Gastehaus Seewarte

Murwikerstr. 164, Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, 24944, Germany
Gastehaus Seewarte
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Learn to love the peaceable Vikings at Haithabu

by CatherineReichardt

Wikinger Museum Haithabu is located on the site of the ancient Viking settlement of Hathaby. It was once the largest Viking city in the world, but was sacked by the Slavs in 1066 (which seems poetic justice given the amount of raiding they carried out on other people's settlements), after which the settlement was moved across the river to the site of modern Schleswig.
The town occupied a beautiful and commanding position at the head of a long fjord which cuts into the Jutland peninsula. From here, it was 'only' a matter of 15km porterage to reach the North Sea on the other side of the peninsula, which removed the need to negotiate the treacherous waters of the Skagerrak and Kattegat straits - I say 'only', because 15km still seems like a good long way to trot bearing a longboat on your shoulders!
I was very excited at the prospect of this museum, as, despite the enormous influence that they wielded over Northern Europe in the Dark Ages, there aren't too many places where you can learn more about Viking culture. The high point is a reconstructed longboat which is extremely impressive, but I confess that I found many of the other exhibits to be a little dry. Maybe I expected too much, but I emerged feeling slightly disappointed with a sense that the museum didn't do full justice to the fascinating subject matter.
On further consideration, I think that the museum tries too hard to debunk the impression that the Vikings spent all their time raping and pillaging, and overemphasises the agricultural and trading aspects of the culture. Their more peaceable activities - particularly the extent of their trade - are indeed fascinating, but (at least to my mind) the way that the material is presented is too academic, and the displays could do with being punchier and more concise. I would imagine that children would be particularly interested in knowing more about the Viking way of life, but apart from an excellent exhibit which encourages kids to assemble their own Viking village from blocks, there is relatively little to engage them.
Despite this quibble, it is an interesting museum, and well worth going to see the longboat alone. Another major plus is the lovely fjordside setting, where you could linger for hours in good weather (especially if you were organised enough to bring a picnic with you) and the stupendous architecture of the museum building, which is forged out of sheet metal and looks like the upturned hulls of longboats. It is wonderful to see the architecture of a building reflect its function, and this will probably be the memory of Haithabu that I remember most fondly.
To get there by car, take motorway A7 Hamburg-Flensburg, exit Schleswig/Jagel. The museum is located on the B 76 south of Schleswig.

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