If you are heading away on holiday this summer, experts at The JORVIK Group of visitor attractions in York suggest you take hints from history when organising your packing, with the original travel hacks practised by Vikings, medieval travellers and Tudors!
“Today, we think nothing of hopping onto a plane to travel thousands of miles in a couple of hours, but for our ancestors, a journey of even a hundred miles was a long, arduous trek, and yet explorers like the Vikings were hugely successful at surviving and prospering despite making long journeys by sea,” comments Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for The JORVIK Group. “Whilst some medieval remedies were complete nonsense, many techniques were found to work and can actually be used by travellers today to combat everything from travel sickness to holiday insomnia.”
Researchers from JORVIK have put together a kit of historic travel hacks using five simple ingredients that will even pass the stringent security precautions faced at airport security desks; ideal whether you are travelling long-haul, or swapping your passport for a PastPort to visit The JORVIK Group’s attractions around York– a pass which gives a year’s access five top visitor attractions in the city.
Travel Hack #1 – Honey
In an ancient tradition followed widely in medieval society, newlyweds would have to drink the honey-based beverage, mead, for a month following their nuptials to ensure a successful and fruitful (fertile!) marriage – hence the honeymoon – but it is a base ingredient for any travel kit, serving a multitude of purposes:
- Antibacterial properties mean that it can be applied to a clean wound to protect against infection, with the sticky substance providing an antibacterial coating.
- A couple of spoonfuls in a cup of hot water makes a rehydrating drink, soothing throats sore from nights out clubbing or breathing air in a hot, dry climate.
- Tastes great on cereal or added to yogurt or as an alternative to sugar in fruit infusions.
“Mead made from honey was a favourite beverage of the Vikings, not only for its intoxicating qualities, but because untreated water harboured so many bugs, as the Norse settlers often positioned their toilet facilities rather to close to their drinking water supplies – as you can see in Viking age Coppergate,” comments Fastulf Geraldsson, also known as Stuart Perry of JORVIK Viking Centre. “During the archaeological digs in York, we discovered the earliest known remains of skep apiculture – coiled domes of straw that housed bee colonies – so we know that our ancestors were actively manufacturing honey. Indeed, good quality honey was a high value commodity, which would have suited the Viking traders perfectly.”
Travel Hack #2 – Lavender
Victorians were known to sew lavender into the hems of their nightcaps to help combat lice, and indeed, three centuries earlier, in Tudor times, lavender was established as the ‘herb of cleanliness and calm’ and used in every room of the house. Hugely popular in gardens at this time of year, so usually available at no cost, lavender continues to be another multi-purpose travel essential. For travelling, the experts at JORVIK suggest leaving flowers to steep in vodka for a few days, and putting into a spray bottle, where it can be used for:
- A basic wound rinse that works for minor cuts, as lavender is a natural antiseptic, believed by many to help the healing process.
- Spritzing onto your pillow to encourage a good night’s sleep in a strange bed, as it is known to influence mood and help relaxation. Also great to use if you are a nervous flyer on aeroplanes.
- Use as an insect repellent, as mosquitos do not like the strong fragrance.
- Pour a little over ice for a fantastically refreshing alcoholic shot, or add lemonade for a longer summer drink.
“During the reign of Henry VII, the book De Hortus Sanitatis was published, which brought together medical practices and folklore, including annotated illustrations of lavender, describing its uses such as keeping moths at bay from woollen clothes,” comments Fran Bennett, group education officer whose role encompasses the Henry VII Experience in York’s Micklegate Bar. “It was also recommended for apoplexy, palsy, loss of speech and headache, although it was advised that it should be wrapped in red silk if it was to be used to treat noblemen!”
Travel Hack #3 – Olive Oil
In Tudor England, olive oil was becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in Castile Soap, which was often scented with rose or lavender by the wealthiest members of society. Today, its uses are wide-ranging, but perfect for the traveller:
- The ultimate grooming ingredient, it can be used as an alternative to shaving oil, for moisturising the skin, for removing make-up and even for controlling hair frizz.
- For those overindulging on gastronomic breaks, olive oil can be rubbed into the skin to avoid the appearance of stretch marks on over-full stomachs!
- Scientists discovered that applying extra virgin olive oil after sun exposure reduced the risk of skin cancer developing when mice were tested, thought to be due to antioxidants mopping up free radicals and helping neutralise them.
