The exhibition “Vikings in Poland?”

I would like to write a short review of an event I had the honour to participate few days ago. As The Museum of the Origins of Polish State in Gniezno (Muzeum Początków Państwa Polskiego w Gnieźnie) kindly asked the group Marobud for some photos of quality costumes, I was invited as a guest to the opening of the exhibition that is called “Vikings in Poland? Scandinavian remains in Polish lands” (Wikingowie w Polsce? Zabytki skandynawskie z ziem polskich).

The logo of the exhibition.

The opening took place on Friday February 24, 2017. After a while of hesitation, I decided to confirm my arrival. Starting in Prague on Thursday, I travelled to Poznań with Kamil, talkative carpooling driver from Poland. After 5 hours of the travel, around 10 PM, I met Dr. Andrzej Janowski and driver of the museum gave us a lift to Gniezno and provided us with rooms on campus to sleep.


Shoes from Gniezno, dated to the 10th or 11th century. Taken from Monika Purol-Wierzbicka (2015). Wczesnośredniowieczne wyroby ze skóry z Góry Lecha w Gnieźnie, in: Rocznik Muzeum Początków Państwa Polskiego w Gnieźnie, Tom 1, p. 145: Rys. 1.

In the morning, I went to the museum and met there Dr. Michał Bogacki, director of the The Museum of the Origins of Polish State in Gniezno. I was given the chance to see the last preparations and to meet the other staff of the museum, who showed me the permanent exhibition as well. I realized very soon how important the town was. Even though Gniezno was found at a suitable hill in the water system already in the 8th century, it was the 10th century, when it became the capital of the Greater Poland and the place of the seat of archbishop. Gniezno has some historical connections to Bohemia, therefore my visit was beneficial for self-exploration. In addition, I could observe many organic finds (shoes, pouches, sheaths etc.), preserved thanks to the wet environment.

By early afternoon, the official opening started, and director welcomed the guests – mainly local politicians, media, clergymen, archaeologists, historians and history enthusiasts. The meeting was held in a humorous and friendly atmosphere; participants could take button badges “I’m a Viking, what’s your superpower” and director himself wore a plastic horned helmet. I met my dear friend Dr. Leszek Gardeła, who introduced me to Kamil Kajkowski, archaeologist interested in Slavic burial practises and symbolism.

The model of early medieval Gniezno, Made by

As the exhibition was declared open, guests could have a look on more than 100 early medieval objects from Poland and to have some refreshment. It is always a highly-valued experience to see the originals, known only from publications or the internet, with my own eyes; an experience that gives much better idea about the real size and the possible function. Furthermore, the museum was able to gather quite an impressive assembly of objects which I was not aware of. It is important to say that displayed objects are not all the artefacts of possible Scandinavian origin from Poland, because some museums refused to lend their valuable treasures. Even though it is hard to determine what makes an object to be Scandinavian, I am more than sure that some of displayed items are more typical for West Slavic area. Mainly the huge collection of bone, antler and ivory archaeological material from Poland, which could be judged as Scandinavian or imitated from Scandinavia, is problematic and analogical to Anglo-Scandinavian material. The same goes with weapons – it is true that fragments of a typical Scandinavian shield were found in Poland (Świelubie), but on the contrary, Petersen types E and S swords can not be labelled as exclusively Scandinavian. Rather than idea that a person from Scandinavian used this or that object, it is much more reliable to think there was fashion dictating the shape and the decoration, no matter who was the final user.


Displayed axes. Photo taken and kindly provided by Aleksandra Dudczak.

After the end of the opening, we had late lunch in a local restaurant and then we dissolved our company, thanking to each other. Later that day, Leszek and his girlfriend Mira gave me a lift to Poznań, where our friends Jacek and Melissa Pelczar, a lovely couple of history enthusiasts, invited me to their flat. We were talking till the early morning, when I had to run to catch the bus back to Prague, and such was the end of my trip to Poland.

