You are watching Vagabrothers, and right now are in Scotland dressed as Vikings. We’re here for the Up Helly Aa Viking Fire Festival in the Shetland Islands. Let’s go Ok everyone welcome to our exploration of the Shetland Islands. Before we get into the heart of the festival of Up Helly Aa, we are exploring around the various islands here in the Shetlands and really trying to get a hold of the Viking culture. The Shetland Islands are unlike any other part of Scotland, closer to Western Norway than Edinburgh, they’re just below the Arctic Circle, higher than Stockholm on the same latitude as Greenland. Shetland Islands were conquered by the Vikings over 1200 years ago, and they remained part of Norway until the 15th century. Even today although it’s Scottish, you can still feel the Viking heritage. And that’s best expressed in Up Helly Aa, the Festival of Fire that begins in just a few days. To this day 90% of the place names come from Old Norse. Two-thirds of all Shetlanders have Norwegian DNA, and the dialect is peppered full of Nordic words. The Shetland Islands are full of Viking history and heritage, and to get a better grasp on why the Vikings chose to settle here, we’re at Viking Unst in the northernmost island of Scotland with archaeologist Val Turner. I’m Val Turner, and I’m the regional archaeologist for Shetland. We are standing at a place called Haroldswick, which means “the bay where King Harold came ashore,” the Viking King Harold. In terms of its Viking archaeology, it’s absolutely amazing because we have at least the remains of 60 Viking farms in the island, which is more rural settlement than we’ve found anywhere else, including in Scandinavia. There’s not that density of rural Viking farms anywhere. Well I think because the answer is bang in the middle of the Viking sea ways. So wherever they set out from when they went out from Norway, wherever they were going, whether they were going down to the west Scotland or north up to the Faroe Islands and Iceland or across to Newfoundland and America, Shetland was bang in the middle of their route. There’s plenty of different theories as to why the Vikings left Scandinavia. But when they did, it was ships like this that carried them to the far corners of the earth. And it’s pretty mind-boggling to think that the Vikings crossed the North Atlantic. They made it to Canada hundreds of years before Columbus made it to the New World as the first European. They were even rumored to have made it all the way east to Afghanistan. So being out here, being on this ship, it’s pretty awesome. The Vikings arrived in Shetland twelve hundred years ago when an exploding population in Scandinavia forced them to flee overseas in search of resources and farmland. There’s too many people, and there’s not enough smorgasbord to feed your babies. What do we do? Five months paid paternity leave to help out mom around the longhouse? Nope not yet, but that sounds amazing. Pillage? Pillage! Using the revolutionary technology of their longships, they reached 37 countries from Canada to Afghanistan, building extensive trading networks and striking fear into the hearts of many millions more. As the Vikings made their way across the North Atlantic from Iceland to Greenland, to Newfoundland, the Shetland Islands, just a couple hundred miles off the west coast of Norway, became an ideal jumping-off point for further raids and excursions in the British Isles. They conquered the local Picts and introduced Norse laws, language, and forms of fishing, farming, and building that still exist today. Come on in, make yourself at home. I love a good Scandinavian design Simple, minimal, yet functional. Is that chair from Ikea? Oh no no I got it from some old bald Christian guys down in England and then I killed them. Alright ladies and gents, welcome to Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands. It’s a big day. Ok so today is the Up Helly Aa celebrations here in the capital. It’s a festival that happens in various forms from January to March all across the islands in different villages But this one is the biggest one. It’s actually the biggest fire festival in Europe. It’s about to pop off . We can hear some bagpipes; we hear lots of YARS, and there is a procession coming down the main street here. I think it’s a procession of Vikings. Five years ago, we came to Scotland for New Year’s or Hogmanay, and that’s where they have a big fireball celebration in Stonehaven. We saw that. We’ve also been to the York Viking Festival in York, England. So this kind of combination of the Stonehaven Fire Ceremony and Viking Festival. It’s going to be fun. Let’s go. We’re right here in front of this big bill. It’s kind of like a proclamation that kind of lampoons the local population. It’s tongue-in-cheek jokes; it has its roots back in the Viking sagas like a lot of this festival. Procession of the Jarl Squad, which are the guys dressed up as Vikings, are going past us right now. Today we’re also joined by a new friend as part of the Scotland Live Campaign. Visit Scotland has teamed us up with a local to experience the festival. So we’re here with Steven Mercer, a local filmmaker, who has recently made a film about Vikings. Hi guys. How’s it going? Good, thanks. Good. So what do you think about the festival? What’s your take on it? I think it’s quite a spectacle, actually. I think it’s really interesting I’m going to try to get to every single fire festival in Shetland. There’re twelve in all. We’re down by the waterfront right now here in Lerwick, and this is the Viking longship, the replica longship, that’s going to be burnt tonight. They’ve named it, aptly named it, Blaze Away. But it has a dragon head on the front, the tail on the back, and traditionally Viking longships would have animal heads, whether it’s a wolf or a dragon or a sea monster, and they would use that to scare away enemy spirits in different lands. When they landed they wanted to have the Norse gods behind them, ready to conquer, ready to pillage, and ready to burn, and this ship is ready to burn. It’s crazy.. the festival itself only lasts an hour from lighting the torches to burning the ship. But there’s a full year of preparation