Hedeby & Hamburg


On the way down from Copenhagen to Hamburg I stopped at Hedeby, which was an important Viking trading centre in what was Denmark until the 1850’s (IIRC). It gets great reviews and the museum is really well presented. But there was virtually no information of any consequence in English … just the odd uninformative sentence or single word.

So, for example, you have a coin or coins carefully presented with three paragraphs (two in German, one in Danish) and the oh so informative English text … ‘Coin(s)’ … OK, it was cheap to get in, around 6 Euro (say about A$11) but it wasn’t worth half the price. Not even a quarter.

The reconstructed buildings were also hugely uninformative. No information of any sort in any language. There were a few completely uninterested costumed ‘inhabitants’ wandering around, and, as far as I could tell, they didn’t seem to be terribly helpful even to those who spoke German.

A place with great possibilities, but an almost complete waste of time. How it got its UNESCO rating is beyond me.

Some of the reconstructed buildings. Basic wattle and daub and thatched roofs.
The interior of one of the dwellings (very dark, I know) which was actually reasonably authentic … the lanterns had something like horn instead of glass and seemed to be burning something like fat or butter (but since it didn’t smell, it probably wasn’t) and the ‘beds’ consisted of raised platforms on either side of the structure with bedding on them (probably not skins for most people)
A reconstruction of a Viking era fishing boat at the reconstructed Viking era wharf at the site of the original village. As well cared for as the rest of the place (damning with feint praise).


One of the main reasons for going to Hamburg was to see the International Maritime Museum. Also very well presented with nine levels – but as you went higher up the English signage became sparser and scarcer till at the top two levels it was nonexistent. Again, very surprising, since this advertises itself as an internationally important destination.

A model of a Greek Trireme, an early version since there is decking only at the bow and stern with a narrow walkway running down the centre and the rowers completely open to the weather (and easily able to form a boarding party or repel boarders). Later versions were cataphract – that is, they were full decked, bow to stern
A Hellenistic (Alexander or post-Alexander) or Roman Trireme – this is a cataphract and has sails set … also note the deckhouse at the stern, with a fighting ‘castle’ on top. The inside of it would almost certainly not have contained accommodation – Triremes rarely sailed 24/7, putting in to shore (often being dragged up on the beach) at night and the rowers, marines and other crew slept ashore.
A Viking Longship, probably of the seagoing variety. Yes, the crew slept in the open when it was on long distance overwater voyages. There were often no rowing benches and the crew sat and their wooden sea-chests.
Early medieval Cog. More or less full-decked with small bow and sterncastles – though, of course, it would have been a merchantmen rather than a warship. This particular model is based on the most common type of Cog used in the Baltic trade by the merchants of the Hanseatic League.
A larger, later period, Cog – but, again, one used mainly in the Baltic trade by the Hanseatic League merchants. The main difference is in the arrangement of the fore- and after-castles.The latter is now two levels, and there is accommodation, probably for the Captain, Officer(s) and wealthy passengers under the top level.

There was a lot more stuff but, unfortunately, it was often behind perspex that was even more reflective than in these shots and almost impossible to get good shots of. That and a lot of it was not interesting enough

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