There is no way to express how grateful I am to all those who made my visit come true. Not only I saw archaeological finds, but also I can proudly say I met perfect people and improved my Polish; all of that for a reasonable price. I was positively surprised how smooth was the cooperation between the museum and Marobud. In my personal opinion, collaboration with museums is the biggest achievement reenactors could earn, and I would love to see more examples of this kind of mutually beneficial relationship. All participated sides are satisfied – the museum is given permission to use photos of quality costumes as attractive illustrations, the group gains fame and the chance to get to original finds closest possible and the visitor feels contented with the appealing combination of archaeological objects and reconstructions. In addition, this positive content can be copied by other museums and reenactors and can lead to the trend that depicts Viking Age people in a more decent and realistic way in general. As I understand it correctly, it is difficult for younger Polish historians or archaeologists to not have reenactment experience – including former reenactors Michał and Leszek. These both academics know there are several possible ways how to touch the past and the cooperation with the reenactment scene is possible under certain conditions. The exhibition “Vikings in Poland?”, that ends on July 16, is a result of such a cooperation, brings a positive progress to the presentation of the Viking Age and it is highly recommended.

Photos from the exhibition. Taken and kindly provided by Aleksandra Dudczak.

Karel’s journey – pilgrimage to Rome

In the time of fast way of living and the focus on making money, one young man decided to break the yoke of modernity, to leave his home and set off for Rome, only in early medieval clothing and with limited knowledge of English. The will to live is his weapon, an unbeatable sense of humor is his shield. His name is Karel Sýkora, and this is the story of his travel.

karel1Around one year ago, my mate from Marobud, advanturer and good friend Karel Sýkora (25) decided to embark on a long and hard journey traveling on foot, only in historical costume. After doing his final exams on forging in June 2016, we participated in Viking Age festivals throughout most of Europe. Meanwhile, the plan was set – when “the season is officially over”, he ends with his job, leaves all his property at his parent’s house and sets off to Rome. It means ca. 1500 kilometers or 1000 miles. This incredible plan actually happened and Karel is on his way at this very moment!



The main purpose of all of this is to be free as much as possible, to be your own master. Karel was fed up with a lot of stress and obligations in our modern world, he needed his head cleaned. The second reason is the fact he feels he is getting older each year and there will be no real freedom in the future because of work and family. In his opinion, the way is the goal, he wants to test his experiences and costume in reality and to make some new memories that could be worthy of remembrance. Rome was picked from three different reasons – first of all, it is in the right position, not so far, not so near, secondly, the way is not overcrowded when compared to Santiago de Compostela, and thirdly, many pilgrims in history made a pilgrimage to Rome as an act of faith.

Since there is no other way to became more historically accurate, he decided to take his tablet and to document the complete travel. Besides the tablet, the only unhistorical things were ID cards, money, bottles, glasses, and a hammock at the start of the travel. It is necessary to say that he keeps unhistorical objects unvisible for the most of the travel and he has them only for practical purposes.

The travel started on Sunday, September 11 by the monastery in Velehrad, Moravia, Czech Republic. The plan was and still is to go via Slovakia, Hungary, border areas of Austria, Slovenia and Italia. The way is not given, but it leads mainly by rivers, through forests and national parks with rests at our friends, churches, monasteries, historical open-air museums and kind native. The traveler slept the first night in a house in Archaeological open-air museum Modrá. The next significant stop was Mikulčice by Morava River on Thursday, September 14 and Pohansko by Dyje River the next day. Karel crossed the Czech-Slovakian border on September 16, that means ca. 100 km per 5 days.


Until that time, Karel was barefoot, but he was suffering from lots of small wounds, so he started to wear shoes, which turned to be a mistake in rocky Little Carpathians and on modern roads since shoes are almost destroyed by now. The traveler visited a hill called Vysoká and military area Záhorie with its nice sand dunes. From Sunday, September 18 to Tuesday, September 20, Karel spent his time with our friend Samuel, the leader of Herjan group, in Pezinok, where he recovered a bit.

After that, Karel continued to Danube River that forms the border between Slovakian and Hungary. He managed to get to the river on September 22 and he slept in the protected natural area Dunajské luhy, which is located between two braches of one of the biggest European rivers and is accessible only by a ferry. Karel missed the second ferry to the Hungarian side, so he decided to change the way, go back to the Slovakian side of the river and to continue to the border point Medveďov.


