The Viking Museum Haithabu is closed - as is almost everything else, due to the Corona pandemic. No markets are taking place and for the first time in four years, the hospitality of the spring market's organizers as well as the warm atmosphere of what would have been our first market this year has been denied to us. Luckily, we moved to Northern Germany a few months ago. So we took our cups and some beer and went to the historic place anyway.
Instead of almost half a day to finally reach the old marketplace at the Haddebyer Noor, it took us something around half an hour, just along the B77. Quite refreshing, one has to admit.
The Corona pandemic does not hit us as hard as many other people; we now own a cute little house somewhere in Mittelholstein which requires more attention than we can give. The fact that markets are being cancelled might even be to an advantage for us in this new phase of our lifes. But still, one gets "homesick", yearns for the cool nights with cool beer, huddled in linen and wool in front of a campfire and enjoying each others company.
Especially the spring market in Hedeby has become one of our very favourites. So it felt wrong not doing the journey to the place. And since walking around outside and getting some fresh air is still allowed as long as you keep your distance from strangers (something mommy taught us all long ago anyway), we saw no reason not to drive to Hedeby.
A look from the outside
The very first time we went to the spring market, then mere visitors, we not only took one day for the market and another for the museum, but also enjoyed the walk around the Haddebyer Noor. To anyone of you who hasn't done that yet, I truly recommend changing that. It is a rather long, but beautiful walk through some reed fields and lush green forests. This year we went that round again, but from the other direction, having a break beneath the oaks on the ring wall enclosing the marketplace, with a good view toward the reconstructed village. We filled the cups we've brought along with some beer, watched the first swallows fly around and wondered where our tent would have been on the now empty, green field south of the houses.
We also reflected on the condition the reconstructed village is in. The harbour part seems to be repaired - even tough they might have done it in a way that doesn't look so obviously modern, something we already noted last year. Some walkways in the village itself had been repaired last year as well, which is good. Whether they have started making some repairs on and in the houses we could hardly tell now since the place is closed, but from afar we couldn't help noting that it looks kind of - well, shabby. The roofs seem to be sagging at places, the thatch needs the attention it has been denied over the last decades.
Certainly, the Vikings could have done better. Certainly, the museum could do better, having some extra money now since Hedeby became World Heritage.
Certainly, many reenactors could do better. Probably would, if they were kindly asked.
How many craftsmen, self-taught or by profession, are among the "Vikings" who breath life into this place which, without them, just looks like an abandoned old farm being eaten away by time? And how many of them would gladly give some of their knowledge, muscle power and energy to keep this place alive? Sure, they are amateurs, they don't have the knowledge to to a proper archaeological reconstruction. But do you need an archaeologist to shape some planks with an axe? To stuff moss and wool into the gaps of a wall to keep it windproof? If the excuse for the slow progress in taking care of the village is the lack of qualified workers and a general distrust in the abilities of the reenactors (we once heard the rumour that it is), then whoever is in charge is blind to the possibilities.
When we walked away from Hedeby this Easter, we came upon a new shiny information sign, explaining in three languages why this UNESCO World Heritage is such an important and special place.
Yes, it is important. Please, keep it special.