Over a thousand years ago five Viking ships were scuttled at Skuldelev in Denmark. It was not the destruction wreaked by invaders but an attempr to block an invasion route into the harbour. Presumably they had seen better days so their use a barrier was literally the last ditch.
After painstaking excavation the remains of the five are at the Roskilde ships’ musuem, just outside the city that is also the burial place of Danish monarchs. As well as a magnificent display they also provide an opportunity for marine archaeologists to build experimental reconstructions as well as for enthusiasts to build ships of their own. That the work is experiemental is explained in on-site notices. Each new discovery allows new attempts at reconstruction. Once built, the ships can be launched for sea trials on the fjord.
As well as displays in the dedicated ships hall, with examples of rivets, joints and other parts, there are the longship and trading vessel exhibits set within a skeletal carapace to give an impression of the original shape, there are workshops, a restaurant specialising in authentic food and the inevitable gift shop.
Instagram photo opportunities of a sandwich, thick sourdough slices with meat, smoked fish and salad that would generate enough energy to row across the Atlantic, there are soups and platters of what some might hesitate to call delicacies. All were very tasty, however. There needs to be plenty of energy for experiencing the rest of the museum.
While the excavated ships provide the focus of any visit the recostructed vessels and workshops are also a great draw. One in the harbour illustrates the ballast needed to keep it stable (as well as to throw from a height to scuttle it). Authentic tools are used in the workships, as is the case in Suffolk with the Sutton Hoo reconstruction. The ground is littered with wood chips and shavings, offered for sale as kindling. It was also a privilege to see a completed ships under sail then being rowed on the fjord.
Roskilde is only short train ride or drive from Copenhagen, where accommodation is more reasonable and easier to find. A bonus is the opportunity to visit the cathedral, of which more anon.