So it happened and Karel crossed the river and Slovakian-Hungarian border on September 24 in the morning. The next stop was the city of Győr. By that time, the travel has already taken ca. 250 kilometers in 13 days. In Győr, he met new early medieval friends – reenactors – and spent a beautiful weekend with them. We would like to thank mainly to Daniel Koncz for taking care of Karel. They held a banquet, consisting of traditional Hungarian goulash and a lot of alcohol, and visited Pannonhalma Archabbey, which was founded in 996. There the party divided, and Karel continued in the direction Szombathely.


On September 26, Karel visited the village Vaszar and was forced to repair the torn strap on his backpack. He moved forward to old town of Pápa the next day.

On September 28, Karel stopped at a campsite in Vinár, where he had a shower and a small rest. Then he continued to Celldömölk and then to the spa town of Sárvár the next day. He was forced to go barefoot on the road for nearly 20 kilometers; as a result, his feet were brushed to the blood. Karel put his shoes on again and enjoyed a Hungarian beer as a small reward. After a small examination of local sightseeings, Karel changed the way and followed Rába River in the direction Körmend. Later that day, he found a lovely place with hay by a small inlet of the river. Karel stated it was relatively cold in the night several hogs visited him. Fortunately, nothing happened.

Friday September 30 was the rest day and Karel repaired his stuff (new wedges in his trousers, some reparations on shoe soles and the backpack), made a new documention of the costume and took a bath in Rába River. On the first October day, he felt the coming autumn and decided to go south as fast as possible, in the direction Vasvár.


The next part of the travel, the crossing of Hungarian-Slovenian border, is not well documented, yet it was crucial for the rest of the journey. It was raining all the time, with windy weather and the constant problems with period shoes. On October 2, Karel reached Katafa and slept there. He continued through the national park Őrségi to Őriszentpéter the next day, but the strap of his backpack broke again and he had to repair it. October 4 was the day of the crossing Hungarian-Slovenian border; Karel crossed it 5 minutes after noon. After a small visit of Romanesque rotunda in Selo, he slept near Moravske Toplice. The crosswind from mountains was so cold he could not sleep well and he run out of hard liquor that he got from Daniel in Győr.

On 5th October, Karel reached Murska Sobota. It was a bit sad day, since it was no longer possible to continue in period shoes. He tried to repair them several times, with no long-term result. It is need to add that shoes were 2 years old before the start of the journey and they were not the best. Even though, Karel showed the hard will when he was able to go 60 kilometers in torn shoes and wet weather. He was forced to buy a modern pair of shoes. It is an important finding – for a long journey, at least two good and new pairs of shoes are needed, a sewing set is good too. Karel visited the local museum with Celtic exhibition and then continued in the direction Ptuj. On October 6, he slept near Gabrnik.

On October 7, Karel visited the town of Ptuj and its castle with armoury. Then, he moved to the monastery of Ptujska Gora and asked monks for asylum. On the next day, he visited ruins of castles in Studenica and Zbelovo and he slept by Dolga Gora. Karel reached Šentjur on October 9, and after he bought some provisions there, he moved to ruins of Rifnik castle and slept in the palace. The Slovenian countryside is woody, hilly and very nice and Karel enjoyed many spectacular panoramas. It is important to mention that the autumn nights and mornings are cold, with the temperature reaching below 0°C. Karel has his woolen sleeping bag and woolen blankets, but he needed to isolate the cold from the earth, so he bought several rugs. This is also an important finding, which will be useful in the following expeditions.

On October 10, Karel passed Rimske Toplice and reached Radeče and Sava River. It was raining all the day, so he was forced to put his hood on. The next day, he moved to Sopota and slept in an old wooden cabin. It was exactly a month from the start of the visit, and Karel said he did not realize the passing of time. On October 12, Karel reached Šmartno pri Litiji and he managed to move to Ljubljana the next day, where he met his friends from archaeological services “Skupina STIK” and “Arheofakt”. Slovenian friends took a good care of him, fed him, showed him an archaeological park and made an interview with him. The interview was published in Slovenian language 10 days later. Karel could rest for two days in Ljubljana, and he continued to Logatec on October 16. By that time, the travel has already taken ca. 700 kilometers (435 miles); it means Karel was in the middle of the travel.


