Tag Archives: Minnesota Vikings

Vikings in the USA, Leif Ericson and the Axe Factor

Viking Longship

Outside Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik’s Lutheran Cathedral, is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson who was an Icelander born about 970 and who explored the oceans and the lands west of Iceland, establishing colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland and who according to legend reached America long before Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucchi.

The statue was a gift from the American Government in 1930 to mark Iceland’s 1,000th anniversary and in the United States October 9th is commemorated as Leif Ericson Day.  The date is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson’s life, it was chosen because the ship Restauration sailing from Stavanger in Norway, arrived in New York Harbour on October 9th 1825 at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Vikings and a possible starting off point for long ships full of heathen bullies on their way to the British Isles to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

Lief Ericson Reyjkavik Iceland

The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.  These Norsemen used their famous long ships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known (not very imaginatively) as the Viking Age.

Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research.  A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely embellished for over a hundred years.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers is part true, part fable and part exaggeration and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio of good and bad and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

But now it seems historical revisionism has gone too far for some people  especially for Professor Simon Keynes, an Anglo-Saxon historian at Cambridge University – ‘There’s no question how nasty, unpleasant and brutish they were. They did all that the Vikings were reputed to have done.’

They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It’s likely they carried off women, too, he says. ‘They’d burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction.’ It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first.’

It is now widely believed that Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group. In Minnesota, nearly a million claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.

No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th1960 a name that is meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.  Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams.

epcot-norway-viking

It probably also explains why Norway features at World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World in Florida.

In actual fact however there is no real evidence that Ericson actually discovered America at all  and rather curiously his statue in Reykjavik faces east as though gazing back to the Old World of Scandinavia rather than the New World of America.

Today he looked out over Viking skies full of Icelandic drama with mountainous clouds as big and as grey as a medieval cathedral that closed around the city like a soggy cloak.

Steinunn first Icelandic cSettler

EPCOT World Showcase – Norway

EPCOT Norway

At EPCOT the Norway Maelstrom ride is on water with the occasional splashes that leave a few damp patches on your summer clothes but Norway in January in the driving rain and penetrating drizzle is a much more authentic getting wet experience I can tell you!

We joined a handful of intrepid local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and sturdy hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason to stop and stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea as though searching the horizon for long lost Viking ancestors returning from a raiding expedition.

Read the full story…

Iceland, Images

Iceland Landscape

Iceland Reyjkavik  Iceland Reyjkavik

Iceland Presidential Car Reykjavik  Iceland Meat Balls in a Tin

Lief Ericson Statue Reykjavik Iceland

Iceland, Leif Ericson the Axe Factor and the Vikings

Viking Longship

After the short break for tea, coffee, cake and to satisfy Margaret’s WiFi addiction we returned to the streets and walked up a long street which made its way to a high point in the city and the Hallgrímskirkja or the City’s Lutheran Cathedral which at seventy-three metres high dominates the skyline.

Outside the church is a statue of Leifur Eiriksson who was an Icelander born about 970 and who explored the oceans and the lands west of Iceland, establishing colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland and who according to legend reached America long before Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucchi.

The statue was a gift from the American Government in 1930 to mark Iceland’s 1,000th anniversary and in the United States October 9th is commemorated as Leif Ericson Day.  The date is not associated with any particular event in Leif Erikson’s life, it was chosen because the ship Restauration sailing from Stavanger in Norway, arrived in New York Harbour on October 9th 1825 at the start of the first organized immigration from Norway to the United States.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Vikings and a possible starting off point for long ships full of heathen bullies on their way to the British Isles to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

Lief Ericson Reyjkavik Iceland

The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.  These Norsemen used their famous long ships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known (not very imaginatively) as the Viking Age.

Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research.  A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely embellished for over a hundred years.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers is part true, part fable and part exaggeration and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio of good and bad and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

It is now widely believed that Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group.

In Minnesota almost one million people claim Norwegian ancestry – 16.5% of the population of the State.  No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis in 1960 was officially named the Minnesota Vikings; the name is partly meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture. 

epcot-norway-viking

It probably also explains why Norway features at World Showcase at EPCOT in Disney World in Florida.

In actual fact however there is no real evidence that Ericson actually discovered America at all  and rather curiously his statue faces east as though gazing back to the Old World rather than the New!   Today he looked out over Viking skies full of Icelandic drama with mountainous clouds as big and as grey as a medieval cathedral that closed around the city like a soggy cloak.

