Playing Viking for a day at the Vikingeskibsmuseet in Roskilde

That really long word is simply Danish for Viking Museum and a visit to the Vikingeskibsmuseet is the cornerstone of a visit to Roskilde, just 20 minutes west of Copenhagen.  The museum serves as both a research facility and as a display for some of the artifacts that have been recovered over the past several decades.  And they even let you play “Viking” if you want!

This boat is over 1500 years old and surprisingly well preserved.

The ships that they have recovered are nothing short of amazing.  There are at least seven that we saw, ranging from a sixty-person warship that was originally built around 1022 to an eight-seater built around 450.  Yup, a 1500+ year old specimen.  The ship from 450 is actually so well preserved that we looked at it several ties and assumed it to be a replica before finally being convinced that it is the original thing.

The reconstructed pieces of one of the five ships recovered in the 1960s.

There was a major find in 1962 of five ships at the bottom of the channel leading from Roskilde to the sea.  The five were intentionally sunk by loading them with rocks.  They were scuttled as part of a defensive effort to blockade the channel, allowing the Danes to control access to their port and slow any advancing navies that might attack.  A rather impressive amount of those ships was recovered and they have been reassembled and placed on display in the museum.

One of the recovered ships was actually recreated by the museum starting in 2004.  The Sea Stallion of Glendalough was built using tools and methods of the Viking style and era and using similar woods that the Vikings had available.  This 30 meter long reconstruction was completed in 2007 and sailed from Denmark to Dublin, Ireland as part of their research.  The exhibit and movie that they have on the reconstruction and the journey to Ireland is quite impressive.

There are also a number of workshops and other research facilities that are open to the public.  Almost all of their reconstruction efforts are performed using only the tools and methods of 1000 years ago meaning that the progress is slow but quite amazing to watch.

SBM_7449 SBM_7452 

SBM_7470In addition to the many ships that they have on display there are a few that are kept in use, allowing visitors to experience life as a Viking.  We were able to take a ship out for about a half hour and experience a bit of the life on the water.  We got to row the boat out from the docks and then help raise the sail and cruise under wind power for a bit before heading back to the docks.  Unfortunately the winds weren’t particularly strong today but it was still quite an enjoyable experience.

Beyond the Viking Museum there isn’t much to recommend Roskilde.  The town was actually somewhat overrun today with folks settling in for the annual music festival which meant huge crowds.  And the main streets were mostly full of vendors selling what would politely be called “junk” in most other places.  There is a small city museum various other excavations around town.  But overall not a ton to see there.  Still, at only about 20 minutes out of town on the local trains a trip to Roskilde is definitely a great opportunity if you’re in Copenhagen.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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