On October 17, Karel visited and slept near a Roman fortress Ad Pirum in Hrušica. He was invited to visit his friend Ivan to Trieste, so he continued to Ajdovščina the next day and he met there Turkish pilgrim which was on his journey for more than a year. At night, Karel slept at the site of another abandoned castle, Turn near the historical town of Štanjel. On Wednesday, October 19, at 2:38 PM, Karel crossed Slovenian-Italian border in Dol pri Vogljah and continued to Opicina, where he met his friend Ivan. Finally by the sea.


Karel stayed in Trieste until Sunday, October 23, when he moved forward. We would like to express our thanks to Ivan Hrovatin for taking care of Karel. The pilgrim slept near San Giovanni di Duino that day. Karel said it is much warmer climate near the sea, but it was rainy as well. On October 24, Karel reached Aquileia, which is the most important pilgrim center in the region. Unfortunately, the basilic was locked, and Karel slept like a beggar by the wall of it. The next day, Karel slept near Piancada. After the crossing of Tagliamento River in San Michele Al Tagliamento, Karel change the way and continued in the direction Caorle. He slept in San Gaetano on October 26. The next day, Karel went through San Margherita to the sea and then continued on the beach in the direction Venice, barefoot. He slept in Lido di Jesolo that day.


On October 28, Karel reached Punta Sabbioni and slept there. The day after, he embarked on waterbus (vaporetto) and sailed to Venice. Venice is a very nice, historical city and Karel enjoyed it, even though the number of tourists and the price of water buses were rather bothering. On the other hand, Karel met some Czech tourists there and other tourists from Italy and Switzerland invited him for a drink. After the visiting of historical center, Karel sailed to Lido di Venezia and slept there. On October 30, Karel continued to Sant’Anna di Chioggia, with two ferry travels between islands.


On the last day of October, Karel crossed Po River and slept in a pine forest near Mesola, inside the Po Delta Regional Park. On November 1, Karel slept on the beach in Lido di Pomposa. By that time, travel has already taken 1000 kilometers. An unpleasant police event happened the next day in Comacchio, and it took the whole day. Generally speaking, Karel was misunderstood for a terrorist. On November 3, he went along the bank of the lake in the direction Ravenna. He slept near Sant’Alberto. Karel reached Ravenna and his friends Michelle and Emanuela the next day. It was a warm meeting; they took a good care about him and Karel was fed and participated a training of their historical group. We would like to thank to Michelle and Emanuela for the care. Karel spent two days in Ravenna and he made some repairs, including the making of pins from copper wire he found. On Sunday November 6, Karel continued to Apennine Mountains.


On November 6, Karel slept in Oriola. The day after, he came to Perticara and ask in a church for shelter. Fortunately, he was offered a warm, dry bed. What is more, he was given a heavy woolen sheet, which showed to be useful during the crossing of Apennine Mountains. On November 8, Karel slept on the peak Poggio Tre Vescovi in mountains. If was foggy, windy and frosty weather, and according to his words, this was the most harsh night on his journey. Yet he survived, and continued to Chiocciola, where he slept on November 9. According to his words, mountains were full of hunters, and that was a problem, because Karel could not find the right way; on the other hand, the water in rivulets was drinkable. On the next day, Karel reached Sansepolcro and asked for asylum, and he got that eventually. On November 11, after some problems with navigation and raining, he slept near Lippiano, heading to see Trasimeno Lake.