We could have visited the cathedral but decided to leave that for another day and let the excitement mount and instead walked back to the alternative hotel to discover our fate.  Actually it was very good and when I checked the website it had a higher customer rating than the double booked Best Western and it was a few pounds more expensive (and we were promised the lower rate) so I decided to shut up and put up!

While Kim and Margaret rested Mike and I went out again onto the streets and walked towards the city airport where we watched domestic flights coming and going full of commuters and then we walked back to the city, up to the cathedral again and then dropped back through the grey streets flanked by brightly coloured houses and back to the hotel and by now I had overcome all of my annoyance with Luton Airport, easyJet, Sixt Car Hire and the Best Western Hotel!

Steinunn first Icelandic cSettler

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning – Iceland, Sólfar Suncraft

Sólfar Suncraft

Sólfar Suncraft

Beginning of a Voyage…

Good information on this site about Viking ships:

http://www.rmg.co.uk/explore/sea-and-ships/facts/ships-and-seafarers/the-vikings

Around the World in Eighty Minutes – Part Five, Norway

epcot-norway-viking

The Land of the Vikings…

There is a lot more to Norway than men with beards and bloody axes but the Disney Website simply introduces Norway with the words “Welcome to the land of the Vikings!”

Whilst it suits Disney to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was much more complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from recent archaeology and modern research.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers are part true and part fable but no one can be absolutely certain of the accurate ratio and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.  Disney of course had a Wooden Longboat (its gone now I understand) and a shop that inevitably sold Viking helmets based on the traditional image of the plundering Norsemen.

In Florida in October the sun was permanently shining and the Viking story was played out under blue skies but I visited Haugesund in Norway in January and this was a very bleak experience.  On one especially depressing morning with the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Haugesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a couple of kilometres outside of the city.

At EPCOT the Norway Maelstrom ride is on water with the occasional splashes that leave a few damp patches on your summer clothes but Norway in January in the driving rain and penetrating drizzle is a much more authentic getting wet experience I can tell you!

We joined a handful of intrepid local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and sturdy hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason to stop and stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea as though searching the horizon for long lost Viking ancestors returning from a raiding expedition.

We found the monument and it struck me as a bit strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a memorial that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to plunder and pillage a part of England where I now live.

Disney and the Real Thing:

Epcot - Norway   Haugesund Norway

Haraldshaugen

was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 by Crown Prince Oscar to commemorate the one thousand year anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord.  

Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty chained up vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, wet day in January.

We walked back along the same route and into the suburbs of the city which felt rather like a deciduous tree coping with winter; hanging on to life,existing, hibernating, waiting, watching and hoping for the first signs of Spring.  The people with hats pulled down low and pale complexions, weary streets, grass burned brown by frost and houses battered and besieged, paintwork picked bare by the frost and firmly closed to the outside world, a city beaten to the edge of submission by winter and still some way to go before it was all over.

By contrast, in Florida in October we wandered through Norway with the sun beating down and after the shops and the bakeries there was a water ride that took us back to a mythological version of Norway’s Viking days.

Norway Maelstrom Ride…

Boats passed through scenes of seafarers and Vikings and then through an enchanted swamp and was then forced backwards down a waterfall by angry trolls.  The boats floated rapidly past scenes of polar bears and living trees, before coming to a stop on the edge of another waterfall and after again rotating to a forward-facing position plunged down into the stormy North Sea.  It then passed dangerously close to an oil rig before coming to an abrupt end in a calm harbour and after that there was an obligatory film about the history and folklore of Norway.

I understand that the ride is soon to be closed down and later reopened as a new experience to exploit the popularity of the film ‘Frozen

I liked the Norway pavilion and I place it in third place after Mexico and Morocco.

Haugesund Norway

Read the full story of the Minnesota Vikings…

Norway, Haugesund and The Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

The Axe Factor

Sure enough, in the morning, it was still steadily raining and over the first cup of tea of the day there developed an awful realisation that this might turn into a ‘killing off time’ sort of day.

We took our time and then stretched breakfast out for as long as we realistically could and discussed our rather limited choices.  I could read but Kim hadn’t brought a book with her and she wasn’t excited by my spare one which was a rather heavy going ‘history of modern Spain’ so that meant that a library sort of morning also seemed to be ruled out.

As we lamented the weather and talked through the options however the rain started to ease off and by half past ten, although it had not stopped completely it was at last possible to go outside.

