounded by knee-high grass invites enjoying the gorgeous sight. not far away from here in the sleepy little town höllviken, which is part of the province skåne län you can find the idyll and peace which is characteristic for sweden as one of the most popular vacation destination. busy people hurrying through the streets cannot be seen in this place, only occasionally a lonesome car passes. it is hard to imagine that a whole other world shall exist here. but still it waits near the bench just behind the wooden wall, which stretches towards the sky. this is where the vikings live.

taking a few steps you already find yourself in the middle of a small village whose wooden huts have a special charisma in their simplicity. an old man in dignified clothes sits in front of one of the small houses on a stump and carves a sculpture. he does not notice the wondering people around him being so absorbed in his occupation. a viking who works in the village. or rather a living-history-actor who works in the museum – in the fotevikens museum an archaeological open air museum, which represents a viking municipality from 1134. it is the attempt to recreate a typical settlement for the transition between the late viking age and the early middle age. since authenticity was the highest premise for the implementation of the museum, the main street looks like a wide and dusty trail. the construction of all 20 buildings in that “street” is based on archaeological findings and traditional specifications of the vikings. One of the first buildings you can see after entering the village is the old forge, a reconstruction of a historical discovery in ystad from the 9th century. not just the buildings are precise recreations; also the entire inventory is a detailed replication. electronic equipment can never be found here. thus the pottery is no staged building – it is rather used to produce jars, bowls and other hand-made things according to the example of the vikings.

in addition to the pottery you can also discover a tannery with a fisher-cabin and a smokehouse in its yard or a weaving mill when you leave the main road of the viking reservation. not before following the narrow paths between the buildings, the variety of the small village and its inhabitants is displayed to the visitors. in the judge’s house a woman in a linen dress stands by the fireplace and stirs into a pot of enormous dimension. she smiles friendly and encouragingly to the visitors, who hesitate reluctantly to set foot in the innards of the living room. it seems that they have forgotten that they are in a museum which wants to be seen. precisely because the living-history-actors do not only look like vikings, they also live like them. even their clothing is handmade and during the time they live in the museum they do not buy their bread but bake it and they do not get the fish from the bar in the supermarket but from the sea. nutrition is only given by the nature.

actually also the children have to detect this while they stay in fotevikens’ biggest building, the thinghoell, – much to their regret. there they sit together at one of the long and sturdy tables and listen to the words of a little bearded man whose real name is unknown and of no significance here. he is peter the grey viking and he explains the children the importance of the bench he stands on. everybody who wanted to express oneself at one of the viking’s assemblies, which always took place at the thinghoell, had to get on that special bench. this indicated that all the others had to be absolutely silent. he emphasizes that even women were entitled to be heard and that the vikings were a very democratic folk until the christianization began. a little boy seems to care less about the grassroots democracy of the vikings – he is hungry and proclaims full-throated that he wants to have a pizza now. astonished, peter knits his bushy eyebrows. the viking inquires what a pizza is. all the children meet him with disbelieve. their protest resounds – how could he not know what a pizza is? but peter sticks to his point and asks if pizza was an animal maybe. all the contemporary and modern does not exist here.

this is also caused by the history of everyday life as the concept of the museum and a different form of imparting historical knowledge based on a nearly authentic simulation of the viking era. history of everyday life is not about structures or processes of historical reality, it rather criticizes the disappearance of individuals within those structures. it deals more with the living environment of humans and how they experienced their own existence. the german-speaking branch of the history of everyday life is rooted amongst others in sweden, more precisely in the swedish “dig, where you stand” – movement. this movement is named after the correspondent book by the publicist sven lindqvist who attests that everybody is able to explore his or her own history. he propagates some kind of freedom of trade in terms of history which is implemented here in fotevikens museum since 1995. this realization goes so far that the actors spend some winters in the simple village from time to time. peter reports that it can be very uncomfortable when it is really cold. nevertheless it is an unique experience not to simply turn on the heating but to light a huge fire with the own hands and sit around it together. also visitors can stay for a certain time in the viking reservation.

during their stay they can find out about their abilities concerning smithery or sailing a viking’s ship. those who want to use an ax not just to chop wood can do so because ax throwing is a sport, at least in the fotevikens museum. the visitors who are on a meadow just outside the village with peter seem to be enthusiastic about the sport. with obvious pleasure they try to throw the small axes as far as possible into the center of the wooden disc. peter the grey viking displays great skills in this discipline and that is the reason why he bears the nickname gimli. but of course it is only unofficial since peter and the others actually do not know the dwarf form lord of the rings. the scenery of the ax-throwing people has a very animalistic and eccentric character, especially with the wooden watch tower, the emblem of the village, in the background. from there one has a wonderful view over the öresund and the village with its extensive facilities, which are worth to discover as well. thus the hill near the tower is not only an elevation but also the reconstructed grave-mound of the king. and the large stones in the lawn are not just trivial objects, they are rune stones with a text carved by erik the red. even from a bird’s eye view the village does not lose any of its authenticity and one can visualize the vivid hustle and bustle when the “viking’s week” is hosted there from the 25th june until the 1st july, which is visited by hundreds of vikings from all over the world. during this week the museum and its inhabitants invite to the largest viking market in sweden, called “halör marknad”.

but suddenly you’re back in front of a weird tinny shiny thing. a car. you had almost forgotten what it is. but only almost and so you get in the car and drive home.

© text and pictures by ann-kristin schöne

 

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