MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Because of this game day chant, most Minnesota Vikings fans know that “skol” means “bravo” in Norwegian. And Vikings fans who travel to Moorhead can learn another Norwegian word: Hjemkomst.
“It means ‘coming home’ in Norwegian,” said Maureen Kelly Jonason, executive director of the Hjemkomst Center.
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The Hjemkomst Center is perhaps the only museum in the world that was literally built around a Viking ship. In the 1970s, Professor Robert Asp decided he wanted to build such a ship and take it across the Atlantic.
“It took seven years to build and he did it on his own, mostly,” Jonason said. “At first, he cut down trees and milled them. “
Asp was diagnosed with leukemia before he could see it, so others helped him finish. The work required more than 100 oak trees. When completed, it was 60 feet tall and weighed 16 tons. In May 1982, he left Duluth with 13 crew members, including four of Asp’s own children.
Even though the boat was fitted with a diesel generator, it was not really a factor. The trip was propelled by the wind. A week into their trip, a tropical storm almost ended it all. He broke their rudder and made a hole in the hull of the ship.
“They didn’t have anyone following them. No emergency protocol or anything like that, ”Jonason said.
But they kept going, and it was a cinch after that.
“They sometimes had the wind high enough to water ski in the back. They used Viking shields for the skis, ”Jonason said.
After six weeks at sea, they arrived in Bergen, Norway. The ship spent a year there before being placed on a freighter to return to the United States. His last port was Moorhead, where it all began and where visitors from all over the world come to see him.
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“It’s amazing, and looking at her condition, she must have barely made it,” said Mike Chandler of Gettysburg, Pa.
“I’ve come all the way from Delray Beach, Florida to see this and the runestone,” said Charles Van Vliet.
The ship isn’t the only Viking relic you’ll find here.
“The Hopperstad is located in the small village of Vik, Norway. It is the second largest of all the Stave churches, ”said Jonason.
Woodcarver Guy Paulson built and donated the church at the center. It took him five years to do it. He even went to Norway to get the exact details, since the 28 stave churches still standing were built in the Middle Ages.
“This was the time when the Vikings switched from their multi-god religion to Christianity,” Jonason said.
The theme here is dreamy, much like shipbuilders and church builders once did. And I hope that visitors will leave with a tip of the cap, or a “skol”, for the creators.
“We like people to think about their own dreams. We love to tell kids to dream big. And maybe their dreams will come true with a lot of hard work and dedication, ”Jonason said.
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Next summer there will be an exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the voyage of the Viking ship. The Hjemkomst Center is also celebrating the 150th anniversary of Clay County this year. Click here for more information.