Tokyo is on the way to Vancouver… right?

So we are off to Canad for Christmas with the family, and as it turned out they were going to be in California pretty much right up a few days before Christmas.  We had, however, blocked aside to go from the 15th, but there was no point in going to Vancouver Island when the people we were going to visit weren’t going to return until the 21st… so what to do?  Stop over in Tokyo it is.

Our transit yesterday was pretty ordinary – I am not fond of this budget airline nonsense.  Our TA is great, but she had us on Jetstar for this leg of our trip, and to be honest, it feels like a theme park – you pay the entrance fee and then the costs keep piling up… Want a drink? $$$ Want a meal?  $$$ Want to watch a movie?  $$$ Want a blanket for the flight? more $$$..!  Maybe if the flights were super cheap.  Maybe.  But this wasn’t because it’s Christmas and for the travel industry – that is kinda like flying a wedding flag at the function industry.  Prices are up, up, up!  Anyway, we got here safely and I guess that is the bit that counts, and other than a ridiculous cock up with our train tickets to Shinjuku (the stupid woman at the counter at the airport only sold us half a ticket, one to Ueno where we got off the Skyliner train and had to switched to the JR, but not a ticket that also included the JR portion of the journey.  Much confusion and angst ensued as the English-challenged JR employee was trying to sort us out at the other end, and there is never enough patience to go around after a 14-hour commute.  :/

Finally found our hotel after much getting lost; the Google map really struggles in among the tall buildings, and we checked into the tiniest hotel rooms ever.  Slept pretty good – thanks to sheer exhaustion I dare say.

Next morning up bright and early to hang out with Amane, a friend our son had met on our cruise around Japan two years earlier.  First stop was the Imperial Palace.

The Tokyo Imperial Palace was built on the grounds of an old Edo castle.  It is surround by 3.5kms of gardens and is smack bang in the middle of some of the most expensive real estate in the world. One one side of the moat is the serene gardens and castle grounds, and the other – Tokyo CBD highrises.  It makes for an interesting juxtaposition, to say the least. Most of the leaves have dropped from the trees, but some in happy warm spots are still in lovely fall colours.  The fortifications of the old palace are seriously impressive – that large block in the bottom left is taller than I am. After a wander around the palace grounds (the palace itself is not open to the public as the current Imperial family still reside there) we took a train to Asakusa to see the markets and visit the Senso-ji temple. The Asakusa temple is Tokyo’s oldest temple and considered one of its most significant. It is dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy The markets leading up to the temple are full of fun touristy stuff and yummy street food. Hozomon gate. The temple with it’s five storey pagoda. A couple out buying good fortune charms… many focused on health, money, good fortunes, passing exams, fertility – you name it.  Need a charm?  They have a specific one for you. We decided to get our omikuji fortunes.  You put your 100Y donation into a slot and pick up a steel cylinder to shake out a numbered stick.  Then select your fortune from the drawer of the same number – and voila!  Your fortune told is told. 

Mr K got 12, I got 25 and the Teenager got 34. There are seven results for omikuji, ranging from the best daikichi (大吉excellent fortune) to the worst daikyou (大凶terrible fortune).  Naturally, Mr K picked a Best Fortune, I picked a Good Fortune and the others got a Regular Fortune… I actually want to go back and find a bad fortune too!  🙂
Dad fortune; best Fortune!  Apparently.

After getting our fortunes, we visited the temple proper, starting with the rituals of drawing good health and good fortune to our persons by waving incense smoke towards ourselves and ‘bathing’ in the smoke. We then went to the fountain and washed our hands and face before approaching the shrine – the water was freezing.

At the shrine, we made our offerings and said prayers to Guanyin and Buddha.   Afterwards we wandered the markets for a while and saw lots of ladies walking around in their yukata.  Amane says she only wears her yukata for holidays like New Years and festivals, but some Japanese young ladies like to wear them out on special shopping trips – and given it’s a week until Christmas there were plenty of people out shopping. From Asakusa we jumped another train and head to Ueno.  This area is popular shopping district (though I think that phrase could be applied to nearly all of Tokyo’s well known precincts.

It is also where you find the Ueno Park district.  Ueno Park was established in the late 1800s and is now home to a number of major museums, marketplaces, the Tokyo Zoo and is famous for its cherry blossoms when they are in season. The history of the park (it was built on the site of an old temple and was the site of a battle during the Boshin war is really interesting) but also long, so check it out on Wikipedia if you are interested.

We went to the zoo first, as it was likely to close earlier than the museum, and our day was made infinitely better by panda, otters, tigers, lions, monkeys, polar bears and cranes etc.   The otter enclose had this clever contraption on the outside of the cage that the otters could access by climbing a ladder and swimming through a tunnel.  They had been carrying stones back and forth but all swam back into the enclosure as we approached. This guy was staring intently at something just outside their enclosure – but we couldn’t for the life of us figure out what it was.  I doubled back around on the otters as we were leaving the park and was interested to see they were feeding them live fish.  The otters spent about ten minutes chasing their dinner down which I think is probably better for keeping them active and stimulated than just being fed.  They were also given clams to eat, which they had to smash open with their stones.  Alas I have no photos of their feeding – they were moving too fast and the lighting conditions too low.  

There was also this guy – a Secretary Bird, which now seems to make all Pokemon make sense.  It has the head of an eagle, the body of a goose and the legs of a stork!  It looks like a living breathing wild Pokemon.  😛 

There were also rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lemurs, prairie dogs and yes even kangaroos… but the most thrilling exhibition must have been the Bin Chicken enclosure.  Yes, the humble Bin Chicken is here for the world to enjoy – only weirdly, here they are called Sacred Ibis. 

After leaving the kids to chase more African animals – Mr K and I went back into Ueno Park to check out the markets.  The markets pop up for 3-4 days at a time and have different themes.  At the moment, there was a homewares market on with loads of lovely ceramics, tools, knives, chopsticks, woodcrafts, artworks etc.

After the markets, we went to the Tokyo National Museum to see some of the country’s treasures.  The museum itself is in an impressive building but was very oddly laid out (in my experience of museums at any rate). It was supposed to be in some sort of chronological order but there were some artefacts that were in the ordered layout of the museum, with a sign beside them saying ‘to see more of these Edo period samurai suits, go to Gallery X’. Same beside the sword exhibit.  I think it was done purposefully to get guests to go through the entire museum, instead of just heading for the samurai exhibits and then leaving.  🙂

Keman – Buddhist ceremonial ornamental pendant with design of Kalavimaka birds (mythical birds).  Bronze, Showa era, 20thC reproduction of Heian period 12thC orginal.Gosuku type armour – with two-piece cuirass and white lacing.  Edo period, 17thC.
Okitenuagui Type helmet with dark blue lacking – Azuchi-Momoyama Edo period, 17thC. Yoroi Type Armour with red lacing. 20thC reproduction of 12thC Heian period original. Gusoku Type armour – with two-piece cruirass and red lacing.  Edo period, 17thC Gusoku type armour – with two-piece cuirass and bear fur, Edo period 17thC. Pillows.  Baku (mythical beast) and nandina design in maki-e lacquer.  Edo period 18thC. Pair of Boxes for Shell Matching Game Pieces – Designs from scenes of ‘The Tale of Genji’. Edo period, 17thC. Boxes like these held painted seashells for a shell-matching game.  They were important in the wedding rituals of feudal lords, as shells with two hinged parts symbolised fidelity. Karaori (Noh costume).  Pine bark lozenges, peon and pheonix roundel design on red and light blue checkered ground. Late Edo period, 18thC. Sobatsugi (Noh costume). Dragone and cloud design on dark blue ground. Edo period 18th-19thC. Nuihaku (Noh costume).  Seigaiha waves, mandarin duck, and water lily design on red ground.  Edo period, 18thC. Chukei (Noh fan).  Old pine and sun design on gold ground.  Edo period 18thC. Japanese print.  Blindman’s Buff:  Allusion to Yuranosuke at the Ichiriki Teahouse.  By Chokosai Eisho (date unknown)  Edo period, 18thC.
The print alludes to a kabuki play based on the story of the forty-seven ronin. In the scene being referenced, the hero indulges himself in amusements to fool his enemies into thinking he has given up on avenging his master’s death.
Detail: Standing Daikoku Ten (Mahakala) by Kaiken.  Wood with polychromy and inlaid crystal eyes.  Nanbokucho period, dated 1347. Mokujiki Self-Portrait.  Wood, Edo period, 1804. Shallow bowl, Kingfisher design in overglaze enamel.  Imari ware. Edo period, 17th century.  Interestingly the museum makes no note whatsoever of the beautiful kintsugi repair work done to this dish. Inscriptions of Antique Compendium of Sword Inscriptions over Ages, Edo period dated 1717.

