If you love boats and anything do with boat making, then the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark should be on your bucket list.
The museum not only has a permanent exhibition of five original Viking ships excavated from the depths of Roskilde Fjord but also has master craftsmen that you can watch building replica Viking ships using ancient skills kept alive in far flung places such as the Faroe Islands.
Watching them work was fascinating and reminded us of watching boat builders in Indonesia building beautiful vessels with similar hand tools and skills developed over many generations.
Every summer, a handful of the replica boats are launched at Roskilde for extended sea voyages to accumulate more knowledge about the seafaring techniques and conditions of the Vikings.
The five Viking ships on display in the museum were deliberately sunk around 1070 to protect Roskilde from enemy attack by blocking the most important sea route into the port.
When recovering the ships it was discovered that they were all of a different type, ranging from cargo ships to ships of war.
We really enjoyed the informative commentary given by our guide as we walked around the exhibition and we learnt a lot!
For example, I’m sure other people know this already but I found out for the first time where the expression “starboard” came from. It was originally “steerboard” and comes from the steering blade that was fitted on the right hand side of the vessel.
We also learnt that all the planks were split rather than sawn although they had the technology to use pit saws. Being split meant the planks were more flexible and enabled the vessels to flex and bend in rough weather. It also meant the the craftsmen could make these amazing boats with wonderful lines.
The first of the five excavated vessels we saw was a sea going cargo boat made out of pine but repaired with oak and Linden wood that carried a crew of around seven. A reconstruction of this boat took 20,000 man hours (i.e. one man seven years of work) to complete.
Next there was an oak sea going warship that carried a lot of men (possibly up to 80) but had little room for supplies. This one was made from recycled timber from even older ships. Tests show that the boat was made in Dublin, Ireland and a replica built at Roskilde was sailed to Dublin in 2007 and a year later it returned again to Roskilde.
The third ship was an ocean going cargo ship made from Norwegian pine which had two decks but no cabin. It could carry 25 tons of goods such as walrus tusks, pelts, ropes etc.
The archeologists think the fourth vessel was a fishing boat and the fifth which is described as “the Crown Jewel” of the boats, has been identified as a warship which was capable of carrying 100 oarsmen and sailing at 15 knots under sail.
We spent many happy hours at the museum and I think we both would have spent days there if other places hadn’t been calling our names.
Before visiting Roskilde we had travelled from Helsingør to a beautiful spot in some woods not far from the Klampenborg deer park, where we stayed the night.
The following day we spent some time cycling through the park (its proper name is Jægersborg Dyrehave) where we admired the many ancient oak trees and spotted lots of fallow and red deer.
There was also a hunting lodge (the Hermitage) built in 1734 for Christian VI of Denmark in order to host royal banquets during royal hunts in Dyrehaven.
Before leaving this beautiful park we had a great lunch at a restaurant in the historic Peter Lieps Hus.
After eating we drove onto Copenhagen which looked lovely and very interesting. Unfortunately, the camper van site that we had picked out to stay in had vanished and was now a building site so we were forced to continue on to a small site in Dragor on the island of Amager only 12 kilometres from Copenhagen.
Before heading for Roskilde we wandered through the old part of Dragor – a compact, picturesque maze of alleys with yellow-painted houses, red roofs, and cobblestone streets built in the traditional Danish style. Many of these buildings were hundreds of years old.
It was fascinating to see one of the houses being rethatched and we were very happy to see these traditional crafts, as well as the ancient boat building skills at Roskilde, being kept alive.