The Vikings' reputation as plunderers and colonisers is established through tv-series, but this does not tell the whole story.
The Vikings were explorers and merchants. The Nordic countries came into contact with the rest of Europe during the Viking Age which is the period from late 8th century to mid 11th century
The Viking Age started in year 793
For three centuries the Nordic warriors known as the "Vikings" dominated Europe.The word Viking means raiding, and that is how they were given the name.
The Viking Age is usually said to have begun with the raid in June 793 on the monastery of Lindisfarne in England to the battle of Hastings in 1066. After this, they also reached France, Lisbon, Spain, Italy and several towns on Africa`s Mediterranean coast.
Crossing the Atlantic, the Vikings settled Iceland and Greenland, and also reached the coast of North America.
Their superior ships explored unknown seas, and they settled new lands. In this way, the Vikings had a huge impact on the history in many countries and were both an explorer, warrior and a trader.
The Vikings undertook hazardous sea journeys in longships to many parts of Europe. These expeditions coincided with rapid and significant improvements in boat building.
One of the reasons was to amass wealth, and many European towns boasted impressive assets, from farming produce and raw materials to precious church possessions, and this made them lucrative targets.
Later many Vikings chose to settle in these lands, rather than return home with their loot.
Who were the Vikings?
The story of the Vikings is a fascinating dramatic story of ruthless pirates closely linked to their role as masters of the sea. However, this does not complete the story of the Vikings. They were also poets, lawmakers, artists and farmers who could take full advantage of what nature provided. They fashioned intricate tools and were skilled craftsmen. In Denmark, Sweden and Norway you can find incredible stories and landmarks of the Vikings.
They also settled in the Faroe Islands, Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, Greenland and Canada. Some carried out raids in the early years of the Viking age. Later they undertook systematic campaigns of conquest with well-trained armies.
According to Sagas Iceland was discovered by a Viking from the Faroe Islands called Eric the Red. According to the saga, when Erik was exiled from Iceland he sailed west and pioneered Greenland.
The Viking language
The language in Denmark, Norway and Sweden is almost identical, and the people in the three countries can understand each other when talking their language, and they have their common origin in the language spoken in the Viking age. In Iceland, who were isolated from the Nordic countries for centuries, they speak a language almost identical to the original language in the Viking age, and cannot be understood by the people in the other Nordic countries.
How was the daily life in the Viking Age?
Even if the Vikings were known abroad as ruthless pirates, the story tells via remarkable findings how the population rapidly was growing, where they conquered lands. They lived in a well-ordered society, which was based on laws and democracy.
There was a clear social hierarchy in the Viking age.The Jarl was the owner of land with great economic power.The upper levels of the Viking society were comprised of the various forms of aristocracy and the kings. Lowest in the social order were the thralls or slaves, who had no rights.
The "Ting" was responsible for maintaining law and order and is by many considered to be one of the first democratic organs and the beginning of the modern jury system.
The women had a remarkably strong position in Viking society and were responsible for the farm when their men were abroad.
Myths and facts about the Vikings
Vikings were also skilled craftsmen and developed effective weapons. Remarkable findings tell about swords, axes, bows, arrows and spears. Defensive weapons included helmets and shields.
Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that Viking-age helmets ever had horns.In games or movies, the Viking often wears a horned helmet, but the real Vikings wore useful and effective helmets without horns. In the Viking age helmets typically were made from several pieces of iron riveted together.
How was the Viking Ship?
There have been several archaeological finds of Viking ships of all sizes, providing knowledge of the craftsmanship that went into building them.
The construction of the ships was very effective in connection with war and raids, but it was also very robust and manoeuvrable.
Where to spot experiences from the Vikings?
In the Nordic countries, you will find landmarks, museums, events, castles, ruins etc..where you can discover and learn about the captivating life of the Vikings.
The spring and summer are a fantastic time to explore the Vikings, and there are several attractions and sites in the Nordic countries. Specific in Denmark and Norway there are several burial sites, fortresses and indoor and outdoor museums. One of the big attractions in Denmark is “Kongernes Jelling”, which is an experience centre and home of the Viking Kings in Denmark. This attraction is also on the World Heritage List. Here you to turn back time, and explore how the Vikings lived 1000 year ago.
"Bluetooth" is named after an old Viking King from Denmark
One of the Vikings Kings lived in Jelling was called "Harald Bluetooth". King Harald had united Denmark and Christianized the Dane. Back in 1996, a consortium of companies—Intel, Ericsson, Nokia, and later IBM—decided to create a single wireless standard, and they gave the project the cover-name "Bluetooth" after the old Viking King. When they should find a new name for the product, they decided to keep the name, because it was so good.
The now iconic Bluetooth logo is a combination—officially known as a bind rune—of King Bluetooth's initials in runes: ᚼ and ᛒ.