And that was day one in Tokyo done.  After this we head back on the trains to Shinjuku for some cheap and cheerful ramen dinners – misanthropes must love these cafes where you order your meal through a machine and then someone brings you food and you don’t have to talk to anyone!  And it was a very tired borys who, 21,946 steps later, hopped in the tiny (but deep) Japanese hotel bath and actually fell asleep in the tub!

Kronborg Castle to Nyhavn

Woke up this morning, way too early, in fact, early enough to see the early morning sunrise reflected off the building outside my hotel room window.  We had asked the Forum for ideas on what to do today, and the consensus had come back… go to Kronborg Castle and make sure we add in a stop in Nyhavn to eat local food and drink local beer and watch the people go by.  So that’s exactly what we had on our agenda for the day. We took the train to Helsingor, which took about 40 minutes from Copenhagen Central Station.  The Copenhagen Pass has been great – covered all public transport costs and nearly all our musuem and attraction entry costs.

Today we had simply stunning weather to go out and visit, Kronborg Castle, also known as Hamlet’s Castle.

Kronborg is both a castle and a major stronghold in the town of Helsingor, it is considered one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe and has been UNESCO World Heritage listed since 2000.  It was also immortalised as Elsinore in Shakespeare’s epic saga, Hamlet.

The castle is located at the north-easternmost tip of the island of Zealand, which is also the narrowest point of the Oresund Sound – the body of water between modern day Denmark and Sweden, just as it was at the time the castle was built.  Here, it is barely 4 kilometers to Sweden.  The coastal fortification was of major strategic importance as it commanded one of the few outlets to the Baltic Sea. The castle is surrounded by garrisons and barrack buildings. Main entrance to the castle keep. The central courtyard and the Canon Tower. Love the old Medieval spiral staircases with their worn stone staris. The King’s apartments. See that land over there?  That’s Sweden.  Much closer than you’d expect. We were headed into ‘the King’s Tapestry Rooms’, which I have to admit I was entering with some trepidation after seeing the very very frightening, Queen’s tapestries made for Queen Margarethe II on the occasion of her 50th birthday at Christiansborg Palace.  Thankfully these were not so scary.
Tapestires, late period, possibly 17th-18th century.  There was no information on these ones, they are not the “King’s Tapestries” that we were looking for. Small apartments with primarily 17th century furnishings. Another later period tapestry… …with a chick riding a goat.  Gotta love it. The King’s bedchamber… which seems very modest compared to some of the grand bedchambers we have seen for monarchs in the last couple of weeks.  Older tapestries in the Little Gallery, though these too, are still not the “King’s Tapestries” that we were looking for. Detail:  Pelican or Pheonix?

Finally, we found “The Kings Tapestries”  Teh walls of the Little Hall are furnished with seven tapestries that were originally from a series of some forty tapestries each depicting the one hundred Danish Kings.. The walls of the Little Hall are furnished with seven tapestries originally from a series of forty tapestries portraying one hundred Danish kings. These Medieval textile masterpieces include the Tapestry depicting Oluf (reigned 1376-1387 and Tapestry depicting King Knud VI (reigned 1182-1202) and they were all commissioned in 1580.  There are another seven tapestries from this Medieval series hanging at the National Museum of Denmark, which we visited the other day – but at the time, we could not find any information on the tapestries we viewed there because the Medieval galleries were not so well labelled.  So, mystery solved!  Unfortunately, other than these fourteen surviving tapestries, the remainder have been lost.

Tapestry depicting Erik VII and Erick VIII – Erick VII was brutally murdered in a regicide at a barn at Finnerup, but his fate is scarcely mentioned in the verses at the top of the tapestry.  His son, Erick VIII, is acknowledged for having avenged his father’s murder as is proper. Tapestry of Knud VI – the king wears richly ornamented body armour with sword and shield, emphasizing his royal regalia.  He bears a breastplate with the imperial eagle referring to his opposition to the then GeEmperorperor.   Tapestry depciting Abel – a quiet and pleasant scene with a group of hunters (both mounted and on foot).  The setting sharply contrasts wit hthe ferocious acts spelled out in the verses:  “For kingship I did crave, thus my brother I sent to the grave”.   The symbolism of the falcon with its claws on a smaller bird, while a poisonous snake slips through the shrubbery is a classical theme of good fighting evil.  In this case, the evil slips away leaving the brother in the grips of his king, err the smaller bird in the grips of the falcon.  Eventually Abel was killed himself in an uprising only two years after this ruthless assassination. Tapestry of Oluf – son of Norwegian King Haakon VI and Margrete (daughter of Danish King Valdemar II), Oluf was considered a king by name but not by deed.  Oluf died before he came of age and his mother Margrete was left to defend the kingdom from Sweden and eventually unite her three Kingdoms. Tapestry of Erick VI – wearing a crown and wearing an outlandish non-period costume, it is supposed to signify that he was king ‘in distant times’.  He draws the viewer’s attention to the animal life to the left of the king, a wolf lurks (the incarnation of evil) sneaking up on its unsuspecting prey.  All is reference to his ill-fated destiny, he was assassinated by the aforementioned Abel, who envied his crown.   The wolf preying on the bird that is preying on the eel. Tapestry of Christoffer II – surrounded by noblemen’s pursuits of the hunt and the tournament, Christoffer is being mocked for his lack of jousting and warfare abilities.. “For the Kingdom’s dignity little cared, much land gave away with others shared, against the subjects I was also tough, so from my throne they pushed me off!” Tapestry depicting Valdemar II “the Victorious” – clad in shining armour, the king caries his crown as the symbol of his royalty and brandishing a sword ready for combat.  The verses give a full account of his many successful war campaigns, and it seems at least one king has been remembered kindly by history! These tapestries are fascinating – I wish there had been decent information on the other seven that we saw at the National Museum.As I was saying earlier, Kronborg is also famous as “Elsinore,” the setting of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, Hamlet (though how a guy born in Stratford upon Avon with no formal/noble education knew anything about Danish history which is effectively the middle of nowhere to an Englishman from Stratford, is beyond me!?!)   Anyway, Hamlet was performed to mark the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1816, complete with a cast of soldiers from the castle garrison. The stage was in the telegraph tower in the southwest corner of the castle. The play has been repeatedly performed in the courtyard by such famous actors as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi, David Tennant, Jude Law, and of course my own personal hero, Sir Kenneth Branagh.


We went back down to the courtyard to find the chapel which is located on the ground floor in the south wing, having been consecrated in 1582.  In 1785 the castle was fitted out as an army barracks, and the chapel was temporarily repurposed as a fencing hall and gymnasium with all the furniture thankfully stored away.  In the mid-1800s, the chapel was restored and reinaugurated in 1843. The nave of the Kronborg Chapel. Just gorgeous medieval timberwork, and gilded leather walls.

