Legend of the Last Vikings - Taklamakan Legend of the Last Vikings - Taklamakan discussion

How I got to write this book

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message 1: by John (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John .....there I was in 2002 having just finished a masters degree and really, really bored with watching TV. Then a memory of a book I read a number of years ago surfaced - about the Viking trade routes East through central Europe to Byzantium, current Istanbul, Turkey.

You may ask why I this came to mind. As someone with Viking or Scandinavian heritage, I had toyed with the idea of researching my family tree, but I was not too thrilled with that prospect. Then I recalled the book and started researching.

The journey's these guys did over a thousand years ago was fascinating. No computers, heavy lifting machinery or any sort of automation - yet every spring they would set off from Norway, Denmark, Sweden & Finland go north and the east across the Baltic Sea and row up the Lovat. When it became too shallow they would lift the boats and cargo out the river and walk about a hundred miles or so to the next river (thats right WALK!) refloat & reload the boats and sail on down the Dniepr River to Byzantium past Smolensk, Kiev and Odessa to the Black Sea and Byzantium. Some would cross to the Volga river and travel past Moscow, Yaroslavl and Volgograd to the Caspian Sea.
Then at the end of summer they would make a RETURN JOURNEY!!!! Man these guys were tough!

I also found entries recorded by the Arabs that the Viking traders spoke up to 9 languages - fluently. Not exactly the image that Hollywood has given us.

I found a mention of a Swedish Viking Yngvar Vittfarne (Yngvar the Far Travelled) who had done the journey a great number of times and made a lot of money out of the trade. It is thought he was the equivalent of a Viking millionaire. Being a true Viking Yngvar pushed the boundaries and disappeared on a journey to explore "Sarkland" - which was thought to be Samarkand. He never returned from his expedition.

The story starts in 1066AD with the Viking defeat at the battle of Stamford Bridge, which brought the Viking age to an end. A few stragglers return home to Norway and decide the quiet life is not for them. So they decide to take a journey to Byzantium, which many of them would have done at least once during their lives. On the way they discover the story of Yngvar and decide to go to Sarkland to find him.

The journey takes these men from Norway across the Baltic to Kiev, Kerch, the (now sunken) Fortress at Sarkel on the Don River, Astrakhan on the Caspian Sea (which was then Jewish), Gorgan, up the Oxus River (now Amu Darya) to Bactria, bypassing Samarkand to Kashi (formerly Kashgar), along the northern rim of the Taklamakan desert (hence the books sub-title) through Tumshuq, Aksu, Kizil, Karashaer with the terminus being the deserted desert city of Lou Lan near Lop Nor/Lake Nor - where for many years the Chinese government had their nuclear testing facility. What did they find there - well you'll have to read the book to find out!

Researching the peoples, customs, religions, technologies and architecture of the route was facinating. One day I would like to cycle it on my trusting mountain bike - seriously! I have already done 300 mile and 500 mile rides.

The return route was via Urumchi, Almaty, along the northern edge of the Tien Shan in Kazakhstan to the Aral Sea, Astrakhan, Sarkel and ending back in Kiev. You'll have to read the book to find the reasons for the different route back.

If you do buy a copy I do hope you will write an honest review. There is also a host more information on the book's website. So please do visit, read and send me lots of questions.
The book can only be bought online at

message 2: by Bryn (last edited Apr 01, 2012 04:53PM) (new) - added it

Bryn Hammond What a plot. Ever since I found the part about Vikings in Rus the most fascinating bit in A History of the Vikings (great book) the sheer adventurousness got ahold of me. And now I don't feel silly having my Mongols refer to Rus and possibly even these Scandinavians. I know people traveled in ways we cannot believe until we get the evidence. I know there are true stories stranger than fiction, in this epoch, in these parts of the world - plots you daren't make up; except you have dared, and the point is it's justified and might have happened. It sounds part travelogue - well-researched travelogue.

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