It’s 1,000 years since England got its first Danish Viking king – the snazzily named Swein Forkbeard. And to mark the millennium, the all-conquering Danes are having a bit of a knees-up.
Mr Forkbeard is better known to history as the father of Canute, King of England from 1016 and the chap who in legend commanded the tide to turn away from him after setting up his throne on the seashore. But Forkbeard was just one in a long line of Vikings who raided the shores of England and other European lands over the centuries.
Historians say they were not quite the brutal rapists and pillagers they’ve often been made out to be – but you probably wouldn’t have wanted to get in the way of them.
Denmark’s marking of this 1,000-year anniversary includes exhibitions and events across the country, recreating Viking life and culture, in other words real viking adventure, denmark.
Highlights include the exhibition, VIKING, which opened on June 22 at the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen. It runs until November 17, 2013, before transferring to the British Museum in London in the spring of 2014. It promises to the largest exhibition on the Vikings in 20 years, and will include the world’s longest Viking shipwreck ever displayed.
The 37-metre long warship would have carried about 100 Viking warriors and was probably part of a royal fleet. Its size proves that the Vikings were able to travel across continents and seas to colonise Iceland and Greenland, and later reach America, as well as bring home goods from the Middle East, the Byzantine Empire and China. Visitors will also see a number of other great discoveries, such as large hoards of gold and silver from Yorkshire, Russia and Norway and some Viking warrior-shaped chess pieces found on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
Elsewhere in Denmark, there are several places to get a taste of Viking life.
- The town of Roskilde was the capital of Denmark during the Viking era and the cathedral is the last resting place of many Viking kings and queens. The town’s Viking Ship Museum houses five restored Viking ships from the 11th century, which were found at the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord in 1960. For lunch, have an authentic Viking meal at Restaurant Snekken.
- More Viking treasures can be seen at Lejre Museum, a few miles south-west of Roskilde. Lejre was the centre of power at the beginning of the Viking age and today a collection of ancient finds from the Iron and Viking ages can be seen in two traditional thatched houses by the river Lejre.
- These ancient settlements have then been brought to life at the open air museum of Sagnlandet Lejre (The Land of Legends). It has a recreation of an Iron Age village, a Stone Age settlement from about 5,000 BC, the Viking market town of Ravnsborg from about 900AD and a 19th century farmstead. Some Danes choose to spend a week there every year, living in period costume and recreating the lives of the villagers.
- At King Harald Bluetooth’s ring fortress of Trelleborg (pictured), in south-west Sealand, visitors can hone their combat skills and taste the Viking beer ‘mjød’ before spending the afternoon at Åmosen nature park on the shores of Lake Tissø. It was here that the largest farm from the Viking age was found.
- Take the Store Baelt Bridge across to the garden isle of Funen where, amid the villages and beaches, is The Viking Museum at Ladby. Known as the only Viking ship grave in Denmark, it marks the final resting place of a wealthy Viking chieftain, who was buried in his ship with all his worldly goods. The imprint of the ship can still be seen in a burial mound near Kerteminde Fjord.
- Near the town of Vejle is the UNESCO World Heritage town of Jelling, which served in the 10th century as the royal seat of Gorm the Old, a Viking warrior who conquered Jutland, Funen and Sealand and established a royal dynasty that continues to this day. The town’s ancient rune stones (pictured) include one erected in 983 by the Viking King Harald Bluetooth, known as Denmark’s birth certificate. It was the first time the word ‘Denmark’ had been used. It was during the king’s reign that two mighty royal barrows and a church were built, now considered the most important such monuments from the Viking age in Europe.
- North from Jelling towards Aarhus and on to Aalborg, further remains of Jutland’s Viking past can be seen in the circular ramparts of the historic ring fort at Fyrkat. Built in the reign of Harald Bluetooth, it consisted of 16 bow-sided long houses. Today they are indicated by slabs of white stone and one of the houses has been reconstructed in oak outside of the ramparts. Alongside the fort is a reconstructed Viking farmstead, where summer visitors can see numerous Viking activities from cloth making and wool work to bread making, forging and archery.
- At Lindholm Høje, on the northern shore of the Limfjord, Scandinavia’s largest Viking burial ground of more than 700 graves has been revealed with beautifully preserved stone markings. The nearby Lindholm Høje Museum gives context while trips are available on the lake aboard a Viking ship.
- Following the coast road south, at the ancient town of Ribe there’s a Viking Museum while outside of town the Viking Centre has a recreated Long House, a Viking market, farmyard and craftsmen’s workshops.
And for your Denmark travel arrangements…
Travel by train to Denmark and around its key sites, with tickets from Rail Europe.
Written by our friends at dailytravelideas.com