It had been several months since we had seen snow. There was plenty of snow to see in Olso. The weather was colder than we had thought so my parents bought two matching hats with Norwegian flags on them.
Wanda’s Norwegian hat.
The hat did not stop the frost from forming on Seamus’ beard. While we trudged through the snow we thought about stanzas from The Cremation of Sam McGee and wondered how the Vikings handled the weather without electricity.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
Robert W. Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee
It was not too much colder than Canada but we had grown accustomed to nice weather. Still, we embraced the climate. A few snowballs were tossed and a small man of snow was made.
In the midst of a snowball battle.
A small snowman.
Building a snowman.
Once we had acclimatized we went to a historical museum where we satisfied our wonderings about how the Vikings had lived. The museum had a fantastic collection of Viking treasure. We saw swords, combs, coins and ornaments of all kinds. The Viking weaponry was astonishing. They were certainly a race of fierce warriors whose wrath was likely felt by my father’s ancient ancestors. Looking through the glass at the barbed blades and iron faces, I pitied whomever was targeted by the axe of a Viking.
The remains of a Viking warrior.
Learning of the Viking customs and traditions, it was clear they were a force to be reckoned with. They wore horned ritual helmets, groomed themselves with animal antlers and bathed in hot springs. Viking men had intimidating names such as Ivar the Boneless and Sweyn Forkbeard. It is hard to doubt the warrior spirit of a people who imagine a utopian afterlife where patrons battle all day and feasted all night. Valhalla is not everyone’s idea of paradise however it quite suited the Vikings.
Wanda the warrior equipped with viking weapons.
The Vikings had many unique ideas about afterlife. The remains of grave stones with runic inscriptions have been found throughout Scandinavia. More famous are the Viking burial ships found in Norway. Ship burials were common with the Vikings. While in Oslo we were able to see two of these ships. At the Kulturhistorisk museum we were able to look over the best preserved Viking ships in the world and the treasures that they had held.
At the Viking ship museum.
Carvings on the sleigh found in the ship.
The collar of a viking dog.
Both ships, the Oseberg and the Gokstad date back to around eight hundred AD. Both were built with the sole purpose to bury noble people. The Oseberg ship held two women and a sundry of gifts and tools for the afterlife. At the museum we saw delicately crafted combs and clothes. The ship’s contents had been perfectly preserved. We were amazed to find carvings and clothes in mint condition. Larger items such as sleds and trunks were also discovered in the ships. Furthermore, fifteen horses, six dogs and two cows were condemned to journey these women to the afterlife.
Wanda and Seamus by the Viking burial boat.
The museum also contained a fascinating display investigating the remains of the Oseberg’s occupants. Evidence from the skeletons concluded that one of the women was approximately eighty years old and had likely died of cancer. The other women, expected to be the older woman’s maid or servant, was merely fifty.
The skeletal remains of Olaf.
Similar investigations were conducted on the Gokstad ship. In the museum we saw a recreation of the skeleton of the man who was buried within the ship. It is thought that the skeleton belonged to Olaf Geirstad-Alf, a ledgendary king of the House of Yngling. The magnificence of the ship certainly matched the reputation of Olaf. In fact, after his death, he was worshiped as an elf. Poems also were dedicated to him.
Long while this branch of Odin’s stem
Was the stout prop of Norway’s realm;
Long while King Olaf with just pride
Ruled over Westfold far and wide.
At length by cruel gout oppressed,
The good King Olaf sank to rest:
His body now lies under ground,
Buried at Geirstad, in the mound
It was incredible to see such ships. The Vikings were undeniably masters of the sea. Although the boats we saw were built with the purpose of burial, similar boats had been made and used to travel wide and far. Ships of the same make would have carried the first European Canadians to Newfoundland before any of Columbus’ endeavors. Learning about the Vikings was amazing. That said, we were glad that the present day Norwegians were less combative.