Whatchoo talkin' bout Willis? Or in this case Willem.
I had just been sat down in the first seat of the starboard side of a reconstructed Viking boat only to hear skipper Willem bellow to the 16-sailor crew that "Robin will be setting the rowing pace". Oh yeah, and also manning the sail. I informed everyone that we'd be going overboard.
It was about time I found my sea legs. This is Viking country. And a proud heritage it is. A Viking museum or center can be found in even the smallest of towns. I chose Ribe, Denmark's oldest town thriving with Viking history from 1300 years ago, and coastal Roskilde in which to have my Viking experiences. Between the Viking centers and Viking Ship Museum, at which you can stroll through a simulated traditional Viking village, view reconstructed ship material found from the Viking age, learn Viking-era skills like wood carving and blacksmithing, and practice your pillaging (kidding on that one), Ribe or Roskilde could join the NFC North.
But it was crewing a recreated vessel that really floated my boat. Conditions? Choppy at best. Crew? Me and basically a bunch of tween Australian boys. Weather? A cold wind and downpour. All I needed to make the voyage more authentic was a helmet with horns, an animal pelt, and a buddy named Thor. The massive, wood oars were challenging to handle (cut to the constant banging of oars against each other from the gang behind me) but somehow we managed to propel the boat. The changing of direction with the one wool sail had me tightening my life vest. To put it bluntly, there were shrieks of fear. Not just from me. But eventually this motley crew got in the groove and our Viking voyage went swimmingly. Without any swimming.
The experience got a little more slippery when Willem leaned over the boat and nonchalantly scooped up... a jellyfish! Again with the jellyfish! Little did I know that the water was filled with them. While these jellyfish are not of the stinging variety, my respect for the Vikings was growing by the minute. As, apparently, was Willem's for my multi-tasking skills. Before I knew it, he had plopped that jellyfish in one hand while I held the line of the tugging sail in the other. It was a giddy, gratifying, gelatinous encounter.
Those crazy, seafaring Vikings and their plundering raids. They did have a lot to contend with. And no Mrs. Garrett to help clean up the mess.
A jellyfish scooped up from the Kattegat Sea
Side street in Ribe, Denmark's oldest town
Man Meets the Sea statue in Esbjerg, on the way to Ribe
At the foot of the North Sea
Denmark countryside by train from Ribe and a day of Viking lore!