Next, we ventured below the castle to the veritable rabbit warren that is the storage cellars of Krongborg.  Here, according to Arthurian myth, a Danish King known as Holger the Dane was taken to Avalon by Morgan le Fay.  Holger is said to have returned to rescue France from danger before traveling to Kronborg, where now he sleeps until he is needed to save his homeland.


Worn steps leading down the the dark cold cellars.
A statue of the sleeping Danish King, Holger, has been placed here, deep in the cellars of the castle… ever vigilant for his homeland.  On a less lyrical note – this statue was the most difficult thing to photograph ever!  They have him displayed in a pitch black cavern with lighting from several sides that slowly oscillates in brightness from very dim to overly bright.  I can think of no other reason for doing so, other than to make him hard to photograph!  Anyway, about twelve pics later and job done. The cellars penetrated even further under the castle than the chambers containing Holger’s sleeping statue to large storage areas.

We eventually popped back out into the bright sunlight to the battlements… with cannon pointing out over the Sound to… Sweden!
Interestingly, every ship that sailed through the Sound had to pay a toll.  These tolls were effectively a tax paid to the King of Denmark, calculated based on the value of the ship’s cargo.  The captain of any ship passing the sound had to estimate the value of his cargo and pay the taxes accordingly – to prevent captains from understating the value of their cargo and thereby reduce the toll payable, the King had the right to buy any cargo for the price stated by a ship’s captain… thus very cleverly dissuading the captains from undervaluing their cargo.  The Sound toll was only abolished in 1857. ALL our canon are for you, Sweden! Back into the main courtyard to access the Cannon Tower for views over the castle.  Another winding Medieval staircase. The views are amazing, you can see for miles, well at least 2.3 of them – to Sweden! And back to the town of Helsingor.

A quick turn around the castle’s gift shops and we were off to find some lunch at the nearby Maritime Museum.  The Maritime Museum may be one of the most unique buildings that I have ever encountered – it is built underground in what was a disused dry dock.  You could easily walk past it and not notice it at all, were it not for the signage.

Cafe in the base of the dry dock.

Lunch of fish cakes, seaweed salad, home made tartare and pumpernickel bread. The museum has mostly late period maritime exhibits. Cafe courtyard. Auditorium in the Maritime Museum.   After a quick jaunt through the Maritime Musuem, we head back into the city to partake of some typical ‘postcard’ Copenhagen. The weather was so lovely I took several photos and could not pick my favourite – so I have included a bunch here. Ann Weiwei, famous Beijing artist who is usually heavily represented at the Asia Pacific Triennial, has done a large installation work at the moment consisting of 3,500 salvaged life jackets that were used by refugees.  They have been placed in the window frames of the famous art museum, the Kunsthal Charlottenborg, for World Refugee Day.

Just beautiful!  We stopped for a waffle, and then whiled away the afternoon over beers and ciders.

Roskilde Vikingskibs Museet and Roskilde Cathedral

This morning Copenhagen turned on another delightful summer’s day – overcast and dreary, with the promise of patchy light rain all day.  So we jumped on a train for about 30 minutes, and head out of the city center to Roskilde to see the Vikingskibsmuseet.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde is Denmarks’ national museum for ships, boat building and seafaring in the prehistoric and Medieval periods.  The museum centers around a permanent exhibition of five extant Viking ships that were excavated not far from the museum site in the 1960s, and they conduct research and education in the fields of maritime archaeology.

The Viking Ship Museum is an active experimental archaeology research centre, with over thirty years experience in building and sailing, reconstructions of archaeological ship finds. It is a multi-disciplinary working environment with a strong focus on research and education, where experts from many different fields collaborate in several different workshops towards reconstructions.

The first, most noticeable, aspect of the rope makers workshop is the smell – it has a distinctively strong woods/organic aroma from the various rope making materials.  Flax hanging to dry. FInished rope lengths that will be used in Viking ship reconstructions. Rope making equipment. Ropes were made of many differing materials, from bull rushes and flax to elk and seal hides.  Most ropes were tarred to retard fungus and bacteria and to protect from weather and deterioration. The elk and seal hide ropes had a natural waxy waterproof texture.

A little further into the complex is a ship building workshop where the master ship builders are constantly working on recreating and perfecting another Viking ship.  Clamps to hold timbers during construction.
The workshop may look reasonably modern with modern lighting in a modern building, but all the tools used are replicas of period tools that would have been used during the Viking age to build ships. Larger reconstructions are done in the outside part of the shipyard. 


Nearby is a timber yard, where timbers are being dried cut into planks using traditional wedging techniques.  Large sections of tree are laying about earmarked for particular use in upcoming reconstruction projects.

These diagrams demonstration how a single ship was often made using many differing timbers, each chosen for their particular characteristics, whether that is for strength, flexibility, durability or structure.

Different sections of these tree species have varying natural tensile properties, and the traditional Viking shipbuilders utilized these characteristics to good effect – choosing certain timber for certain ship parts, and certain sections from certain trees for their inherent natural properties that were most suitable for those parts.

Next, we saw the blacksmithy.  There was not supposed to be anyone working the smithy today, but happily, there was a guy there working the bellows and bashing away at some piece of iron while we were there, with a range of various period items made of iron in his forge.

Nails.  While it must be boring for the smith to make so many nails, they were integral to the ship building process.

Flax has been used to produce textiles in Scandinavia since the Iron Age.  Transforming the plant into fiber that can be spun, and then woven, is quite a long and complex process though.  Sails on the reproduction ships have so far been made of linen and wool, which archeological evidence also demonstrates were used for sailmaking, but no flax sails have been made at the Roskilde shipyard yet.  Sails are created of up to five long panels which are sewn together and then impregnated with fats, oils, tar or pitch to help prevent rot and to make them more windproof.

The Sea Stallion of Glendalough is the largest reconstruction ship made at the shipyard to date.  In the summer of 2007 and 2008, the Sea Stallion from Glendalough sailed from Roskilde to Dublin and back.  The Sea Stallion is a reconstruction of the 30 meter long warship, Skuldelev 2, which was originally built in Ireland in 1042 and which is on display in the Viking Ship Museum hall.   It traversed the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and the English Channel.  During the voyage, the ship passed through the very same landscapes which were part of Viking history 1000 years ago. (Photos by Werner Karrasch – photographer at the Viking Ship Museum). The summer 2007-2008 voyage:The Sea Stallion today.

There are plenty of other replica ships about based on the other Skuldelev ships that are in the museum.

Replica of a 3-sail smack 
This replica was built by Tom Nicolajsen and his students in 1995 as a practice vessel for the students.  The original smack was built of pin on oak in Assens for fishing in the southern Little Belt for eel, and cod and sometimes porpoises.  The smack is rigged with tow or three spritsails on removalbe masts and is typical of south and west Funen.
Oars: 4
Length:   6.3m  Breadth:  2.2m  Draught:  0.8m
Total sail area:  25 sq m
Crew: 2 men
Max speed:  at sail 6 knots, at oars, 3 knots.

Attamannafar from the Faroe Islands (centre in the picture)
Built by Niclas i Koltri of pine construction.  The turbulent and unforeseeable weather and strong currents between the islands required especially seaworthy boats that were also light enough to be hauled up onto the beach as required.  The Attammanafar carries a lug mainsail and a small mizzen mast, both of which are easy to rig down and store in the bottom of the boat.  The oars are the main source of propulsion in all kinds of weather.
Oars: 8
Length 7.8m   Breadth 1.9m   Draught:  0.3m
Sail area: 10sqm
Crew: 9 men
Max speed:  sail 6 knots, oars: 5 knots.  (pictured centre)

Oselver Faering, Norway, 1970.
Built of pine by Einar Killveit, at Hardanger in Norway.  The very broad planking, only three strakes in each side, distinguishes this type of boat.  Thanks to its particularly good rowing characteristics, it was used for traveling along the Norwegian skerries.  It was also used as a ‘trader’ for transporting light cargo of farm produce and made an ideal fishing boat.
Oars: 4
Length: 5.5m   Breadth:  1.55m  Draught:  0.2m
Crew: 2-3 men
Max speed:  5 knots.

