And it’s true, the Vikings were pirates who came to plunder and kill, and they spread terror along Europe's coasts. But their reputation is not entirely fair: They were not just ruthless warriors, but also skilled traders, administrators and craftsmen in metal and wood, producing beautiful jewellery and artefacts that survive to this day.
The Vikings were also some of Europe's best storytellers and the Norse sagas continue to fascinate modern audiences. And, by the way, they did not have horned helmets: No self-respecting Viking would want to look like a cow.
We know a lot about what Viking life was like a thousand years ago, and you can experience a little of Viking life today. At Lofotr Viking Museum a traditional Viking longhouse has been built, and the museum also hosts Viking festivals and events where you can get a taste of Viking life and living. And in Oslo you can see the genuine article.
Actor David Spinx gets a taste of what Viking life in Lofoten might have been like.
Curator of the Lofotr Viking Museum, Marion Fjelde Larsen, picks some places in Norway well worth a visit to get that Viking feeling.
Vikings were experts in water transportation as their native fjords stretched for great distances into Norway's heartland. Their longships were narrow, light, wooden boats with a shallow-draft hull designed for speed and easy navigation in shallow waters. Light enough to be carried, the longship was also double-ended, allowing it to reverse direction without needing to turn around. This was a major advantage in a sea filled with concealed icebergs and sea ice.
Longships had oars along almost the entire length of the boat, and later versions combined rowing power with sailing power. In good conditions, a longboat under sailing power could reach a speed of 15 knots.
This resulted in voyages of discovery, trade and opportunistic raiding of coastal cities, towns and settlements across Europe. The voyages began in the latter part of the eighth century and stretched from Greenland in the west to the Caspian Sea in the east. To begin with only a few made the voyages, but the fleets grew until there were hundreds of longships sailing to England, Scotland, France and Ireland.
The Vikings founded many cities and colonies, including Dublin and Normandy. Dublin was held as a major settlement for more than three centuries. Between the years 879 and 920 the Vikings colonised Iceland, which in turn became the springboard for the colonisation of Greenland. The Vikings even reached North America, and remains of a Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland have been carbon dated to around the year 1000.
By the 1100s the Vikings were weakened by domestic unrest. At the same time, many other European countries were becoming stronger and more difficult targets.
The Viking Age ended with the fall of Harald Hardråde, who unsuccessfully tried to conquer England in 1066, and was defeated and killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
The earliest traces of humans in Norway are from the the last ice age, which melted away between 11,000 and 8,000 BCE. You may wonder what the people of these ancient cultures would have made of the ultra-modern new wave of Norwegian design and architecture …
The history and traditions of a country often reveal a great deal of fun facts about the people and their customs. Norway is no exception.