Saturday, March 02, 2013

Visiting The Jorvik Viking Centre

Back when I was in York, I visited the Jorvik Viking Centre. Although fascinating, it has to be one of the most bizarre museum visits I have ever had!

The Vikings had control of York between 866 and 954, and it seems that the city flourished during this time. They built houses, set up as tradespeople, and contributed towards York becoming an important city. The Jorvik Viking Centre is the result of excavations of the Coppergate area of the city, and shows what was found during these excavations-what Viking houses looked like, what people did for a living, what they ate, and how they spent their free time.

After walking across an excavated portion of the remains of Viking housing (under glass), my companion and I were strapped into a sort of train/ski lift type contraption, which then transported us around a re-creation of the city as it would have been in the Viking era. The train thing was already slightly unusual, and this was made even more odd by the fact that my fellow passenger, the ever amusing Henry, was still slightly feeling the influence of all the cider he had consumed the night before. 

Add to this some fairly terrifying wax figures which MOVED AND SPOKE (in Norse), and you have all the makings of a hilarious story which will still be being told when Henry and I are almost as ancient as the Vikings, and reminiscing on life before our lavender marriage and adoption of 600 cats. These were the figures which probably freaked me out the most, Henry was most shocked by some children playing a game. 

As we travelled around the highly detailed recreation, I admired the houses and street stalls, while Henry drowned out the audio guide by keeping up a rambling description of everything. "Ooh there's a chicken!", "ooh fire", and perhaps most memorably, "There's a man having a poo! Look! He's looking at us! He looks so angry! Why is he looking at us?! Why are we looking at him?!". The figure in the latrine made him so happy that he later purchased a postcard of him. Ahh, Henry. Classy as always.

Once we had made our way around the recreated city, we were released from the train and entered the more traditional displays of Viking objects. These were incredible both for the number of them, and how well they had been preserved.

 These displays were quite detailed, with lots of different Viking materials, such as metal, bone, wood and pottery covered. There was even a display of leather shoes which had somehow been preserved.

The level of craftsmanship in the objects on display was astounding.

The glass and pottery items were my favourites, some were very intricate and many of them were incredibly well preserved. It really was quite astonishing to think of the age of these pieces. The pottery fragments and glass beads were so shiny and bright, it seemed strange to think of them languishing under the earth for a thousand years before being excavated.

I thought the Jorvik Viking Centre was very interesting, and although I still think the train thing around the recreation was a little off the wall, it is certainly different and fun. Also I can understand that it is the best way to show the recreated city without people walking around, wearing down the flooring and touching the houses and figures, which would cause a lot of damage. The combination of the recreated city and the audio guide is a great way of showing history in an easily understood, immediate format. The other exhibits are really quite amazing, and the staff were friendly and knowledgeable. I listened to one of the staff talking to children on a school visit and he was brilliant, so I was impressed with how much the staff knew and how good they were at sharing it with people in an accessible way. However, although it was hilarious and I really enjoyed it, and it was totally worth it for the memories, I feel I would have learned a lot more without a rambling hungover person in tow! There is so much to take in that I feel I need to go back and look at everything again in silence.  I'm already planning my next trip to York...


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