There are many other replica boats around also, most of which are based on the Skuldelev finds in the museum proper.

On the lawn outside the Viking Ship Museum is a recreation of a 9th century labyrinth that was found close to the ruins of the monastic settlement of Glendalough in Ireland.  The site of Glendalough was an important place of pilgrimage for more than 1500 years.  The labyrinth and the movement through its paths are often used as a form of meditation – it is apparently considered very bad luck to step through and cheat your way out! Some other Viking games were also set out for visitors to try:

Thor’s Hammer Throw:
Thor, the God of War and Thunder, used his hammer Mjolner in the battle against the giants. The hammer was the perfect weapon; always returning to Thor’s hand once it hit its target.  Vikings didn’t actually use hammers as a combat weapon – they preferred swords, spears, axes and bows/arrows, but the myth about Thor and his hammer endures.

The aim of the Hammer Throw Game is to ‘hit a giant’.  The statues (giants) are positioned on the ground at different distances, each player gets only three throws of a hammer attached to a rope, with a view to knocking over the giants.  Whoever knocks over the most giants wins.  Can be played with many giants at different distances.
The ‘giants’ are around 45-60cm tall and have different weights and varying degrees of ugly.

Casting the Mooring Line
Ships and seamanship were important aspects of Viking life.  Good seamanship required robustness, nimble fingers and precision.  Ability to gauge distances and good throwing technique were essential for casting mooring lines for ships.

The aim of Casting the Mooring Line is to hit the targets with the stone.  Six stanchions (timber pegs) are sunk into the ground at varying distances apart, and mark the mooring posts you must hit.  The thrower stands behind a marked point and gets three throws with a stone attached to a rope.  Only the stone end should be thrown, while the other end of the rope (the ship end) must stay with the thrower (being held under the throwers foot, or pegged down).  The best throws hit the space in between the stanchions on the course.   Each thrower gets four throws for maximum points.

1pt         3pts       5pts      3pts        1pt

The Troll’s Head
There are many different versions of tug-of-war.  In a saga from the Middle Ages, Hasti has a tug-of-war competition against Hord.  The contest takes place over a fire and the two contestants pull opposite ends of a skin.  In ‘The Troll’s Head’ game, the aim is to force your opponent to step into the troll’s ferocious mouth.

A circle of rope or painted cloth is laid on the ground and forms the ‘troll’s head’.  The players hold hands and form a circle around the troll’s head (remove any finger rings that might get in the way).  Now you must run, pull and push to try and get others into/onto the troll’s head without losing your grip on one another.  Those who step into the troll’s head are out of the game. The last man standing is the winner.

Also popular is a traditional coits game with a cross bar target and rope coits of varying ropes (which have different weights).
After playing around on the green for a while, it was time to go sailing on a historically accurate Viking ship that had been built by hand, using traditional techniques and tools, right here in the Roskilde Viking shipyard.

And we have perfect Viking weather for such things – grey, dismal, and constant light drizzly rain.
Getting instructions on the various oar commands we needed to use. Captain never said, “Row ya bastards!”… not even once!  🙂  He just encouraged people to listen for the slap of the oars in the water and to try and get them in time.  Have to admit we were pretty terrible rowers but we managed to manouevre our craft into the open harbour. From here the sail was hoisted and we moved along with relative ease. Ballast in the bottom of the boat. Nearly getting knocked in the head as we tacked.After our bracing sail around the Roskilde harbour, we went over the Vikingskib Museet to see the remnants of some extant Viking ships that had been found in the Roskilde Fjord, and to hopefully warm up!

The Viking Age (arguably) covers approximately from 750 to 1100AD and was characterized by large-scale trading and raiding expeditions, national unification, some urbanization and a wide scale conversion to Christianity.  Around the year 1000, the power of the Danish realm was concentrated in Roskilde, as the new monarchical and ecclesiastical capital.  The town was unfortified but naturally protected at the base of Roskilde Fjord.  The town center was situated on a hilltop overlooking a wide landing place where ships could lay at anchor.

The towns primary protection from invaders relied on a system of signal fires (beacons) placed strategically down the fjord from the mouth of the fjord at Kattegat into Isefjord.  Beacons would have been set on high ground with good visibility to the next beacon.  The town’s secondary defense consisted of unseen sunken ships, piles of stone, driven posts and floating palisades near the island of Kolholm which allowed the three sailing channels to be blocked off when under attack.  Five sunk ships have been recovered from the Peberrenden channel that was used for this purposes.  They have been labeled Skuldelev 1 through to 5.  Skuldelev 1, 3 and 5 were filled with stones and scuttled between 1060 and 1070.  A few years later the barriers had partially disintegrated and two more ships Skuldelev 2 and 4 were also scuttled.  The channel was still navigable but required local knowledge.

The town’s secondary defense consisted of unseen sunken ships, piles of stone, driven posts and floating palisades near the island of Kolholm which allowed the three sailing channels to be blocked off when under attack.  Five sunk ships have been recovered from the Peberrenden channel that was used for this purposes.  They have been labeled Skuldelev 1 through to 5.  Skuldelev 1, 3 and 5 were filled with stones and scuttled between 1060 and 1070.  A few years later the barriers had partially disintegrated and two more ships Skuldelev 2 and 4 were also scuttled.  The channel was still navigable but required local knowledge.

The ships were initially investigated underwater in the 1950s and not long after a cofferdam barrier was built in 1962 allowing the area to be drained and hundreds of thousands of ship parts to be excavated.  There followed the worlds biggest jigsaw puzzle that took 25 years to complete, as the five Skuldelev collections of different ships, used for fishing, trading, defense, and warfare,  were painstakingly pieced back together.

They provide a unique perspective on Viking Age maritime culture; shipbuilding, seamanship and the ability to journey far from their homes.

Coastal Trader ship – small elegant trading and transport vessel, of the byrding type.  Made of Danish oak, it has decks of loose plans and an open hold for about 4 tons of cargo.  The ship would have been crewed by 5-8 men.

Wreck 5 is a small warship possibly of the snekke type.  Built of Danish oak, ash and pine party by reusing timber from other ships.  With 13 pairs of oars, and about 30 warriors, it is one of the smallest longships in a war fleet.  Along the sheerstrake are remnants of a shield rack.

The Longship was an ocean going warship, possibly of the skeid type.  With a crew of 65-70 warriors, it must have been the ship of a magnate, a vessel like those whose praises were sung in ancient skaldic verse and sagas.  The ship was built of oak, and tree-ring analysis of the timber revels the ship was built in the Dublin area around 1042.  Vikings had settled Ireland as early as 800AD and established several fortified bases along the Irish coast.  The long narrow shape of the ship allowed for great speed and the manning of 60 oars would have allowed the ship to keep moving even without wind.  The Sea Stallion from Glendalough is a reconstruction of this ship, and under sail, it has a top speed of 12 knots.

Small Fishing vessel – this ship is a combined rowing and sailing vessel probably built for fishing or seal hunting.  It was built of pine planks near Sognefjord in Norway.  Later an extra plank was added to increase the height of the side in order to transport more efficiently cargoes of livestock, trading goods or people.  During the alterations, the rowlocks were removed and the number of oars reduced.  The conversion suggests that the ship was probably used more for transport and less fishing, sailing with a smaller crew.

