On a recent road trip from the UK to Latvia, we stopped off at Grobina, near the city of Liepāja. Here we spent the morning playing Vikings!
Vikings in Latvia
The Vikings were traders, colonisers, warriors and plunderers. In west Latvia the Vikings were unwanted colonisers and they eventually lived alongside the Curonians who were the native tribe. There was a lot of trouble: the Vikings fought and plundered and Curonians battled back. There were raids on both homelands and lots of bloodshed. Somewhere around 650 AD, Viking settlers from the island of Gotland in the Baltic, made their way to the area near Grobina to find new agricultural land. They thrived there, in a good defensive position. The small town became an important cultural and economic centre in the Eastern Baltic. In present day Grobina (near the city of Liepāja) their culture lives on through the Curonian Viking settlement.
The Viking-Curonian culture is an important part of the current tourism scene around Grobina. The settlement was set up by resourceful locals to explain their heritage to tourists. At the centre you can learn Viking fighting skills, learn to cook Viking food, and take a skills test to become a Viking. You can even take a trip in a Viking style long-boat across the castle lake, while listening to genuine mythical music and commentary (the boat is electric by the way!)
The settlement also sells a number of locally-made souvenirs, including magnets, pens, notebooks, T-shirts and even dominos. They are sold from a leather-bound chest in front of the Viking long house/lodge. You can even camp in the settlement and live like a Viking (making food over a fire and using the smokehouse). For an extra fee you can glamp like a Viking in a genuine five-pointed star tent (50 Euros per day). You can also get a guided tour of the UNESCO heritage Viking burial sites around Grobina.
The Curonian Viking Settlement
Our visit began with a Viking religious ceremony around the Odin totem, where we called upon the gods to guide our arm and protect us during the battle. All four of us then took part in skills training to prepare for battle! But first we had to dress like a Viking in the rough cloth garb of the time. Then there was archery, spear throwing, sack throwing, rope skills (lassoing), shield training and time to examine the weapons of the time such as the battle axe and short sword.
After this we had a small respite where we took water and local honey cake (delicious). There was then time to light a fire to start preparations for lunch. While lunch was being prepared we took off up the river in the long boat for a quick raid.
Well really, we went to look at the castle and get a feel for the area. Upon our return we were fed with large portions of roast and smoked meat (beef or pork) and again had time for more honey cake.
The last part of the day was where we demonstrated our newly learned skills in a competition. We were then made honorary Curonian Vikings for the day!
What we thought
The kids loved the whole experience. Next time we might well stay for a couple of days in one of the five-pointed star tents. I loved the archery and the spear throwing but I definitely need more practise. A great day out 🙂 For more information, please visit their website here.