As he got closer to Rome, the journey started to be more connected to visiting religious sites. In addition, hoarfrost and dense fogs occured each morning and snow was lying in moutains. For example, on November 12, Karel slept in a small dry chapel in San Lorenzo Bibbiana. On the day after, he passed the lake by and was heading to Perugia. Karel was offered an asylum by a pastor in Mantignana, and he got a supper and hot shower by a community taking care of earthquake affected people. Karel went through the town of Perugia on November 14, and he slept under the supermoon near Sant’Egidio. The day after, Karel visited Assisi, a historical site of pilgrimage. He was offered to sleep in Franciscan college and to visit the mass in the morning; another day with a supper, shower and a dry bed. After the mass, he continued and reached Bastardo. Local pastor could not offer him asylum, but he payed him a room in a hotel. Last 150 kilometers to go.


What lies in the future of this project? Check our Facebook project out to find more!

Inspiromat #13, norský šlechtic

Ve třináctém dílu si představíme muže mnohých kvalit, přátelského a zručného řemeslníka, velitele skupiny Marobud a mého dobrého přítele, který je v českém „vikinském“ prostředí dobře znám. Nejde o nikoho jiného než o Jana Zbránka, alias „Jóna“.

Jan a jeho dvojče Jakub (Valgarð) se na české reenactorské scéně pohybují od roku 2007, respektive od roku 2010, kdy začali jezdit na historické festivaly. Od té doby si vybudovali solidní jméno díky svým bojovým a řemeslným dovednostem, které zahrnují zpracování kovu, dřeva a kůže. V současné době provozují Skallagrim – Viking Jewelry a Janovo zboží můžete zhlédnout v níže přiložené galerii. V současné době se Jan věnuje výrobě odlévaných replik a ražbě replik dobových mincí.

Jan se snaží rekonstruovat norského hersiho (dědičný titul nižšího šlechtice) v 10. století. Je si vědom, že jeho kostým obsahuje spoustu výpůjček z jiných částí Skandinávie, a dodává, že kostým je rozdělaný projekt, který neustále upravuje, doplňuje a který nebude nikdy hotov. Zpětně přiznává, že inspiromat mu pomohl uvědomit si řadu kostýmových nedostatků. Jelikož znám Jana dlouho, tak vím, že jeho kostým bude za dva roky vypadat úplně jinak, protože je člověkem, který se neustále přehodnocuje své názory a podle nich formuje vybavení.

Kostým se skládá z vlněné čapky lemované kožešinou (na fotkách též vlněná čapka s textilním lemem), lněné košile a vlněné tuniky lemované červeným hedvábím (na fotkách si můžeme také všimnout bílé vlněné nebo červené vlněné tuniky), úzkých kalhot stažených modrými ovinkami z ručně tkané a přírodně barvené vlny, které jsou fixované tkanicí nebo replikou háčku z norského Vesle Hjerkinn. Na nohou si můžeme všimnout kotníkové převrácené kožené obuvi. Tunika je přepásána opaskem s mosazným/bronzovým kováním zdobeným ve stylu Borre, na kterém je zavěšený nůž se širokým hřbetem v pochvě s bronzovým kováním a kožená brašna podle ruského nálezu (originál uložený v Moršansku). Civilní kostým dozdobuje stříbrný drátkový náhrdelník („knit“) s replikou kladiva z dánského z Tågesmosenu (kladivo odpovídá typu používanému v 10. a 11. století) a kladiva z norského Huse. Ručně tkaný modrý plášť je sepnut replikou spony z norské lokality Averøen.

Bojový kostým tvoří krzno s vlněné deky, nýtovaná kroužková zbroj s krátkým rukávem a sahající do půli stehen, meč typu O podle nálezu z Dukstadu s pochvou s dřevěným jádrem zavěšenou přes rameno, sekera typu Y, kopí typu G, prkýnkový štít s umbem zdobeným bronzovým plíškem podle nálezu z Birky, replika jednokusové přilby z Olomouci , která je opatřena nýtovaným závěsem přišitým na batvat, který je do přilby upevněn koženým řemínkem, a jednoduchý kožený nátepník.

Následuje galerie. Jan varuje, že některé fotky jsou zastaralé, neaktuální a neodráží současný stav kostýmu.


Za poskytnutí fotek a za popis svého kostýmu děkuji svému hersimu Janu Zbránkovi.