After the museum we stopped for a bite to eat at the shipyard’s cafe – New Nordic Viking Food as it was touted on the menu, so we thought we’d give it a crack.  A flatbread plate with a beer, some red wine and some mead… it was so good!
Beer-braised pork with crunchy crackling on flat bread with cabbage, grated carrot, pickled red onion, watercress and sea buckthorn salad with herbed crime fraiche dressing.

After lunch, we walked into Roskilde to see the famous Roskilde Cathedral.  Roskilde Cathedral is the first gothic cathedral to be built of brick – its success encouraged the brick gothic style throughout Northern Europe.  Originally constructed during the 12th to 13th centuries, the cathedral has many gothic and romanesque architectural features.  It was Zealand’s only cathedral until the early 20th century.

It’s beautiful twin spires dominate the skyline of the city of Roskilde. Towards the altar and the nave of the church. Pulpit, c.1610 AD. Gorgeous carved timber pews worn with age. Organ. Stalls leading towards the altar. I have no idea what this guy with the club is doing to that baby… but it could be a representation of the Slaughter of the Innocents. The magnificent altarpiece, c.1555 AD, was a gift from Christian IV of Denmark. The cathedral has been the primary burial site for Danish monarchs since the 15th century – to accommodate an increasing number of royals over the centuries, it has been extended and altered to contain a considerable number of burial chapels. Burial tomb of Margarethe I of Denmark. The crypt directly under the altar. Looking down on the crypts behind the altar from the choir balconies. Monument of Frederick II, in the Chapel of the Magi. Amusing tourist bus directly outside the cathedral!
Roskilde pedestrian shopping street – it’s a lovely quiet part of the city.  Roskilde Cathedral attracts barely 125,000 visitors each year and as such there is relatively little tourism hustle and bustle here, which makes a nice change from the Copenhagen CBD. Interesting juxtaposition of street art and period building techniques.After Roskilde, we head back to Copenhagen to rest our feets before finding somewhere funky and local to have dinner… Sadly, in our quest to avoid another Irish pub, (this area is just littered with them) we ended up at a Hard Rock Cafe !  😛

Copenhagen National Museum

Something I learned today that really defines how early period finds are able to contain so much context is that at a certain point, a single grave culture emerged – whereby an individual was interred independent of their family or neighbours with their own possessions, rather than scattered on larger spaces.

From the Stone Age onwards, Amber was collected on the coasts of Jutland. Cut into beads for hanging or sewing onto clothing.  Amber was very valuable and trafficked not only from the south to the north but circulated among the peoples of Europe from the areas around the Baltic or from the North Sea coast of Jutland.  Below, part of a 3.5kg find of worked amber. Curved swords sacrificed in a bog at Rorby, Western Zealand c.1550BC.  Made in Scandinavia, decorated with ship pictures.
Gilt spectacle shaped fibula with designs fo the Sun and the Moon. Harridslev, Funen 900-700BC. Horned helmets from the bog Vikso Mose at Ballerup, northern Zealand, c.900BC. Zealand decorative motifs, c.900BCEarly rock carving symbols depicting the journey of the sun and people dancing in the honour of the sun, Jaegersborg Dyrehave, 1100-700BC.
Distinctive Nordic wind instruments called ‘lur horns’.  Used for Bronze Age rituals 1200-700BC. Six swords found close together in a small bog at Astofte, northwestern Zealand 1500-1300BC. Large belt consisting of many small bronze rings and ornamental plates. Possible hornse harness.  From a bog find at Gerlev, northern Zealand 900-700BC. Four chains with ornamental plates, perhaps horse harness. From a passage grave in Frejlev Forest, Lolland.  900-700 BC Cult axes found near Hillerod, northern Zealand, 900-600 BC.The runestones were erected by the magnates of the period – male and female – in memory of family members, comrades, chieftains, and retainers to show the continuity of the clan and to ensure the rights of heirs.  The stones were usually raised in places of high visibility: beside roads, fjords.  They were originally all painted bright colours.

Asferg c. 1000AD Thorger Toke’s son raised this stone in memory of Mule his brother, a very good pegn. Glenstrup, c.1000AD
Thore raised this stone in memory of Gunnar, his father.Tarnborg, 11th century AD
Gud … tage sig af… brets sjael; han gjorde st(ene) Edvin (eller Gedwin)
God… take care of the soul of …bret, he made the stone for Edwin (or Gedwin). Tryggevaelde, c.10th century.
Ragnhild, Ulf’s sister, placed this stone and made this mound, and this ship (setting) in memory of her husband, Gunulf, a clamorous man, Naerve’s son.  Few will now be born better than him.
Sandby.  11th century AD.
Selve raised… in Spalklose in memeroy of Suser (his father and made this bridge in memroy of Thorgisl, his brother. Vordingborg, 9th century AD.
Thjodver (or Thjodvi) made in memory of Adils. Bregninge, 10th century AD.
Ase made this monument in memory of Toke and Toke Haklangsson’s son. Snoldelev, 8-9th century AD.
Gunvald’s stone, son of Roald, thuse (speaker? reciter?) in Sallov. Ega, c.1000AD
Alvkil and his sons raised this stone in memory of their kinsmen. Tirsted, 10th century AD.
Asrad and Hildvig raised this stone in memory of Frede, their kinsman.  And he was then thafainkuaiRa (terror of men?) and died in Svitejod (Sweden) and was fursifrikisiapi (the foremost Frigge’s host) and then all vikings…?  Not sure, runes are weird. Mr K for scale on that last one.

Large bronze neck rings, which are opened by turning a piece of the ring out with a hinge.  Many rings have traces of having been worn by people.  They were special ornaments belonging to prominent families as signs of rank.

The Dejbjerg Wagon. Preserved from the Dejbjerg Bog, it is equipped with a carriage body that is richly decorated with metal mountings and a drawbar with sheet bronze in On the edge of the carriage body are four Celtic male masks with inlaid enamel for hair and eyes.  Many rivets also have enamel inlay.   The Gundestrup Cauldron was found in 1891in a peat bog near Raevenmosen in Himmerland, Jutland.  The expensive cauldron appears to have been deliberately placed out in the bog as a valuable sacrifice to the powers above. The cauldron is covered in bas relief and engraved elephants, lions, and several gods that are in a decidedly foreign style that show the cauldron originated in remote areas to the south or south east.  Exactly where the cauldron was created is still open to debate.  It may have been a gift to a great chieftain or taken as war booty.  The cauldron may also have been used as a ritual vessel during drinking feasts. Reliquary.  Wooden casket clad with elk horn and gilt-bronze bands.  The design form imitates a Viking long house and was originally kept in the Cathedral in Cammin, Pomerania.Scandinavia, late 10th century. Grave finds from a women’s grave from Holmskov on Als – two tortoise brooches and a trefoil brooch.  10th century AD.
Grave finds from a man’s grave.  Hoby, Lolland.  c.10th century AD Grave finds from a woman’s grave shortly after 700AD from Snekkebjerg on Bornholm.  The large gilt brooch with its string of glass mosaic and rock crystal beads was worn by the woman as a fastener at the neck of a shawl.  There were also two arm rings and a pair of knives. Woman’s grave from c.400AD from Lihme in central Jutland.  Two fine silver gilt brooches held her costume together.  Also in the find was a string of glass and amber beads (in a semi-symmetrical arrangement). Neck ring.  Denmark’s largest gold treasure from the Viking Age, it was found in an area near gold workshops and weighs a whopping 1.8kg… the cost of this of neck ring would have been the same as 500 head of cattle. c.10th century AD. Ornaments from the 6th to 8th centuries AD.Ornaments and mountings from the 9th to 11th centuries AD. detail: Hoard find from Duesminde on Lolland from around 900 AD.  The linked silver rings come from central Russia.  These are payment rings, measured out in accordance with the Persian pound weight system. The find testifies to trade relations along the Russian rivers. Items from one of the largest silver hoards ever found in Rebild, Himmerland.  The hoard was buried in a piece of animal skin and contains 146 pieces of broken ornaments and bars, as well as an Arab coin.  The total weight is 5kgs.  The hoard includes objects of Nordic, Russian and Arabic origin.  Buried in the 10th century AD. More pleasing symmetrical bead arrangements.  10th century AD. Hoard find with 1.3kg of silver from Duesminde on Lolland.  Strap buckles and mountings for sword belts and riding harness made in the Frankish Kingdom in 820-870 AD.  Five mountings belonging to one sword belt are assembled.  Belt equipmentof this quality belonged to the Frankish aristocracy.  The hoard was buried in the middle of the 10th century.  The silver had a contemporary value of ten swords or 55 cows. Hoard fine from Hornelund near Varde brooches and an arm ring.  The brooches are decorated with filigree and granulations.  Their decoration with foliage and vine scrolls have their origins in Christian art.  The Norse heads on one of the brooches show that they made by a Danish goldsmith in the second half of the 10th century AD. Part of a silver hoard of 51 bars, rings, hack silver, and coins from Norreballe in Zealand.  The total weight of this hoard is over 4kgs.  The hoard also included Arab coins and was buried in the second half of the 10th century AD. Above & Below:  Hoard finds from Mandemark on Mon with gold arm rings, seven silver arm rings, two chains and two Thor’s Hammers.  The hoard was one of relatively few that contained both gold and silver.  Buried in the latter half of the 10th century.

