Thousands of years after the ice age thawed, the Vikings developed extraordinary sailing skills. Sure they had a fondness for jewelry and swords, had a weakness for foreign women, and over stayed their welcome in Scotland and Ireland, but even their worst enemies wouldn’t deny that their brilliant ship building and nautical know-how got them all the way to North America 500 years before Columbus.
The Viking’s descendants inherited that same skill-set and went on to build great clipper ships, many of which served the Swedish East India Company in the 1700’s.
Here in Trollhätten film studios, our big entertainment is watching huge ships manoeuver through the small locks on Trollhätte Canal. The canal system was launched in 1800 to create a continuous waterway cutting across Sweden’s waist. The idea was that the Swedish Navy could defend Gothenburg on the North Sea, then turn around 180 degrees, and sail east to defend Stockholm on the Baltic Sea. It took 58,000 men (plied with gallons of aquavit) and over 120 years to complete the route. Construction finished just in time to be eclipsed by the more efficient, speedy railroad system!
Click on this dramatic video of a Norwegian cargo ship powering through the canal.
Sailing reminds me of fish, and fish reminds me that whales (not a fish) who lose their way among Sweden’s plentiful islands end up in the Natural History Museum. One of those poor creatures was turned into a cafe, but after some protests, the chairs and tables were removed.
The Natural History Museum in Gothenburg is the recipient of Dr. Carl Linnaeus’ (1707-1778) legacy. He was the great Swedish botanist and father of Taxonomy – that’s the system for naming, ranking and classifying organisms, not taxidermy, which is the art of stuffing everything. Carl must have been a great teacher because he inspired his students at Uppsala University to risk their lives on great clipper ships for exotic exploration voyages. One of his students, Daniel Solander, was the naturalist on Captain Cook’s 1st voyage around the world, another was on the 2nd voyage. Others went to Japan as well as North and South America.
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Bronze age Scandinavians ate wild berries, wild mushrooms, reindeer, sour milk and fish, so did the Vikings, and so did we, at the breakfast buffet in Gothenburg.
Here’s what you get if you eat at Sjöbaren i Haga, a flawless seafood restaurant in trendy Haga district of Gothenburg, Sweden. http://www.sjobaren.se/haga.