When we think of the word Viking, most people think of either the Minnesota football team or the people of the Scandinavian countries. The word ‘viking’ was originally a verb used when the Northmen went exploring or ‘a-viking’. They would sometimes be gone from home for several years.
Sailing the oceans in longboats often called drakkars (Norse for dragon) they ventured westward to Greenland, Iceland and even as far as Newfoundland (or the North American continent. There is evidence of Norse settlements as far west as the modern state of Minnesota. (NO-Columbus did not discover America – ask the Native Americans).
The Vikings, in the form of Swedish Rus, also traveled southeastward into Russia and had a hand in the settlement of Kiev, Russia.
They sailed their knarrs (merchant ships) southward into the Mediterranean Sea and traded with the Middle East.
At one point, the city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) was guarded in part by a group of soldiers called the Varangian Guard. Although the first guardsmen in the tenth century were from Scandinavia, by the eleventh and twelfth century, most of the guard members were Anglo-Saxon.
The Vikings were instrumental in settling a lot of Western Europe and the British Isles. Many families can trace their roots back to those settlers. (Or in some cases raiders and rapists).
Another thing we moderns owe the Vikings is the name of some of our days: Wednesday – Woden’s (or Odin’s) day, Thursday – Thor’s day, Friday – Frija’s (or Freya’s) day.
Also – whoever came up with the idea of an A-frame house must have been looking at pictures of the old Viking tents.
There are those who believe the Vikings got bad press when it came to raiding, raping, and burning, but without them a lot of history would be different.