Silver hoard from Terslev in Zealand with 6.6kgs of silver including 1,751 coins.  The hoard was also buried in the second half of the 10th century (seemed to be a lot of that going on at the time!). Objects include: neck and arm rings, chains with toiletry articles and costume ornaments.  There is also a drinking service with cups and a large bowl which may have been of Persian origin. Beads. c.5th century AD. Neck ring form Hannenov on Falster with brazed on decoration with filigree and small animal figures 5th century. Finger rings from the 2nd – 4th century AD from various find spots. Hoard find from Brangstrup on Funen, from the latter half of the 4th century.  The pendants are of southeastern European origin. Above & detail Below:  Finger rings from the 1st to 6th centuries from various find spots.  The use of the finger ring was taken over from the Romans. A few of these rings were made in the Roman Empire. Hoard find with women’s jewelry from Klithuse in north Jutland. c.500 AD. Scabbard mountings of gold from various find spots – c.5th-6th centuries AD. Above & detail Below:  Bracteates and pendants from a bog find at Darum in western Jutland, 6th century AD. Broken brooch, bracteates, and beads, from a bog at Agerskov in western Jutland. 6th century AD. These two Golden Horns are from c.400 AD.  The decorations include both Nordic and Roman motifs.  The long horn was found in 1639 at Gallehus near Mogeltonder in southern Jutland.  A few meters away, in 1734, the shortest horn was found with the runic inscription, “I Laegaest, son of Holt, made the horn”.  Tragically, both horns were stolen and melted down in 1902.  The curved copies here, are from 1861 and are possibly too large but they presumably do show the proper shape, while the twisted set from the 1970s has the right shape.  Top – 1970 reproductions; bottom – 1861 reproductions.Pictures of the 4thC Golden Horns were preserved in the work of antiquarian Ole Worm that was published in 1641, and in a later publication by J.R. Paulli in 1734 (copy above).  On the basis of these pictures, King Frederick VII had the pair of reconstructions made in 1861. Bracteates with stylized animal figures from various find spots. Neckring and bracteates from Hesselager (no date noted). Hoard find from Elsehoved with coin pendants, a bar and a finger ring.  First half of the 6th century AD. Above & Below: Undisturbed grave finds to demonstrate how archaeologists extrapolate context, period use, and subsequent display in accordance with how objects are found. The famous Jelling cup.  Silver with niello inlay and gilding.  the animal motifs on the cup are in the Jelling style.  From the burial chamber at the North Mound, Jelling.Design unwrapped:

The Medieval Galleries were not as well patronized, nor so well organized, nor so well labeled.  It seems people here are far more interested in their prehistory, dark ages and iron ages history.

Altarpiece triptych made in North Germany, from the former Hospital-Church of the Holy Spirit in Faborg, c.1511 AD. Detail: Altar frontal, Boeslunde Church, Sjaelland, c.1525 AD. Detail: Brass box for relics from an altar table, Skovby Church, Fyn, 15th C. Altarpiece with a painting of the Holy Family. Kneeling person in the foreground was a late addition to the central painting, probably Bo Madsen, the priest who commissioned the piece.  The original church of the triptych is unknown.  Last used Omo Church, Storebaelt, c.1578 AD.

Full armour for horse and man.  The armour is a masterpiece made in a workshop in Innsbruck Austria.  The date 1545 is engraved on the breastplate under a cruicifx. 

Tapestries in the Medieval gallery – no plaque could be found denoting provenance.  :/ Dower chests in the Renaissance style, decorated with coats of arms, masks and portrait medallions.  Brides assembled large trousseau before marriage, a wealthy bride would bring many dower chests with her when joining her new husband’s manor. All c.1500s AD.

Crossbow with intact string and sights.  Germany c.17th century.  Small crossbow of steel, Germany. c.17th century. Pair of wheel lock pistols, Germany c.1600 AD. Powder horns.
A. Gilded brass, with a key for a wheel-lock gun in its base. Decoration from Roman legend. 16thC
B. Gilded brass and velvet on wood. Subject is Diana, Goddess of hunting, the back depicts a battle scene. 1600-1650.
C. Gilded brass and velvet on wood.  Subject is the hunting of a lion.  c.1600-1650 AD. D. Antler. Subject is a knight and his wife kneeling by the cross. 16thC.
E. Antler. Subject is a man and woman 16thC. Earth find from Copenhagen.
F. Horn. Three keys for wheel-lock guns are placed on the iron mounting. 16thC.
Figures of eight saints, Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, Catherine, Barbara, Mary Magdalene, and Dorothea.  Embroidered on linen with silk and metal threads.  Split stitch, shaded satin stitch and couching).  Figures probably originate from embroidered bands on a cope.
St Knud’s Church, Odense.

Silk embroidered linen cloth.  Probably intended as a chalice veil, but the 18thC saw it repurposed to a christening robe sewn together from several similar smaller cloths.  Design shows the hunting of a unicorn (Annunciation motif).  Possibly Scandinavian or northern German c.1550.  Fine line tabby, embroidery with floss, s-plyed silk, thread of silk spun round linen core; split stitch, couching).  Granlose Paris, north-west Zealand.

