It was an unusually warm day (even the Danes were complaining) in September that I decided to hop on the Copenhagen metro and spend the day at the Viking Museum and stroll around the quaint town of Roskilde. A purchase of a 24-hour metro pass gave me unlimited riding privileges that included Roskilde as well as any other place that I might want to visit.
I walked over to the central train station and boarded a sleek modern train car with a second story viewing area. Due to the fact that most of Denmark is almost pancake-flat a seat on the train will reveal a first-rate view. The train starts out below ground-level and runs through a plethora of graffiti-covered concrete walls, but after a while, the tracks break ground level, where one the concrete view is replaced by the lush green Danish countryside.
Soon a noted landmark appears on the western horizon. It is the Roskilde Cathedral a large building that can also be easily viewed from the air. Soon the train arrives at the town of Roskilde and a small crowd exits the line of cars and heads into the town. I walk over to the famous Cathedral, where a large number of Danish kings and queens (38 all total) are entombed, then proceed through a fascinating assemblage of half-timbered houses to a small city park with a well-marked paved trail that takes be down to the water’s edge and the Viking Museum, another of this town’s big attractions.
There is no better place to house a tribute to Denmark’s mad marauders than this historic bay that flows out to the North Sea, for a once thriving Viking community lived on these very same shores. Viking derives from the three-letter root, vik which simply means bay. The complete word, Viking, refers to the people, “of the bay”, nothing else. Even though the inlet, where the museum is located, is locally known as the Roskilde Fjord, the famous body of water is situated in flat country and marshland, not the customary mountains that fjords are usually associated with.
In the old days Vikings use to live here at the edge of the water. From this strategic location they would launch their warships and cargo ships depending on the nature of the voyage. In the year 1072 five ships were deliberately sunk at the entrance to the harbor to prevent an enemy attack. In 1962 the ships were excavated and preserved, thus began the Viking Museum.
Modern-day travelers can come and look at the remnants of the old ships and view displays and watch films that help describe the legacy of these notorious warriors that once traveled the high seas from Newfoundland to Constantinople (Mikligarðr in Old Norse). In their heyday, their ships and navigation techniques were unsurpassed, which helped make them the terror of the neighborhood.
Today several remnants of Viking ship hulls are available for viewing by the general public. The popular museum does a good job of providing information about the many types of watercraft that were made by the ancient shipbuilders. Besides the infamous warships, several different types of cargo vehicles are on display. Sometimes it is hard to fathom how these people traveled across the North Atlantic in such craft and even brought livestock with them.
Across the street from the museum is a fast food joint called the Viking Pizza and Grill, which makes a nice way to finish off the day. They serve soft ice cream and American style food such as hamburgers and pizza, undoubtedly culinary concepts brought back from the New World by the enterprising voyageurs.
However, Roskilde’s most popular event has almost nothing to do with Vikings and occurs only once a year in early July. It is called the Roskilde Rock Festival, and it attracts music fans from all over Europe. Only the festival at Glastonberry is bigger. This popular event also features jazz, folk, and blues, so unless you like mobs of people you might want to avoid the first week of July. No matter when you go Roskilde has a lot to offer most any traveler.
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