It was another depressing morning, the city crippled under the weight of a leaden grey sky, as we set out in a northerly direction along the black granite coast towards Huagesund’s most famous visitor attraction, the Haroldshaugen Norges Riksmonument a couple of kilometres outside of the city.  We joined a handful of local people in brightly coloured ‘North Face’ kagools and hiking boots who were wandering along the coast line cinder path stopping occasionally for no apparent reason than to stare out into the grey nothingness of the North Sea.

We found the monument and it struck me as rather strange for an Anglo-Saxon to be visiting a monument that commemorates the Viking Age and a starting off point for longships full of heathen bullies on their way across the North Sea to rape and pillage a part of England where I now live.

 

Viking Explorers

They could certainly travel that’s for sure.  The Vikings were Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe and the North Atlantic from the late eighth to the mid eleventh century.  These Norsemen used their famous longships to travel as far east as Russia, as far west as Newfoundland and as far south as modern Spain in a period known as the Viking Age.

Whilst we tend to retain the school boy image of them it actually becomes increasingly evident that Viking society was quite complex and popular conceptions of them are often in conflict with the truth that emerges from archaeology and modern research.  A romanticized picture of Vikings as noble savages began to take root in the eighteenth century and this developed and became widely propagated for over a hundred years.

The traditional view of the Vikings as violent brutes and intrepid adventurers are part true, part fable and although if these guys paid a visit it is probably true to say that you probably wouldn’t want to put a welcome mat by the front door or get the best china out, no one can be absolutely sure of the accurate ratio and popular representations of these men in horned helmets remain for now highly clichéd.

Viking Ship

But now it seems historical revisionism has gone too far for some people  especially for Professor Simon Keynes, an Anglo-Saxon historian at Cambridge University – ‘There’s no question how nasty, unpleasant and brutish they were. They did all that the Vikings were reputed to have done.’

They stole anything they could. Churches were repositories of treasure to loot. They took cattle, money and food. It’s likely they carried off women, too, he says. ‘They’d burn down settlements and leave a trail of destruction.’ It was unprovoked aggression. And unlike most armies, they came by sea, their narrow-bottomed longships allowing them to travel up rivers and take settlements by surprise. It was maritime blitzkrieg at first.’

Jorvik Centre York Vikings

Minnesota Vikings

Norsemen from Greenland and Iceland were the first Europeans to reach North America in what is today Newfoundland in Canada when Leif Ericson reached the Continent via Norse settlements in Greenland around the year 1000.  Nearly a thousand years later many Norwegian immigrants went to the United States primarily in the second half of the nineteenth and the first few decades of the twentieth century.

According to the most recent United States census there are more than four and a half million Norwegian Americans and most live in the Upper Midwest and currently comprise the tenth largest American ancestry group. In Minnesota, 868,361 Minnesotans claim Norwegian ancestry, 16.5% of the population of the State.  No wonder then that in professional football the team from Minneapolis was officially named the Minnesota Vikings on September 27th 1960; the name is partly meant to reflect Minnesota’s importance as a centre of Scandinavian American culture.

The association between Vikings and sport is not surprising because physical strength, speed, resilience and endurance were important qualities for a Viking. As in the USA, England has its own Vikings with the Widnes Vikings Rugby League Football Club.  Widnes was one of the original twenty-two rugby clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895, making them one of the world’s first rugby league teams. Their traditional nickname is ‘The Chemics’ after the main industry in Widnes, but the club now generally use their more modern nickname.

Haraldshaugen was erected during the millennial celebration of Norway’s unification into one kingdom under the rule of King Harald I and was unveiled on July 18th 1872 by Crown Prince Oscar to commemorate the one thousand year anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord. Truthfully I found it a bit disappointing I have to say, a seventeen metre high granite obelisk surrounded by a memorial stones in a Stonehenge sort of way, next to an deserted car park, a closed visitor centre and an empty vending machine but I’m sure I am being unfair because places such as these are not really meant to be visited on a cold, wet day in January.

We walked back along the same route and into the suburbs of the city which felt a bit like a deciduous tree coping with winter; existing, hibernating, waiting and watching for the first signs of spring.  The people with pale complexions, weary streets, grass burned brown by frost and houses battered and besieged and firmly closed to the outside world, a city beaten to the edge of submission by winter and still only part way through.

Vikings Rape Murder Pillage Plunder004

Reyjkavik, Vikings and Explorers