a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘vikings’

re-inventing your past ;)

I am pretty sure I have blood on my hands.  I am at least half Viking – and given the mayhem the Vikings allegedly caused in my other homelands, I may well be a little more…

I have now finished Colin Thubron’s excellent book, “Shadow of the Silk Road” and questions of ancestry, tribe and history are subjects he addresses over the course of many nation states, ethnic groups and shared versions of history (accurate or not).  Reinvention is not a modern concept.

We have always lived in half-truths, in perceptions, in mythology.  History is an imperfect science so we never know exactly what happened in the past – although it is getting a lot harder in the age of social media.

But, luckily for the Vikings, there were no selfies or embarrassing posts on Facebook of the pillage you were hoping to forget… so Vikings can do a little rearranging of history without anyone being able to know for sure if it is just wishful thinking.

My knowledge of ancient history is improving but it is still shaky so I keep an open mind when it comes to the Vikings.  No society is composed of only bad guys – and you need to understand the context in which people behave before you can even consider passing judgement of any kind.

norwegians like boats!

This is the right mindset in which to enter Trondheim (the next stop on Hurtigruten).  It used to be called Nidaros and was Norway’s first capital city.  It was a port of departure for Viking expeditions.  Apparently Leif Eriksson is Leiv Eiriksson in Norway, the dude who discovered Canada – Viking no matter what direction I turn 🙂

I take a little issue with the Hurtigruten info that says the first export of American goods to Europe took place in Trondheim in 1100 AD.  That stuff came from CANADA, dude 🙂  At the time, I think it just came from Newfoundland.  But not America…

The really big thing to see in Trondheim is the Cathedral.  I have

cathedral of many genres

cathedral of many genres

seen a lot of churches!  This is country 48… but I was impressed!  It is something new.  A little Viking, a little Gothic, a little Baroque… a piece of history, which is always more messy than people seem to remember.

you decide if he was really a saint...

you decide if he was really a saint…

It’s not too often a Viking becomes a saint and is the centrepiece of the market square.  It’s not clear if he was a great guy – or just a great politician.  But it does seem Vikings elected leaders so it’s nice to see some non-royal on display.  Someone who had to do something for that sainthood beyond just be born into the right family…

 

 

 

finding my inner viking

We are soon to depart from my ancestral homeland so the final posts will be a little introspective…

As noted, these are my people.  And I also have Icelandic, Scottish and Irish genes… so the Vikings loom large in my genetic composition.  What that means is hard to determine.  The Vikings aren’t quite as mysterious as the lost city of Atlantis but they were some of the first people to try and conquer others (and explore the world), long before foursquare.  If only they had taken photos during a marauding venture on their iphones and posted them to their facebook friends we might know what had been going on…

I have now had two ventures into Scandinavia and the take on being a Viking is interesting.  The rest of us don’t know much – and generally I would say the rep doesn’t seem that appealing.  But apparently Vikings had some cool, modern traits as well – and, like any culture, came with attributes.  They were not just vicious plunderers.

I will need to learn more – and it will take time.  The Historiska Museet gave me a starting point.  And some interesting facts.  And some intriguing stuff to see.

The most spectacular part is the Guldrummet (Gold Room), which displays more than 3,000 artefacts in gold and silver, from the Bronze to the Middle Ages.  It was a wild time in history so hording metal seemed to be a common hobby.  Definitely makes for some great exhibits for us modern visitors.

There are also some exceptional rune stones and excellent exhibits on Viking history.  It’s the same as the other Swedish museums with lots of questions posed to make visitors think, not just read and accept.

As I’ve already noted in a previous post, there was a special exhibit trying to provide a Wikipedia entry version of 1,000 years of Swedish history.  It started with clans, who are not the best way to build an inclusive society.  They were replaced by kings, also not a great model for universal anything.

The power of the kings was gradually replaced by the nobility and the church, often working in conjunction with each other to oppress and suppress most of the population.  The exhibit also explored the role of chivalry and the aristocracy in shaping society (not so positive…).

What was most fascinating is that the 21st century Sweden with its strong sense of identity is a new entity, barely 100 years old.  What is most impressive is how they took an old-fashioned, not so great nation state model, and used logic and planning to create a nation state that is an enviable place.  The US thinks that is their mojo – but they missed the part about engaging your brain to develop a nation state model that will benefit the majority of its citizens, not just the rich guys.  Nation states benefiting the rich guys are a dime a dozen.  Africa does THAT – in spades!  But a nation state that really seems to be working on behalf of the entire population.  That really gives one food for thought…

The museum definitely gave me an interesting sense of what it might mean to be a Swede.  Or even a Viking 🙂

The Swedes do seem to be part of Europe, while also maintaining some distance where they feel it might be wise.  They are shrewd.

And smart I think.

After all, they have declined to participate in the crazy Euro experiment.  The EU leaders must have got bored in Brussels and popped over to Amsterdam.  After enough pot brownies, the Euro likely seemed like a great idea 😉 Like a David Lynch film, it only makes sense if you’re high 🙂

The French dude who wrote Delicacy seemed to be dissing the Swedes.  They weren’t interesting enough.  Not enough of the adolescent drama queen ridiculousness that the Latin parts of Europe hold so dear.

They dismiss the Nordic elements as boring and lacking in imagination… but when they have run up the gambling debts that come with such irresponsible behavior they don’t take it on the chin and face the loan sharks… they hide under the skirts of their responsible neighbors.

It is a lot of fun hanging out in southern Europe.  But the Norse are my people… and someone has to bail you out of jail… Greece, Italy, Spain, France – you might want to keep that in mind 😉

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