Visiting Vikings

Wonderful, Wonderful
Two Pulpits

Today we were in Aalborg (spelled Ålborg in Danish, and pronounced Or-lborg – more or less). Aalborg is the 4th largest city in Denmark, in the north of the country. A mostly industrial town, it has worked to clean up its act in recent years, and was a very pleasant and interesting stopover.

Our day was spent visiting some fascinating Viking sites. We went to Fyrkat, the site of a Viking Ring Fort dating from the year 980. It is an exact circle with the remnants of two roads passing across the centre. There were many houses there once – only concrete markers indicate their position now. Interestingly, when it was excavated in the 1950s they opted to leave one quarter untouched because they knew methods & techniques in archaeology would improve in the future. There is a reconstruction nearby of one of the long houses, made entirely of oak. There’s also a reconstructed Viking Village, complete with actors in Viking costume doing viking stuff like cooking, smithing and sharpening axes. Fake but fun, and apparently quite authentic. Our guide said Danes are naturally shy, so won’t offer information unless you ask, so she encouraged us to ask questions of the ‘Vikings’. Also Vikings didn’t call themselves ‘Vikings’ unless they were off viking all over the place, that is, being marauding pirates. At home they were just plain folk.

Lindholm Høje is a large Viking burial site just outside Aalborg. It has been covered in sand for centuries, and thus is extremely well preserved. Many such burial grounds used to exist, but the stones were dug up to use in other buildings or roads. At first glance this looks like a random pile of rocks, but said rocks are arranges in circles, triangles and in boat shapes, each one being a single person’s grave. The bodies were cremated so we don’t know much about who was buried there. It’s one of Scandinavia’s best preserved Viking sites – 682 graves and 150 stone “ships”.

After our excursion we had time for a quick wander around Aalborg. Aalborg is famous for its street art, mostly hidden in back alleys and courtyards, but we managed to find a few examples. Joern Utzon, who designed the Sydney Opera House was born in Aalborg, and there is a striking museum dedicated to his work. The House of Music (Musikkens Hus) is a new music venue and very striking modern building.

 

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