Himmelsøen & Roskilde Viking Ship MuseumSeptember 20 in Denmark
A gravel path drops down to an artificial lake with a couple of tree clad islands and a long wooden pier. Our windscreen view looks out upon it from the open, grassy Himmelsøen car park, not far from Roskilde. Himmelsøen roughly translates as 'sky lake' and from our elevated position we can see where the name came from.
We've driven the short distance from Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum where we have had a truly great day! The museum site is small and mostly open air, situated at the head of Roskilde Fjord. The chance of sailing a traditional boat initially lured us in, but with the winds from Storm Ali heading our way and knowing this activity would close for the season in 10 days, we hardly dared to hope that it would be running today. As luck would have it the kiosk attendant confirmed that the first of three planned outings was going ahead so we eagerly paid our entrance fee of £16 each and booked up for an additional £14 each.
The site was very hands on, with a large longboat called the Sea Stallion moored at the dock that you could climb into and explore. There were perhaps 20 or so smaller vessels bobbing in the harbour, that had been made on-site, with information boards displaying their credentials. Vicky managed to video call her Dad who loves this sort of thing and we explored together for a little while until it was time to get our waterproof jackets for the boat trip.
The captain met us and 11 others at the prearranged point and directed us into the the boat shed for a brief introduction and demonstration of how to use the buoyancy aids. We all trooped down to the jetty where we boarded Bjornfjord; a 10.2m x 2.6m shallow draught sailing boat with a 25 sq. m sail. Our captain showed the group how to sit, put the oars into place and went through what different instructions meant, before we boarded and rowed out of the harbour. There were 12 rowers and it was quite difficult for everyone to keep in time, even when the captain assigned one person at the front to set the pace. As well as the timing of the strokes, the length made a difference and plenty of people got the long, narrow wooden oars tangled along the way. With our experience canoeing we felt we both did ok.
Once clear of the harbour and in the open fjord we took the oars in and the captain hoisted the sail, giving Will the job of guiding the heavy wooden boom from which it hung. Two of the group were put in charge of hauling the sheets that moved the sail from one side to the other and we began gliding along under wind power. The boat was very stable, only tilting when the stronger gusts filled the sails. After an aborted tack, but successful gybe, we headed back towards the harbour, where we once again got to row her. We were on the boat for more than 30 minutes but the time seemed to fly by. We both really enjoy sailing and to be able to crew a traditional boat for a trip out on the fjord was an amazing experience.
You can watch a video of our experience on the VnW Travels YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/UxPB_yiBbaE
Following a quick check on Poppy, we joined a guided tour of the boatbuilder's yard. Our guide introduced himself as Silas and began by showing us the traditional boat that was being made for fjord trips, explaining the techniques and materials used, how long it took and that one of the reasons they were doing it was to keep the skills alive. This boat was made by sight; the project headed up by a master builder who didn't use drawings or models. Outside he showed us a Viking ship they were recreating based on the remains of one that had been found. This was taking a lot longer because they were building it similarly to how the Vikings would have. Instead of getting wood precut from the sawmill, they chopped and planed planks by hand from the tree trunks we could see around us. They had previously made a replica using iron rivets forged by the blacksmith on-site, but this stood as a display on land because the iron rivets split the wood after being exposed to sea water.
Other displays at the museum included Lime bast (the inner bark of Lime trees), hanging and drying in order to make rope. A woodworker carved a figurehead and a collection of ropes made from an astonishing array of different materials, from seal hide to hazel wood, lay curled for you to pick up and feel.
There was enough to keep us occupied for the whole day but we were beginning to tire so wandered over to the building that displayed 5 original Viking ships. The museum had created metal skeletons onto which the ancient wood was layed, to give us an idea of how the boats were initially constructed. The building also housed a 'Climb on Board' exhibition comprising of a room with two ships, complete with sails and treasure chests. Clothes were hung at the entrance and you could dress up, board the vessels and pretend to be a Viking as sound effects and visual projections of the sky and sea helped your imagination along the way!
We probably wouldn't have visited Roskilde's Viking Ship Museum had it not been for the chance to sail the traditional boat, but we ended up enjoying so much more than this and we needed to drag ourselves away in the end!
Thankfully the parking at Himmelsøen wasn't far. Vicky had a rest while Will took his fishing gear to the lake and got talking to someone from Devon who'd lived here 23 years. They told him the lake had only been built in the last 5 years, mainly as an attraction for the huge music festival held here every year. There was even a 'horse bathing' area provided!Read more