Vikings – A terror among men – Denmark 2013

A few centuries before Magellan, Columbus, Cortez or Sir Francis Drake, the most important tourists on the ocean cruise circuit were the Vikings. They sailed as far west as Labrador and made forays as far east as Bagdad and Russia. The Vikings even made it to Constantinople where they tagged the walls of Hagia Sofia with, “Lars was here, 999 AD.”

They were big on murder and plunder, and if they liked the climate they stayed on for a few hundred years of farming and trading. They developed a real fondness for  France, England and Ireland.

If  you’re in the market for all things Viking, and a crash course in the last 14,000 years of Danish history, the National Museum (http://natmus.dk/en/)  in Copenhagen is your headquarters. It’s got everything from glorious gold hoards to elaborate chariots.  It’s also filled with a dizzying collection  of archaeology,  ethnology, ethnography, natural science and numismatics  from all over the world. And because Danes have aerophobia (fear of drafts), each of the dozens and dozens of exhibition rooms are connected to each other by a heavy  door, behind which could either be  a broom closet or an Inuit Village! It’s all  part of the adventure.

The huge ground floor of the museum focuses on the Vikings and their infinite loot. It’s also the most well heated. As you drift towards the future on the upper floors, the atmosphere grows chillier until strangely, you end at the Beatles! On my visit there were no guards to speak of and some rooms were dark until I waved my arms  in the air to claim the attention of the motion sensor. By the time the loudspeaker announced the museum was closing, I was hopelessly lost and prayed for a scout to find me before I had to eat the remnants of  seal blubber in the Nordic exploration wing.

Here it is, your Christmas Eve gift:  “The Complete History of Denmark (abridged)”.

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These 900 BC Viking helmets are surely just a rough draft compared with the advanced style seen today at the Minnesota Vikings football games.

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1200-700 BC Lur Horns were Nordic instruments used to create a cool atmosphere at religious rituals – think Tibetan Monks with blood lust.

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Horses were domesticated in 2000 BC so it was a good idea to get a carriage as soon as you could afford one. This ceremonial beauty is vintage 50 BC.

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Runic stones from 800-1050 AD  were carved with poetic flair in memory of a loved one. My favorite was, “R.I.P. He was the terror of men…” Size of the stone was determined by one’s stature in society.

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The Vikings revered the sun just as Danes do today. These 10th C. Golden Brooches exhibit an advanced Scandinavian style developed under the influence of the Celts and Christianity. Apparently, these are something like the gifts Beowulf received from the Danish King.

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A Gløgg lovers paradise, a profusion of 14th – 15th C. Drinking Horns.

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 A reminder of Denmark’s Catholic past, St. George Slaying the Dragon (1520),  represents the triumph of Christianity over the infidel.  Shortly after this, the Reformation came to Denmark with a vengeance and the official religion became Evangelical Lutheran with its austere, but inspired churches.

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i.e., Danish Lutheran church:

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Trinity Church

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By 1545 the technology of killing progressed so that a horse needed chain mail as much as his knight needed armor. If that horse went down, so did the rider.

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A 16th C. Rapier with an elaborate grip became “part of the dress of well-to-do men.”

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These rusty Ceremonial Swords grossly exaggerated male powers (the way a Tesla does today). 

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 Mr. and Mrs. Denmark embalmed forever in time.

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Me on exhibit.

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The Vikings never made it to Japan, but Japan made it to the Vikings. This is one of King Christian’s palace rooms, or King Frederick’s rooms or King Frederick Christians’ rooms…

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Elaborately hand embroidered Bonnets from the early 1800’s.

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Inuit booties.

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The 20th century Vikings still eat a protein rich diet in order to stay warm in the winter.  Nepenthe Films invited us to a sumptuous traditional Danish Christmas party at restaurant Sankt Annae. Here’s what everyone ate, and ate and ate on Royal Copenhagen china.

Happy Holidays to you!

Lunch+food

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