that goes into this. There’s a lot of artisans who are working to build not just the ship, but all of the armour that people have. And there’s all sorts of antique armor from previous festivals displayed in storefront windows throughout town. So now we’re going to meet some of the Jarl Squad. There’s the head Jarl who is the basically the lord of Lerwick for the day and his Vikings that go with him. We’re going to go meet them and find out about all the preparation that goes into this festival throughout the year and why it’s such an honor to be part of it. I’m Hayden Jameson I’m the Jarl’s son of the 2018 Jarl Squad for Up Helly Aa in the Shetland Islands. So it’s our traditional festival. We take in our Norwegian heritage. So at the moment you can see I’m dressed up in our Viking outfit that we’ve made completely from scratch. It’s been a lot of hard work throughout the year, and all for this big day. My first experience at Up Helly Aa was from 2004 when I was 9 years old. My father’s the Jarl. He’s in charge of the festival today. It took him 13 years to get to this stage. And you serve your time on the committee, and from there you get to have the big day. Okay well now we have learned a little bit about the background of this festival, and it’s time to experience it. The Jarl Squad has reassembled, hopped on their buses, and they’re going into town to start the procession. We can actually hear the yars getting a little bit further away. The entire festival is going to culminate when the longship is burnt to a crisp. Anyways, enough talking. Time to experience Up Helly Aa. Let’s go. We’re now walking down to where they’re going to burn the ship. It’s about a half-mile long walk. There are about a thousand people with torches, but they’re not all Vikings. The rest of them are known as guizers, which is a word that derives from the same word as to wear a disguise- like an outfit. I’d never heard it before, but that’s what they say down here. If you’re a pyromaniac, this is the best festival in the world. And I also think that everyone has a little bit of pyromania. I’m sticking by my theory- Burning Man of Scotland. We are post burn; the longship is now cinders. It’s ash. It is in the atmosphere, and it is gone into Valhalla, and we are going to go into a hall like Valhalla, but you know we’re not a bunch of dead Viking warriors. We are living… vloggers, and we’re going to go into the Morreale Hall, which is a movie theatre, but has been converted for this night into a party centre. Basically there’s more than 50 halls across the city. They’re these little private events which are basically just parties….. People get together; they sing; they dance; they drink, and the merrymaking lasts until the wee hours of the morn. So we’re going to get in there. Come with. So the way this works is you’re allowed to bring your own booze in, but you have to keep it in a separate room. There’s no glass allowed on the dance floor, which makes sense. But there’s this little side room where everybody’s just making mixed drinks and then bringing them back into the hall for a bit of dancing. The combination of the auditorium and tickets and booze being poured into plastic cups makes it feel like a high school dance, if there had been a booze room in high school dance. But the whole community is here. It’s probably one the more local experience that we’ve done. We know nobody here. We’re going to go make some friends. There’s about a thousand people that participate in the actual ceremony. Some of them are Vikings, known as the Jarl Squad, and the rest are called guizers. They’re dressed in all sorts of costumes. They’re kind of forming like a band of about a dozen or more people around certain themes and all these different squads go to the halls and perform an act, and so we just saw someone do a Haka versus a Scottish version of the Haka. Someone else dressed up as a Blues Brothers, and these acts keep coming in. It’s going to go all night until 8:00 in the morning. They’ll be about a hundred groups to come through, and for the rest of the people you just sit down and watch. There’re drinks back there. There’s food over here, and everyone’s having a good time. What a cool week. What a cool festival. What a cool insight into this unique corner of Scotland, not to mention the scenery here is incredible. We’ve been blessed with good weather the last couple days. And right now, we’re standing on the edge of this humongous set of sea cliffs at Esha- Ness. There’s a loch just over on the top right there, and we’re in the middle of a sea bird colony. What more could you ask for for a location to finish off this vlog series? I think it just goes to show how many sides there are in this part of the world. I think a lot of people don’t know what Scotland’s about, don’t know about the British Isles and the Viking influence and how many different layers and history there are here. And you know, jokes and skits aside from the beginning, it’s really awesome how the Viking heritage has survived here, and how it thrives in this cool festival of Up Helly Aa, which we were fortunate enough to take part in with a really local experience. We’d heard about Up Helly Aa Festival years ago, and ever since we heard about it we wanted to experience it, and having done that I’m extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to come out here. So thank you Visit Scotland. Thank you Promote Shetland for bringing us to this beautiful corner of the world and allowing us to really soak in the Shetland Islands, not to mention ponies in sweaters…. Doesn’t get better than that. No. I think that’s definitely going to have to blow that photo up. Oh yeah, that’s going to get framed, for sure. Yeah So everyone if you like this video, please give it a thumbs- up, share with your travel buddies, subscribe to Vagabrothers, and turn on notifications, if you’ve not already, and go check out Visit Scotland and promote Shetland’s websites down below. We’ll put a link in the info box. In the meantime remember….. Stay curious, keep exploring, and we will see you on the road. In the meantime we’ll be taking in this sunset at his ridiculously gorgeous place. Peace.