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The Slavs and Vikings Centre

Discover the world of the Slavs and Vikings of Wolin!

One of the greatest attractions of visiting the Westpomeranian Region is undoubtedly the opportunity to travel back in time… And the earliest time-travel adventure can be had in the Wolin heritage park. This is not, however, a place for only lovers of history. It is also a perfect place of entertainment for families with children and it is an unusual attraction for every tourist.

This tiny settlement is located on Ostrów Island on the shores of the Dziwna River that flows around Wolin. It can be reached by a bigger bridge from the direction of Wolin or by the smaller bridge from the direction of the neighbouring town of Recław.

The village of Slavs and Vikings is a beautiful reconstruction of early-Middle Age Wolin, and it consists of a dozen or so huts. Each of these, like the gate with its ramparts and palisades, was built using authentic age-old ways, by way of the tools and materials used in those times. Moreover, the interior of each of the huts is an exact replication of the furnishings of that era.

All huts are open to the public. One can sit in a proto-Slavic bed or at the table laid with the dishes produced in the traditional way. In the huts, one will encounter re-enactors practising the crafts of a by-gone age. One see how Slavic rope-making was done, how coiners minted coins, how women wove clothes and prepared meals, how meat was smoked , how the pottery, jewellery, shoes, tools and weapons were crafted to serve the needs of the village.

Visitors themselves can attempt to weave rope and take it as a souvenir, or mint with their own hand, a Mieszko I denar. For the more demanding visitors, there are bows, spears, swords and, of course, battle attire to be made and bought. Those who want to find out if they have what it takes to be a warrior should certainly equip themselves with a helmet, chain mail, a felt jerkin and a spear.

Children can play on the same playground on which for centuries, their ancestors played,, or use the wooden shields and swords in order to train like the little Viking children did.

Workshops and demonstrations of artisanship of the past

Everything in the early Middle Ages, from utility goods, such as sewing needles, to the construction of homes, was made manually or with simple tools. It must be remembered that in that era, despite the widely developed trade network, most indispensable objects and products were village made.

In the Slavs and Vikings Centre, one can not only observe the work of re-enactor craftsmen, but also one can test oneself and thus learn in practice the life-styles and work of our ancestors of a millennium’s passing. All that you see and experience is authentic – based on historical and archaeological research in the Wolin area.

Foundry and jewellery

In the early Middle Ages, the main foundry method was the lost wax process. A model was made of beeswax, and then the entire construction was caked with clay, creating a casting mould. First, it was dried, and then fired to melt the wax. This was poured out and re-used. The second stage of the process was to melt the metal (bronze, silver or gold) in a special furnace, in little clay crucibles, and then to pour it into the clay form. This was cooled and the mould broken to release the metallic item.

In archaeological excavations throughout the Westpomeranian Region, both moulded jewellery and metal products can be found. However, another method of making precious metal jewellery was practised. This is the so-called granulation technique. In using this approach, little balls of silver or gold were soldered onto a metal surface, creating a meticulous decoration. Both these methods were used for making fasteners, belt buckles and fittings, rings, bracelets, pendants, beads and a host of other practical and decorative items.

Sailing, navigation and Viking ships

A long boat with a rectangular sail is the hallmark of the Vikings’ age. It is imprinted in the collective consciousness due to the discovery of the amazing warships (drakkars) in Norway, Denmark and Germany. The Slavs were sailors too, and mediaeval Wolin was one of their more important harbours. Indeed, archaeologists have discovered here as many as eight shipwrecks from this period, as well as many ship parts.

In the Middle Ages, the brave sailors reached such remote places as Constantinople by river passage and America by sea and ocean. In the early Middle Ages, Wolin was located at the crossing of the trade routes of northern Europe and was one of the largest harbours on the Baltic Sea. The Dziwna Strait was much wider and deeper in these times, allowing for long boats and freight-boats with large sails to pass with ease. The chronicles from 1000 years before indicate that as many as 300 vessels could have docked in Wolin at one time.

In the Slavs and Vikings Centre, one can admire the „Eagle of Jom”, a replica of a Slavic freight boat from the 12th Century, found in Kamień Pomorski (25 km from Wolin). It is 12 meters long, and made of oak. The original vessel was probably used as a trading boat.

Cuisine of the past

Based on archaeological findings, such as plant seeds, animal bones and fish scales, a list of early mediaeval food products can be recreated. In Wolin, the following vegetable seeds have been found: pumpkin, dill and carrot; grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats; fruit, including apples, grapes, peaches, plums and pears; the bones of pigs, cattle, horses and goats; fish scales of fishes, and even the bone plates of a 200-kilogram sturgeon.

