I’m glad I didn’t pay attention to the warning that the Jorvik Viking Centre in York was mainly for children. It was a bit hokey at first but enjoyable overall. I was especially enchanted by the city of York because of its reputation as the Viking stronghold in England. It certainly was that!
The early history of Great Britain was all about occupation. The Romans invaded in the year 43. They made York their military capital despite the fact that it was a bit inland. They called it Eboracum. They stayed until the 5th century, leaving behind evidence of garrison buildings, Roman floors, and lots of work for future archaeologists. The Vikings arrived in 793 and held on until 1066, the year of the Norman Invasion. They called York “Jorvik”. The last English-Viking king, who had a great Game-of-Thrones name–Eric Bloodaxe–had been banished long before this when the city was still thriving as a mercantile and manufacturing center.
Viking houses and workshops were once where the Jorvik Centre is today. In the 20th century this area became the Coppergate Dig where archaeologists found some amazing artefacts, like the Viking shoe below. The Jorvik experience begins with what some call a carnival ride more for children than adults because everyone is seated in a Disneyland-like bubble to supposedly time-travel back to the Viking village of Coppergate. Several animatronic laborers and one eerie, human female in Viking dress greet or wave to you. They speak about their lives or their jobs. They told me to pay attention to the color of clothing instead of the style to determine the class of the individuals. Sounds and smells helped make this a bit more realistic.
At the end of the ride we were led into a small, standard museum that traditionally displayed many of the found artefacts (English spelling) before we exited through the gift shop. I liked it all and found the young staff full of information about Jorvik and willing to share it with visitors. There were demonstrations going on too. I watched and participated in one about the Viking mint that made coins in Jorvik. Before you depart in your bubble, you see a dig under the floor with someone always there to explain what you don’t understand. In the museum were religious icons, silver jewelry, frying pans, etc. I especially liked seeing eating utensils and ice skates. All were made from bones.
York is 2 hours north of London by train and an easy city to walk around in. Many come here to focus on York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in Great Britain. I was interested in seeing it too, after I learned about the Vikings.