I think the transformation of Scandinavia from a region whose best-known exports were brigandage and raiding, to one famous today for high taxes and really good furniture, is one of the more interesting stories in world history. One could do far worse than turn into contemporary Sweden or Denmark.
The contrast between past and present is highlighted in this Guardian article on the arrival of a Norse longboat in Dublin:
More than 1,200 years ago hordes of bloodthirsty Viking raiders descended on Ireland, pillaging monasteries and massacring the inhabitants. Yesterday, one of their more mild-mannered descendants stepped ashore to apologise.
The Danish culture minister, Brian Mikkelson, who was in Dublin to participate in celebrations marking the arrival of a replica Norse longboat, apologised for the invasion and destruction inflicted….
The reconstructed longboat was based on a ship found at the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord, south of Copenhagen. The original vessel was believed to have been built in Dublin – then a Viking city – in 1042 and to have sunk 30 years later.
The wreck was discovered in 1962 and tests on the timbers enabled archaeologists to trace the wood to trees from Glendalough, County Wicklow.
I had no idea Dublin had once been a Viking city.