- If your daytime suncream has left your evening pearls dull, follow the Elizabethan example of polishing them with olive oil on a cloth. Jewellery experts believe that this rehydrates the pearls, improving their lustre. Olive oil is also recommended as a polish for amber, silver and even diamonds.
“Although not native to England, olive oil was very much in favour amongst the ruling classes during Tudor times, as a key component of Castile Soap, but also with so much extravagant jewellery, it would have come in handy for shining pearls and polishing precious metals,” comments Jane Stockdale, head of audience development for the JORVIK Group, who worked on the new exhibition at Barley Hall. “You can almost imagine Catherine Howard’s servants preparing her finest pearls for her clandestine meetings with Thomas Culpeper during her visit to York with husband Henry VIII in 1541 – determined to look her best for her secret lover!”
Travel Hack #4 – Rock salt
Salt was widely used by sea-faring races like the Vikings whenever they were travelling as a preservative for food. Whilst most modern travellers can find a convenience store within a few minutes’ walk of tourist resorts, salt remains the most humble yet versatile of ingredients that you should not be without when on holiday:
- An essential part of rehydration – even if you are drinking lots of water, your body needs salt to rehydrate during hot holidays, so adding an extra pinch to your dinner is often no bad thing whilst on holiday.
- For minor cuts, rinsing with salt water can assist the healing process. If your cut is on your foot, a paddle in the sea might help, but for a cut or ulcer in your mouth, rinsing with a weak salt water solution can promote healing.
- Sprinkling salt inside your trainers (remove before wearing) is said to help reduce the odours caused by not wearing socks!
“In medieval England, salt was considered so important that it was stored under guard,” comments David Scott of The Richard III Experience in Monk Bar. “In fact, in social circles, your status may well have been most obvious at the feast dining table. Salt would be placed in the middle of the dining table, so the lord and his family would be seated ‘above the salt’, whilst other guests of lower status would be sat ‘below the salt’.”
Travel Hack #5 – Root ginger
Ginger has been used to help settle the stomach for over 4000 years, by the Egyptians, Romans and by Vikings to combat sea sickness, so its effectiveness should not be underestimated. However, as a multipurpose ingredient, travellers should either take the ginger root in its raw state, or put small cubes of root ginger in vodka, wine or sugar syrup to be used:
- Steeped in hot water to make a ginger tea to combat motion sickness, whether travelling by air, car or sea.
- Grated into food, ginger can help settle upset stomach, flatulence and diarrhoea – all common ailments for holiday makers!
- In Ayurvedic medicine, ginger is a powerful aphrodisiac and increases sexual prowess – perfect for romantic holidays.
“Ginger was exported from India to Ancient Rome, and with the extremely rich diet, was often used as a digestive aid,” comments Paul Whiting, marketing manager for DIG. “It is still popular today, but in Victorian England, it came into its own, not only as a herb, but as a key ingredient in one of the most popular summer beverages, ginger beer. In 1877, a review of life in London suggested that around 300,000 gallons of ginger beer were sold in the city each year. The report stated that good profit could be made in its manufacture, as ‘the trade requires but little capital, no skill, and scarcely any knowledge’.”
Mix it up
The ingredients of the travel pack do not have to be used in isolation, but can also be combined to further increase their utility. Suggestions include:
- Mixing salt and olive oil to make the perfect exfoliant. Apply to dry skin before showering and sun bathing for a longer-lasting tan. Some people add honey to the mix and use as a treatment for acne.
- Add salt and the lavender spritz to bath water as an alternative to bubble bath to soothe and relax aching muscles after long days’ sightseeing.
- According to Ayurvedic medicine, ginger chewed with salt before a meal stimulates appetite.
- Olive oil, mixed with salt and honey makes a quick and easy salad dressing.
The JORVIK Group PastPort grants visitors entry to JORVIK Viking Centre , DIG , Barley Hall and The Richard III & Henry VII Experiences as many times as they wish for the following 12 months. The PastPort costs £18.95 for adults, £11.95 for children and £14.95 for concessions. A PastPort for a family of four is £49.95, or £54.95 for five.
For more information on the JORVIK Group PastPort, please visit www.thejorvikgroup.com
For further media information or photographs, please contact:
Pyper York Limited
Tel: 01904 500698
Based in York, UK, the JORVIK Group of Attractions comprises:
- JORVIK Viking Centre
- Barley Hall
- The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar
- The Henry VII Experience at Micklegate Bar
The JORVIK Group also organises the annual JORVIK Viking Festival each February in York, and the Yorkshire Medieval Festival in August.