To the land of the Vikings

Roskilde offers the ubiquitous Danish hygge making you enjoy life like a seafarer, writes Shirin Mehrotra

GOTHIC HERITAGE Roskilde Cathedral. PHOTOS BY AUTHOR

It’s a sunny day at the fjord; we’re ready to set sail in the North Sea. The captain’s voice booms with instructions and we take our positions, our backs straight and oars at the ready. I am aboard a Viking ship in Roskilde, the oldest town and erstwhile capital of Denmark, just a 30-min train ride from Copenhagen.

Roskilde is a small postcard-perfect town with the oldest train station in Denmark, and the cathedral (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). One of the main attractions is the Viking Ship Museum which houses five original Viking vessels from the 11th century and the Sea Stallion from Glendalough — a reconstruction of the 20-mt long warship in the Viking ship hall. Every year, the Sea Stallion sets sail in the North Sea for three weeks with around 50 volunteers, tracing the route the Vikings followed 1,000 years ago. For regular visitors, there’s a 30 minute-long sailing in one of the smaller ships which are rebuilt using the techniques that the Norse seafarers used.

Sweet Maril Cafe
Sweet Maril Cafe

Experiential

The museum is an experiential one offering workshops where you can learn to make the ropes, craft your own Viking ship or make your own personalised (miniature) Thor’s hammer. The museum displays five ships that were found in 1980. Made of Danish oak, ash and pine, these ships were used for various tasks like fishing, trading, defence and warfare.

Back at the fjord a bunch of us amateur sailors follow the captain’s command. “Follow the person at the front,” he tells us and we begin to acquire a rhythm. Once we’re off the shores and it’s windy enough, we set the sails and enjoy the view of the town from the sea. After getting my upper-arm workout, I head to Café Knarr, the restaurant at the museum serving Viking food. A board inside the restaurant traces the history of how and when ingredients travelled to Denmark. The food at the cafe, I am told, is created using the same ingredients the Vikings used in their cooking. Sticking to locally available produce also makes it New Nordic. I settle in with a plate of flat bread with beer braised roasted pork, cabbage salad and locally brewed beer, the perfect way to end a sea voyage.

I set off to exploring the historical part of the city next. You can book the guided tour of the city during summers or join in the open tour every Monday at 2 pm. The five-km walk starts from Stændertorvet, the city centre and marketplace. We cross over the square to the Yellow Palace built for the royal family which now houses the bishop’s residence and the Museum of Contemporary Art. We then step into the Cathedral Square. The Gothic, twin-spired Cathedral is where the kings and queens of the world’s oldest monarchy are buried.

A bit exhausted from the sailing and walking, I now set out in search of a café and find Sweet Maril, a vintage-style café serving sandwiches and dessert. The cheerful owner takes my order as she sings along retro Danish music playing at the café. I pick up a cold coffee and a lemon meringue tart and settle in at a cosy nook for some Danish hygge before hopping on to my train back to Copenhagen.

Other attractions

Apart from the Viking Ship Museum and the cathedral, the Ragnarock Museum (museum for pop, rock and youth culture), Roskilde Museum and Lützhøfts old
Grocer’s shop are a must-see. You can access all the places with a Copenhagen card and get discounts at the Viking Ship Museum.

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To the land of the Vikings

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