Embroidered pillow case showing Christ in the house of Mary and Martha encircled by the words from Luke 10:42: “Mary hath chose that good part…”  Linen; tent stitch, double running stitch, stem stitch in s-spun silk, silver thread, and human hair.  Framing the centre motif are 32 coats of arms with the initials of the ancestors Ove Gedde and his wife Dorthe Urne.  Sperstrup Manor, Jorlunde Parish, north Zealand.
Brides crown from typical Scandinavian Medieval household. SHOEMAKERS:  Wooden lasts from earthfinds in Copenhagen.  Leather shoes and slippers for adults and children c.16th-17thC, also from Copenhagen.  Tools used by shoemakers (knife with half moon blade, tongs for stretching leather over lasts, smoothers to smooth seams). BUILDERS:  Painters, masons, carpenters, smiths and wood carvers.  Various items: paint pots, paint brushes, axes, trowels, wood carving iron, soldering irons, compasses, gimlet, tongs, pincers, saws, hammers, anvil, chisels, etc. BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS:  Copperplated used for printing the frontispiece of King Christian IV’s Bible in 1647.  Book binders tools from Copenhagen c.1600.
Until 1835, these two books, bound in pigskin were chained to their place in the library of Our Lady’s Church in Kalunborg.  The larger book contains a text by Calvin, Geneva, 1551 AD.  and the smaller book contains a text by Henricus Mollerus, Wittenberg, 1573 AD. Stoneware from the traditional potteries on the Rhine reached Denmark in vast numbers.  Hard fired ceramics were richly ornamented and used as decorations in many Danish homes.  Faience was imported to Denmark from the Netherlands and North Germany but was relatively uncommon.
Faience from 1600-1650 includes a Portuguese jar, with a Danish owner’s name and the date 1624. Stoneware from various production sites.  Dark jug with rings from Dreihausen in Hessan (17thC).  Blue glazed bottle with pewter lid from Raeran (17thC). Polychromatic glazed jug from Saxony with lid (c.1679).  “Terra-sigiliata” jug from Gabel in Bohemia (c.1649).  Stoneware from Westerwald, 17th C, salt glazed with blue paint.  Pieces may be from Raeren c. 1580s. Recreation of a Medieval room using extant furniture and household objects.
Caps of coast felt with sewn up frayed ends imitating a pile of fur caps.
High crowned knitted hat with double brims, originally fulled to resemble felt hats. Seaman’s mittens with two thumbs, knitted in stocking stitch (from Iceland).  Gloves a with cuffs striped as imitation fur.  Burial caps of silk brocade.  Satin border with pearl embroidery and silk and silver threads. c 1624.

Iron bound chest, both the inside of the chest and its lid are divided in two and arranged so that two keys (presumably kept by different persons) had to be used so the chest could be unlocked.  Ferring Church, Jylland, 15th century. Floor tiles from church floors with decorative patterns and lead glazing.   Body of a spherical pot, concealed c.1230 AD, containing almost 16,000 coins. Bronze cauldrons, made in Germany, c.15th century. Silver spoons, Germany c.15th century. Pewter jugs, norhter Germany, c.15th century.  Recent excavations have established that there were pewterers working in Goltand during this period making items much in this style. Locks and keys, Scandinavian, 15th century. Crossbow.  Likely drawn up by a belt hook c.1450.
Crossbow arrows or quarrels for various types of bird and big game hunting. c.1500. Parts of the crossbow trigger mechanism with space for the bowstring and slide bar with a groove for the quarrel. Early in the 14th century, daggers became popular weapons and were used in the art of fencing as a lefthand weapon.  Daggers were known as “misericordia” because they were used to administer death blows when an armoured knight was knocked down.
Typical Danish daggers from the 14th century – kidney or bollocks daggers.  Handles of root wood and brass mountings. Spurs from a similar time period. Collection of swords from the 14th to 15th centuries.

Various jewellery items and ornaments 15th century Scandinavian. Drinking horn with gilded silver rim mount and an original enameled escutcheon depicting an abbot.   Probably from Soro Monastery, c.1400. Carving knives:
Handle of rock crystal.  Inscription on the silver mount reads:  Ave Maria Gratia Plena.  Royal Art Museum, c.1450-1500.
Silver spoons, Germany c.1500s. Wine ewer from Paris.  Translucid enamels cover the delicately engraved reliefs.  Motif depicts the story of the prodigal son. Fantastical beasts are also depicted as well as games such as Blind Mans Bluff.  Brought back from the war against the Ditmarshes by Frederick II in 1550.  c.1310-1320 AD. Above & Below: Chalices presumably executed in Paris.  Dated on the edge as 1586 to the Church of St Marie in Elsinor. Reliquary.  Christ with the Evangelists.  c.1200 AD. Largest reliquary in the collection.  One one side, Three Magi above the Adoration of the Magi on their way to Herod.  Other side, the Flight into Egypt.  c.1200-1250.  Believed to be from Soro Abbey. Reliquary.  On one side of the roof is a representation of the Adoration of hte Magi, the casket is the oldest example of Limoges enamel work in the collection and the artistic quality is exceptional.  c.1175 AD.  Provenance unknown. Ewers with spout.  Northern German or Danish.  14th C  Toline Church in north Jutland. Renaissance style jewellery – c.15thC to 16thC. And last one – this one is for Leofric.

Now after all that… I am really quite tired!

Hei from Norway

Oslo sits at the northernmost end of the rather long and very pretty, Oslofjord in south-east Norway, and is Scandinavia’s oldest capital city. According to the sagas recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries, it was founded in 1050AD by the famous Viking, King Harald Hardrada, but is now a bustling modern city of roughly 640,000 people.  The city sprung up from the Viking’s need for a center for trade and shipbuilding, and while there was a very large settlement here during that period, there is little signs of the Viking settlement here now.

Oslo City Hall. There are so many things to see in Oslo, and we have relatively little time, that we have had to be selective about what we were going to see.  We started off the morning heading to Vigeland park, and after getting ever so slightly lost, we discovered a strikingly designed 80 hectare park with five distinctive formal garden spaces.  The park showcasing over 200 sculptures created by renowned sculptor, Gustav Vigeland between 1924 and 1943… while the park itself is often referred to ‘Vigeland Park’, the term is actually a misnomer for the world’s largest sculptural installation from a single artist within Frogner Park.  The figurative sculptures depict the various stages and elements of the human life cycle, from birth to death to everything in between. 

The Monolith at the center of the park. After checking out the sculpture park, we made our way to the Vikingskipene – the Viking Ship museum which contains the best preserved Viking ships in the world.  There are three ships in the museum, the Oseberg ship, the Gokstad ship and the Tune ship.  The Vikings had a material view of life after death and their grave and burial sites showed that they believed people’s position and possessions carried on after this life into an afterlife.  These three ships were used at sea for several years and finally brought ashore to be used as burial tombs.  The deceased were laid in the ships and amply provided for with clothing, food, drink, items of everyday use, art objects, and jewellery, and weapons.  Animals, such as horses, dogs, peacocks, and goshawks were also found in the burial mounds having been sacrificed to follow the deceased into the afterlife.  The ships were then thoroughly buried with large amounts of soil and peat, which helped considerably in preserving them.

The Oseberg ship, built around 820AD, is about 21.5m long and 5m wide.  There are oar holes for 15 people on each side, so with a helmsman and a lookout, there would have been a crew of about 32 or so people.  Built first, but discovered last, the Oseberg ship was excavated in 1904 and took three months to complete.  Two wealthy women were buried in the Oseberg ship, and they were joined by a multitude of burial girls – personal items such as clothing, shoes, combs, ship equipment, kitchen utensils, farm equipment, large decorative sleds, a huge cart, carved animal heads, five beds and two tents … along with the fifteen horses, six dogs and two cows that had been sacrificed indicated just how important these two women were.  The ship itself could be both sailed and rowed and it is a particularly grand and decorative ship.  The owner would have spent considerable resources in having the ship made, and was definitely an item associated with the upper classes.

Ceremonial cart/wagon from the Oseberg find.

Of the two short (153cm tall) women buried in the Oseberg ship, the older was 70-80 years old when she died, very possibly of cancer (she had osteoporosis, a lumbar fractures, two fused neck vertebrae, and a knee injury which would have caused her great pain in her later years as well as a stoop and a limp when she walked).  The other, younger woman, in her 50s, had healthy teeth with little wear indicating a good diet and good hygiene habits; she had a broken collarbone some weeks before her death, but there is no evidence to indicate this was the cause of her death.  Archaeologists have been unable to determine who the ‘main person’ in the grave was.

Decorative tent timbers: One of several carved animal heads found in the Oseberg grave – origin and purpose for which remains unknown. Oseberg chest. Very odd enameled mount on a bucket handle. Bucket found in the Oseberg grave, but determined to be of Irish origin.  I’m buggered if that doesn’t look like actual heraldry on something that was buried c.820AD.

