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Sail the Viking Homelands and discover these 13 incredible facts

Did you know fierce Viking warriors sailed the seas without a map, GPS or compass? Sail the same routes they took with Oceania Cruises and discover weird, harrowing and amazing facts about these Scandinavian pirates! Here are 13 interesting tidbits to get you started:

1. Without modern navigation instruments, Vikings relied on their senses, birds, whales, celestial bodies (like the sun, moon and stars – when it wasn’t foggy), as well as chants and rhymes to sail the seas and find new lands!

2. And yet, their accuracy was astounding: their measurements differ only 2 to 4% from modern satellite measurements! Viking routes covered the British coasts, France, Spain, as well as some areas of Russia and the Mediterranean – and across the Atlantic, to what is modern-day Newfoundland, Canada.

3. In one remote part of western Sweden, people still speak Elfdalian, an ancient dialect of Old Norse (the language the Vikings spoke).

4. Ever wonder how Russia got it’s name? It was actually named by a medieval Swedish Viking tribe, who traded using the rivers of Eastern Europe. They were called “the men who row” or “Rus’” and later formed the Tsardom of Russia, living in an area that includes modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

5. Some Viking runes (aka the written form of Old Norse) found at archaeological sites are little more than graffiti! Translators have said they read like a modern-day public washroom stall: “Ingigerth is the most beautiful of all women” or "these runes were carved by the man most skilled in runes in the western ocean” – along with a couple more inappropriate ones we won't list here... 

6. The Vikings were a murderous, raping, thieving lot when it came to their foreign conquering against others – but they wouldn't have dared getting caught doing crime at home! Those caught would be outlawed; sent out to live in the wilderness, where no one could help you in any way. Moreover, they were free game to be hunted down and killed by your enemies.

7. Not sure if a battle injury to the belly was serious? Nurses in the village would feed injured warriors a strong onion soup and if they smelled the onions from the wound within a few minutes, it was determined that there was a serious abdominal injury and death was inevitable. This way, they could save precious medicinal herbs for those who might stand a better chance of survival, since they had a limited supply.

8. Did you know up to 20% of all English words come from Old Norse? That’s close to 5,000 words including common ones: thing, bread, birth, cow, egg, knife, land, man, ship, sister, sky, time, give, take and want.  

9. Not sure what to give as a gift for a wedding or kitchen tea? The Norse gave kittens to new brides. They were considered an essential household item for their mousing abilities and they were associated with the Norse goddess of love named Freyja.

10. We use Bluetooth for everything these days (including pairing all our wireless travel gadgets) – but did you know the squiggly symbol the company uses as its logo is actually a bind rune that represents the name of the 10-century Viking king named “Bluetooth” who united the Danish tribes into a single kingdom? The thinking here is that modern-day Bluetooth unites communications protocols. Clever!  

11. Now a fortress for some of the world’s best art including the Mona Lisa, the Louvre in Paris was first built in 1190 to protect Paris from the Vikings. Who knew?

12. Move over Kanye, Drake and Jay Z – vikings essentially invented the rap battle. If two Vikings had a beef, they engaged in an exchange of poetic insults called “flyting”. These exchanges often involved accusations of cowardice or sexual perversion. 

13. We might have the Vikings to thank (or blame) for our modern obsession for unicorns! They sold the horns of a small toothed whale called the narwhal. As this whale lived only in the far north, the Vikings were able to exploit the legend of the unicorn and the belief that the narwhal’s horn held magical properties. By medieval times, this myth was fully entrenched; it was said those drinking from a cup made of unicorn horn could were magically protected from poison – so they fetched a hefty price.

Want to learn more about the Vikings and Old Norse culture? Visit their historical homelands with Oceania Cruises:

Viking Homelands  |  12-night cruise on board the Oceania Marina

Departs: 15 September 2018
Fares from R66 920 per person sharing

Highlights: Copenhagen, Denmark; Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; Stockholm, Sweden; Visby, Sweden; Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany Skagen, Denmark; Oslo, Norway.


Contact your nearest Sure Travel Agency to enquire or book, or call 0861 47 48 49.

>> Photos courtesy of pexels.com.

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