Even though the Vikings aren’t really my thing, I couldn’t leave Denmark without visiting at least one Viking-related attraction. Enter the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, with its collection of (you guessed it!) Viking ships, both originals and re-creations. Like every other museum (and everything else) in Denmark, it is eye-wateringly expensive at DKK 115 (I mean really, 14 quid to look at a handful of ships?!) but we were so accustomed to high prices at this point that we didn’t even question it. In fairness to them, the paper wristband was a lovely shade of blue that complemented my eyes, so I did get something for my money.
The Vikingeskibsmuseet (the Danish sounds way cooler than Viking Ship Museum) is mostly outside, which I suppose is why they offer a discount during the long Scandinavian winter months. They seemed to offer a lot of outdoor activities for children, but for adults, there wasn’t much to do other than wander around looking at the workshops and reading the signs explaining how the ships were constructed. Regular readers will know that I love a pun, but I’m also partial to a good simile. Therefore, I was happy as a sandboy to learn the expression “like larch on oak” which is apparently so commonly used in Denmark that they didn’t bother to offer an English equivalent, so I simply throw it into conversation whenever it seems appropriate (example: macaroni and cheese go together like larch on oak). Anyway, I discovered larch on oak via a sign attached to an oak tree, one of many small potted trees sitting around to demonstrate the types of wood used in Viking ship construction.
I did clamber aboard one of the ships in the harbour, which was no easy task as there were no steps, and the edge was quite high. From May-September, you can actually ride aboard one, but it costs DKK 80 more, and I think they only offer one trip a day. I got my fill of pretending to be a Viking simply by sitting on the boat, and at least that way, I didn’t have to help row (as you do on the boat trips) which is probably for the best as I am rubbish at that sort of thing (I reached this conclusion after spending an afternoon at camp constantly bumping into the side of the lake in my canoe. This was the same three day camp where I realised I hated horse riding.).
We’d killed all the time we could outside, so it was time to head into the building where the five original ships were kept. The Skuldelev ships date back to the 11th century, when they were used to form a blockade in a channel of Roskilde Fjord (Roskilde was then the capital of Denmark). They were excavated in 1962, and have been preserved and re-assembled in the museum; by studying them, historians have been able to reproduce the modern versions of them that are found in the museum’s harbour.
All this is very well, and the history behind them is interesting, but when you get down to it, you are just staring at the skeletons of ships. This is probably why I could never get into ancient history – I like stuff that still looks like something. Though once again, my lack of cultural appreciation is not really the Viking Ship Museum’s fault. The hall they’re displayed in is slightly too spartan and barrack-like for my tastes, but I was fascinated by the posters at the back of the museum, which included an incredibly brutal description of human sacrifice and gang rape (basically, you did NOT want to be a slave girl in Viking culture). A gallery downstairs told the story of reconstructing the ships, but it was so packed with people that there was scarcely room to look around.
I am, however, inclined to invest in a Viking cape, which I found in a room at the end of the ship hall, as I think I looked rather fetching (and ’twas very warm, so could provide a stylish alternative to my ratty old bathrobe). In addition to trying on Viking clothing, you could also practice writing your name in runes, or watch an interminable video of ship life, seemingly guaranteed to induce sea sickness (hey, maybe that’s the secret of the sea sickness you can experience at the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre!). They had some cute Vikingy knick-knacks in the shop, but alas, no suitable capes.
Though I wasn’t completely enamoured with the Viking Ship Museum, it did do what it said on the tin – albeit at an inflated admission price. I think it may be slightly more entertaining for children (assuming they’re fluent in Danish) as they did seem to have a lot of interactive things going for them. Probably best for people who are into the Vikings, or ships, obviously. 2.5/5