Vikings — the first images that come to mind are of barbaric marauders ravaging, looting, and terrorizing the coasts of northern Europe. That may be accurate, to some degree, but not entirely. The Vikings gave the world sagas, collections of stories and poems that shaped the way modern fantasy and science fiction are written today. Without the old literature of Iceland, there probably would not have been J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit.
The Vikings also gave the world the enduring legacy of the Alþingi , the world’s first parliamentary government. What we know of Norse mythology and Scandinavian history was written in Iceland.
To sustain themselves with food crops and livestock, they would have needed a calendar, and therefore a knowledge of the stars. To know the cosmos is to also understand mathematics.
Beyond literacy, political savvy, and agriculture, the Vikings were also a people who traveled the globe far and wide, in boats, which could only have been done with their knowledge of the stars and planets, and mathematics. In other words, the Vikings also knew science. To cross the ocean for global exploration and trade, in boats that could also serve as warships in shallow tides, the Vikings had to know more than just thumping people on the head.
And they did.
Fierce warriors, to be sure, they were feared opponents, but they were also sought after for trade, and for imparting their technological advancements. Kings in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe commissioned Viking longships, because in the years between 900 and 1100AD, no one could craft a sea-going vessel to match the Viking longship.
Their art, delicately crafted and intricately tooled, has been unearthed in archaeological sites across the globe. Their literature paved the way for current best-selling books and blockbuster movies. They gave the world a government which serves as foundation for governance in countries all over the current world.
In truth, the Vikings gave to and educated the world as much as the Greeks and Romans.
As you discover Iceland, with its hard, finicky weather, its rumbling mountains and tectonic activity, blue ice glaciers, and its isolation from the rest of the world, you have to image that the people who could settle in such a land, and who could be successful, must have been a bit smarter than the average polar bear.
From any Icelandair Hotel, you can easily tour and explore a world that marries fire with ice, and you can visit museums and landmarks to learn more of Viking history. If you stay long enough, you might even become a Viking yourself!