When many of us think of Norsemen or Vikings thoughts come to our minds of fearless warriors from Scandinavia in their decorated dragon long boats , crashing through the cold Northern sea waters to fall on settlements, monasteries, and even Paris, France, to conquer and gain booty.
Who says you can't mix a little business with a whole lot of pleasure? In Denmark that was an an easy proposition for me to do. In the 1980s I spent some time with friends on Copenhagen's island of Zealand, the town of Roskilde in particular.
This was fortunate as concerns any telling of Norsemen, as in 1962 five Viking ships were discovered in the Skuldelev harbour next to Roskilde. They had been purposely sunk over a thousand years ago to block access to Roskilde's fjord. So long a period in the mud had left these scuttled boats in decent condition for future generations to view and wonder on..
The Danish people are in my opinion among the world's finest in so many ways that a mere article can scarce describe them all. I decided to spend one week with the friends and then travel on to spots like Odense (of Hans Christian Anderson fame, for one thing) and specifically, Denmark's oldest town, Ribe, on Denmark's western North Sea coast.
An Odense and Iron Age Denmark stop on
the way to Historic Ribe
On arriving next on the peninsula of Jutland, not far from destination Ribe, there was this most interesting Iron Age reconstructed village - however, welcome reader, I'm not sure this village was on Jutland as it could have been near Odense, before the Jutland peninsula. In any case, the goat head on a sharpened spike of wood looks out over some very pretty Danish countryside. The lady reenactor said the village and house she was in were from around 2,000 years ago. She was very dedicated and knowledgeable about the era and its ways and implements. Those are bone pins holding her shawl and sleeves together by the way. Speaking of ways, it's time for our ride into Ribe now.
Historic downtown Ribe
The Norsemen were the last Europeans to accept Catholicism from Aachen emperors and/or Rome, too. There is a resurgence of the old beliefs, or at least an interest in them at the present time in places like Europe and North America. With respect, but with some fun as well; Thor, Odin, Freya, and the other Scandinavian gods must surely be pleased with these developments, one might imagine. Some serious researchers are even suggesting nowadays that there may be something more to these gods than mere myths or allegory.
If so it pre-dates the appearance in the area by permanent European settlers by almost 500 hundred years. There are other possible examples of evidence about Vikings in Oklahoma, and writer/friend Randy Godwin may seem to solve a very intriguing question about an historical happening that occurred among the Native Americans in these areas, around this time, in the recent comments section of this story.
What reasons brought the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Vikings into world history was the seaborne attack on the Church of St Cuthbert on the islet of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, England. Those reasons were many: One being the emergence around this time of elites whose royal dynasties made the advancement of other men increasingly hard to come by. Another cause may have been over-fishing by the Scandinavians beginning around the 5th century or so. Hence, these men's eventual embarking on dangerous sea journeys to find riches and the sustenance of the bountiful seas once again.
Many of course stayed in the conquered parts of northern England, Scotland, and Normandy, France. The city of York, England's Viking archaeological finds are simply amazing. Of course these sea voyagers also colonized places like Iceland, and less permanently ( know believed because of climate change) Greenland and North America's Newfoundland, initially called Vinland by the voyagers.
At the risk of admitting some naughtiness, on waking the first morning, I noticed on looking out the window to across the street, a young and attractive woman, maybe on the second floor of the building she was in, outside her room on the balcony. She was stark naked, walking about, talking on the telephone. This was a sight you just didn't see often in America (at least not where I came from) and I innocently admired the lady's charms until her internal radar zeroed in on me and she looked up, saw the gazer, and then just sauntered on back inside.
To right is a picture of Danish school students doing some cleaning of the old buildings with toothbrushes. Obviously done for fun or perhaps a dare, it shows the spirit of the Danish people. They're good sports and like to have fun and laugh. Ribe was a great enjoyment to walk around that day. I noticed many languages on this mission of discovery and it's certainly no surprise. Yes, Ribe is a must see for any visit to Denmark my friends. I could hardly wait for the fall of night and what it might bring.
It was a great time we had talking about things. I don't believe they'd ever met a young American male before and had a lot of questions about the U.S. at the time. Reagan and some of the American government's policies were not a fave with them, that's for sure. The blonde young lady talked more than her red-headed friend who mainly just smiled despite some missing front teeth, and, it didn't take me long to discover something rather remarkable about her more engaging companion.
At some point, almost from the start, really, I noticed she looked very similar to a young woman I knew back in Carolina with the surname of Jackson. As the conversations continued I also noticed, and was amazed a bit, to discover her personality was very much like the Carolinian friends too. They say we all have a doppelganger somewhere in the world and that night convinced me of it!
Around ten o'clock or so the tour began and to be truthful about it the Carlsburgs had done their job a little too well, so I got to talking to some folks and can't remember all the details of the walk, but it was a lot of fun and interesting nonetheless. The night watchman guide did a lot of singing which I forgot what for until looking it up. He was announcing bedtime for Ribe's folk. Ah, the folly's of youth! Anyway, there were a good many well-preserved historical places and buildings. We probably saw the well known old town hall, which according to wiki was erected in 1496, obviously surviving the 16th century fire, and bought by the city for use as the town hall in the early 18th century.
In conclusion to this brief trip through some of lower Denmark and introducing you to some of those friends, let me say that I fell in eternal love with the people of this remarkable nation, some of the brightest and friendliest in the world. And they even liked Americans! I do hope and pray they still do. Time may separate friends in a physical sense, but what's felt deep down and in the memory, lasts forever if one is fortunate enough to always keep the latter intact, and the heart will hopefully take care of itself in the grand plan of the Universe.
And to end this article perhaps an old saying from "the happiest people on earth", known to the Danes by heart, is fitting:
Hvad udad tabes, skal indad vindes. ( What was lost without will be found within.)