In order to put up a smokehouse as used in those times, one just needs some wicker and clay. After constructing the smoking hut out of wicker, it is caked with clay and the smokehouse is made ready. Now, all that is needed are fresh gutted fish or meat, which is then hung up in the smoke of a cool fire to cure. When broiling or roasting one’s dinner in the old-fashioned way, the meat or fish is wrapped in leaves (e.g. horseradish) and caked with clay. It is then buried in the embers of a hot fire and baked for less than one hour. It is also easy to make unleavened bread this way.

The Slavs and Vikings Festival

During the three days of the festival, Wolin turns into a mediaeval trading harbour as it was in the times of its glory, when traders from all over Europe came here, and the best craftsmen presented their quality goods. At this time, the usually calm and safe village can sometimes become a place of fierce battle between the Viking and Slavic tribes.

The idea behind this incredible festival has its source in the Scandinavian legend of the fortified knight’s town of „Jomsvikingasagi”. Usually, it is organised on the first weekend of August. The first Slavs and Vikings Festival in Wolin took place in 1993. After two years’ hiatus, it returned in 1996 and continues to this day. Throughout the years, the event has become recognised all over the world. Each year, apart from warriors and craftsmen from Poland, various historical reconstruction groups and Slavic and Viking culture enthusiasts from all over Europe arrive, as well as from such remote places as Canada and Australia. This international society establishes a camp near the village, and, for a few days, they live as they would have lived 1000 years before.

The festival is accompanied by numerous other attractions. At particular hours, there are performances that have their basis in the traditions of the mediaeval peoples. As a result, one can observe the swaćba (Slavic espousal), judicial proceedings, ecclesiastical practices, funerals, tribal fortune telling, the fire and offertory ceremony, the slaves’ market, as well as games and play as it was done in the Middle Ages.

What is more, there is an emotional re-staging of a Viking sea battle and the on-land battles of the tribes. Furthermore, during the entire course of the festival, there are numerous competitions, games and activities for everyone, regardless of age, accompanied with the music from the period.

Live History Lessons

In the Slavs and Vikings Centre in Wolin, there are old-time artisanship workshops for children, youths and adults alike. Surrounded by the reconstructed early mediaeval buildings in Wolin, the participants of the „Live History Lessons” learn how to make pottery and felt, to write using a goose feather quill, to shoot a bow, as well as many other mediaeval practices. They will also learn the rules of fighting from the old times and have an opportunity to try unleavened bread coated with wild honey, jam, old style cheese curds, or lard – all this washed down with traditional herbal teas.

In addition, there is a „historic” playground with various games and play activities. During the activities, the participants not only learn new facts about old Wolin and about life in the Middle Ages, but they also „experience history” through active participation in the workshops and through hands-on practices. All this helps to bring to life the everyday activities of a thousand years ago.

The organisers of the Slavs and Vikings Centre have developed a programme, which makes it possible to see what life was like in the first millennium in Wolin – and such forms of „history lessons” prove to be very popular among all age groups.

The Slavs and Vikings Centre offers the following mediaeval demonstrations and craft workshops:

a) coining,
b) woodcarving,
c) carving in horn and bone,
d) tanning,
e) weaving,
f) crop grinding,
g) jewellery making,
h) unleavened bread making,
i) wickerwork making,
j) pottery making,
k) parchment production,
l) weaponry and battle demonstrations,
ł) archery,
m) old ship replica cruises.

The centre also offers mediaeval games and play for children and adults to participate in. Among these are:

a) sword-attack on a cabbage,
b) rune writing lessons,
c) balance beam fight,
d) wild boar skin stretching,
e) clothes and armour fitting,
f) sword, axe and spear fighting lessons,,
g) ring throwing,
h) playing the ligawa (a wind instrument).

The heritage park is open from April to October.

April – June: 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
July – August: 10.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m.
September – October: 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.

 

For additional information and the price of our services, please visit our website, or call:

 

the Association, Slavs and Vikings Centre Wolin, Jomsborg Vineta

Graniczna Street 2
72-510 Wolin
tel. +48 91 326 07 41
fax. +48 91 326 07 41
e-mail: stowarzyszenie@jomsborg-vineta.com
www.jomsborg-vineta.com 

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Zadanie współfinansowane ze środków Unii Europejskiej ze środków Europejskiego Funduszu Rozwoju Regionalnego w ramach Regionalnego Programu Operacyjnego Województwa Zachodniopomorskiego na lata 2007-2013.

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