Visiting the Viking Ship Museum
Continuing on from my last post about the Norwegian Folk Museum, I spent another part of the same day seeing one of the top places I'd been eyeing in Oslo - the Viking Ship Museum.
There's a little part of me that's very intrigued by Viking history and culture. Part of it's because there's so much that we still don't know about them, and what we do know is kind of fascinating. Viking mythology and culture is so interesting, and the sagas from that time period make for some interesting reading.
I've always wanted to see a Viking ship in person, and being able to visit the most intact one ever excavated was a truly awesome experience. I've seen the pictures and read the facts a thousand times, but there's truly nothing like really seeing it in person. The Oseberg ship is everything you picture when you think of a Viking ship. Even though it wasn't a war ship and was most likely something of a cruising ship or just for the burial (of two women, no less), it still conjures up images of Scandinavian warriors crossing oceans and baring their shields and weapons while raiding and striking fear into the rest of Europe.
The Oseberg ship is waaaayyy bigger than you might expect (see above for human scale comparison) and the carved details are extraordinary. I could probably spend a good hour or more just looking at all the tiny little details and learning about what they all mean. The Oseberg ship is unique because it was discovered as a completely intact burial, which provided a lot of new insights into Viking culture and traditions. The craftsmanship on the ship speaks volumes about just how sophisticated and talented the Vikings really were.
They're often painted as unruly, violent and wild barbarians, but the Vikings actually had a pretty sophisticated belief and cultural system. Many of the trade routes and cities they established still exist and are used today, so they must've known what they were doing on some level.
The Viking Ship museum houses three ship remains in all. The other two are the Gokstad and Tune ships.
The Gokstad ship is also an incredible thing to behold. It's considered to be the world's best preserved Viking ship, and was also discovered as a burial mound. Funnily enough, there had been a legend in this town about this mound of land having been used as a Viking burial. If it hadn't been for two bored teenage boys back in the late 19th century who wanted to discover if the legend as true, the ship may not have been excavated or found in such excellent condition.
The Tune ship is cool because it's actually the first excavated Viking ship. There's really not much of it left, but you can see the remnants of something that was once a great and powerful vessel.
To get a peek into Viking life and culture, the Viking Ship Museum is a pretty fantastic place to go. Whether you know pretty much nothing about the pagan society, or if you're something of a fanatic like myself, it serves as an amazing experience to both groups. There are also some really amazingly preserved Viking carvings and tools you can learn about as well.
I hear they're planning on rebuilding the museum, so it would be fun to visit the new one and see what changes, if any, to the exhibits and content have been made.