The Gokstad ship, built c.890AD, is approximately 23.5m in length and 5.2m wide, with 16 slots for oars down each side.   So it’s crew would have been at least 34 people. It was unearthed in 1880 and was the burial tomb of a very rich and powerful man.  This is evident in that the deceased was accompanied by many lavish burial gifts.  His weapons and jewellery were gone, very likely the work of grave robbers in the Viking age, but they did not take everything.  Left behind were playing pieces made of horn, fish hooks, harness fittings for horses, gilded items of bronze and lead, kitchen utensils, six beds, one tent a sled and the remains of 12 horses, six dogs, two hawks and two peacocks.  Three smaller boats were also buried with the Gokstad ship for the use of the deceased in the afterlife.  

What is known about the Gokstad man is that he was 181-183cm tall and powerfully built – making him a large man for that period.  He was in his 40s, and marks on his skeleton show that he was killed battle.  The spectacular funeral he had, demonstrates that he was of high status and either a powerful political ruler or perhaps from a ‘royal’ family.  The peacocks in the tomb are quite the oddity, indicating that he was a man with considerable international connections – the birds may have been a gift from another ruler or brought home as trophies from a war expedition. The Gokstad ship could be sailed or rowed and was suitable for trade journeys, discovery voyages as well as Viking raids.  64 shields were found attached to the railing of the ship, though of these mainly only the shield bosses remain.

The Tune ship, which was built in 910AD, is somewhat smaller, at roughly 19m long and a little over 4m wide.  It has only 12 oar holes down either side and possibly would have gotten away with a crew as small as 24-26 people.  The Tune ship was excavated in 1867 and was the first Viking ship discovered in modern times, creating quite a stir in archeological circles.  The mount was unusually large – 80m x 4m making it one of the largest burial mounds ever found.  Unlike the Gokstad ship, the Tune ship was a smaller, faster, ocean-going vessel which was suitable for moving people rapidly which was an important characteristic of a Viking warship.  It is probable that the tomb was that of an important man of high rank, but it is also possible that this burial mound had been plundered in period, as the only items of the burial gifts remained.  Found in the ship was: the bones of three horses, some weapons (a sword grip, two spearheads, a shield boss, and some chain mail remains).  Other than that a dice, two small gems, a saddle remnant and some cloth remnants are all that was found in this grave.

After the excitement of the Vikingskiphuset (we got there just at the right time while people were all busy having lunch, but it got very busy as we were leaving), we decided to swing by the open-air Norsk Folkemuseum (Norwegian Museum of Cultural History), primarily to see the only surviving wooden stave church in Oslo. 

Dendrochronologically dated to the approximately 1157-1212AD, the Gol Stave Church (Gol stavkyrkje) is was originally located in the city of Gol, Hallingdal, Norway.

The city of Gol in Hallingdal decided to replace their dilapidated church in 1880.  Thankfully, it was saved from destruction by King Oscar II who funded its relocation and restoration to its present location – officially, it is still the nominal property of the reigning monarch today. The Gol Stave Church is now part of the collection at the open-air museum in Oslo. Ironically, in 1980 the people of Gol in Hallingdal, decided to build a replica of this self-same stave church, that they wanted to destroy 100 years earlier to be used as a major tourist attraction – but if you go to Gol, you will see only the replica, not the original early 13th century church, which is here in Oslo.

The interior of the church is cool and dark, smells wonderfully of timber and is lavishly painted with early Christian iconography.

The cloisered balconies? verandahs? that surrounded the church allow you to walk the entire perimeter of the church without going outside. The carved entry doors to the stave church.

We also saw a number of other period buildings at the Norsk Folkemuseum mainly some farm buildings, a weavers workshop and a merchant’s home.

After admiring the church, we made our way back to the CBD to find the Museum of Cultural History  – where, my research indicated, the bulk of Norway’s Medieval and Viking artefacts are housed.  The museum’s collection had been built up over more than two centuries and includes over 1.5million objects (most of which are not on display of course).  The collection includes medieval church art, coins, swords, household items, jewellery, some textiles (impossible to photograph), wood panels, furniture and all good things.

You enter through the Medieval exhibition which features famous the famous painted ceiling from the Al stave church – also from Hallingdal c.1250AD, and reflect very heavily typical Christian iconography of the Middle Ages… the Creation, the Nativity, the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.  Unfortunately for foreign tourists, many, if not most, of the artefacts have plaques with little to no English on them, and the bookshop was closed on Saturday afternoon, so I was disappointed at how little information I was able to glean on each item – so, you will have to make of them what you will, and attempt to fill in the gaps where I have been unable to place any useful provenance.

Stave church doors depicting the story of Sigurd, the Dragon Killer. Faberg Church, Gudbrandsdal, Oppland, late 12th century.  Horse collar, unknown provenance, c.1250-1300AD. Sheild, 14thC bearing Runic inscription: “Gunnar made me, Helge owns me.” Drinking horn, c.1300 with secondary mounts. Horn appears to be of a native Norwegian breed of cattle. Drinking horn, horn and gilt silver. 15th century, Elingard, Onsey, Ostford.
Latin inscription: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
Chair, Tydol church, Osterdolen, Hedmark. c.1150-1200. Baptismal font, Vale church, Westfold, c.1210-30. Aquamanile (knight), Helgeland, Nordland, c.1300.  Brass. Northern Germany.

Through the Medieval exhibition is the Viking Exhibition rooms which introduce visitors to Viking life from the late 700s to the mid-1000sAD, with particular regard to politics, religion, social practice and technology of the period… which is awesome except for the continued lack of multi-lingual signage.  :/

Shield bosses and horses bridles. Iron age period c.9th -11thC  More lovely beads in predominantly matching colour schemes.  Brooches, beads, and bracelet below – 10thC.
Shaman’s drum hammer.  Carved bone. 11th century, Nordset, Rendalen, Hedmark. More lovely matching and symmetrical bead sets… I can’t express how pleased I am to find now three sets of beads, across Sweden and Norway, that are not a completely psychotic arrangement of chaotic colour, type and size.  The order inherent in some of these bead sets is reassuring.

Beads, Hovland, Larvik, Vestfold, Viking Age (not very specific, but we can take that to mean c.700-1100AD 9th C tortoise broach and Verbrannte Leiche.  😀  More 9th century tortoise brooches. This amazing brooch from Hovland, Larvik, Vestfold, shows beautifully braided silver wire wound in and around the holes in the design of the brooch.  I tried to photograph the underside but without success.  9th century, and appears to be very ususual. Trefoil brooches. 9th-10th century.

Male jarl grave find from Funde aus Mannergrab.  Gjermundbu, Ringerkike, Buskerud, 10th century: Contains:  rattles, sickles, rasp, bell, knife, file, horse-bits, stirrups, spurs, helm, chain mail shirt, axe, 2 dice, 3 gaming pieces, sword, spear, fire-steel, spear, shield boss, axe, chape, cauldron, crampons, chain for cauldron. Female grave find from Ryem, Vikna, Nord-Trondelag, 10th century. Brooches, and beads.  Those beads were enromous… my thumb included for scale.  Iron age tools.  Used for ship building.
Chisel set used for timber work, ship building… possibly for rune stone carving as well. Bowls carved using chisels. Viking sword pommels – Vaga kirke, Vaga, Oppland.  9th century. Flattening board and flattening stones. Spinning whorls. Neck band. Viking shield from Oseberg grave.

Sword mounts. Belt mounts.  And on the way out – back to the chaos.After this we went back to town, did a bit of proper touristing… you know, cruised the souvenir shops, stopped for a pint at the Dr Jeckyll pub, walked along the waterfront and checked out the multi-cultural festival being held in Oslo’s town centre.  From there it was back to the ship!  🙂