“My wife and I have made you a fantastic lunch of Swedish meatballs, but first, we exercise!”
And with that, John Erik, a man dressed in 10th century Nordic garb – complete with a hand-forged hammer of Thor around his neck – ushered 17 George Washington MBA students into a series of three replica Viking ships at the lakeshore. Before our enjoying our lunch of Swedish meatballs, we had to row across Lake Malaren.
My class in international management did not prepare me for this.
The video below gives you an idea of our transition to the water. Notice that a few of us installed the oars the wrong way, and in the distance, you can hear John Erik hollering at us is Swedish (at least I think it was Swedish).
John Erik runs a Viking cultural center called Frösåkers Brygga near Vasteras, Sweden. He invites private parties to experience life as the Vikings did. Upon our arrival, he regaled us with tails of Viking history on Lake Malaren, which was a major hub for Viking commerce in the 10th century. He showed us ancient coins from Rome and the Middle East that were found on the shores of Lake Malaren, and touted his exploits traveling across Europe performing Viking cultural reenactments (think jousting).
Then he pointed to his small fleet of Viking ships, and we set sail. After initially flailing with our oars in the water, we improved as Viking rowers, as you can see below:
Once back on land, John Erick led us to his Viking longhouse. As we walked in, much to our surprise, we found a state-of-the-art chef’s kitchen. We enjoyed a meal of nettle soup, Swedish meatballs, mash potatoes, homemade bread, and handmade ice cream with a fresh rhubarb and apple compote. All ingredients were organic, and the vegetables were hand-picked earlier in the day. Hands down, this represented the best meal I enjoyed in Scandinavia. The Swedish meatballs were so delicious that one Swede in the room claimed they were the best she had ever tasted. As it turns out, John Erik is a professional chef in addition to a Viking enthusiast.
The day proved to be an unexpected and unique cultural experience. Should I find myself in the City of Vasteras again, I will certainly look up John Erik for another Viking adventure.