Saturday, Sept 14
I had booked Cathy and I on a half-day Viking history tour for this morning. She awoke with quite a cold, but valiantly decided to stick with the tour so I wouldn’t have to go alone. Our driver and our tour guide turned out to be from Iraq. I will say I was a bit disappointed not be guided through Viking history by an actual Viking (or at least a descendant of one). The tour guide kept interchanging Jerusalem and Constantinople, like they were the same city, which didn’t really instill a sense that all his facts were spot on. He also had a habit of reciting dates as one thousand two hundred instead of twelve hundred. So, for example, this church was built around one thousand two hundred. I kept having to sort of translate the dates in my head.
But, those were the criticisms, for the most part, I really enjoyed the Viking history tour. We saw the rune stones of Osten and Estrid (well, she didn’t have a rune stone, but her grave was discovered nearby). They were the couple whose marriage brought together 2 warring tribes and started a dynasty in the Lake Vallentuna area that lasted for 100 years and left behind the best grouping of rune stones in Sweden. We stopped at several more rune stones, most placed by children and grandchildren of Osten and Estrid to honor loved ones. All had one or two snakes encircling a cross with an inscription inside the snake detailing who commissioned the rune stone and why. We also saw an ancient meeting mound where one could bring grievances against a fellow to be settled by someone in authority and a couple of causeways (which were really nothing more today than a raised section of land in a general bridgelike shape). One of the most fascinating things I learned on the tour today was that the land in this part of Northern Europe is rising at a rate of 1 meter/century. So, many of the sites we visited today used to be right at the water’s edge of the nearby lake. This rising land is also the reason that the well in Stortorget dried up a while back and had to be connected to city water to continue to function (see Thursday’s blog post). The rising land is referred to as post-glacial rebound – although our tour guide didn’t give me this term, I looked it up on Wikipedia just because I was curious.
Our final stop on the tour was the town of Sigtuna. It is Sweden’s oldest city. There remains one quaint street to remind you of the old town. We stopped and had a very quick bite to eat in a cafe housed in a very old house with extremely low ceilings (I could just barely stand up, had to duck to get through doorways) and thick walls. Our tour of Sigtuna took us past two old churches – one brick and in great repair, the other made of stone and in ruins. The brick church began (as all of that era did) as a Catholic church, then was converted to Lutheran during the reformation. At the conversion much of the Catholic decoration was removed, but some of the painted decorations and fancy chandeliers remain in a couple parts of this church. Between the 2 churches was a graveyard with some old, but also some very new graves. I noticed from far off that some of the graves had a metal statue with small metal “leaves” hanging off of it in rows, instead of the usual headstone and was curious what this was. Our guide informed us that this was a representation of a Viking ship that was to take the person to Valhalla (Viking heaven) after their death. The strange thing was that it was the modern graves that seemed to have these metal ships, not the older ones. Do modern people really believe in Valhalla, or are they just celebrating their heritage? The ruined church of stone had an interesting story: it was ruined centuries ago, and people carried the stones off to use in building barns, houses, other fortresses, etc. In modern times, the folks in charge of this church have been going around the countryside collecting as many stones as they can from the various places they ended up, removing them, and rebuilding the church with them. They collect stones throughout the year, then periodically close the church so they can spend a few weeks putting the stones they’ve collected back on the church, so that it continues to grow back into its former glory each year. Cathy and I wondered, though, what about the buildings the stones are being taken from. At this point, they, too, are historical and so should be preserved, too. Which building takes precedence?
We arrived back at the flat around 2:30. Cathy was feeling the effects of her cold, so wanted to rest for a while. While she rested, Rob and I ventured out to check out the Hornstulls Market. It was not much of anything, so that was kind of a bust. But, we had bought a 24 hour pass on the Metro to get there (Tunnelbana in Swedish). I had read that there were several really cool looking stations on the Tunnelbana. So, we set out to find them. See photos below of some of our favorites. We didn’t see all of the ones we wanted to, so may go again tomorrow to see the rest.
Our final outing for the day was an organ concert. It was being held at the German church just 1 block from where we are staying, and was free. So, I thought we should go along to check it out. We planned to sit towards the back and skip out early if it was not very interesting. Well, when we arrived, the church was already pretty full and we found out that the event was being recorded for a later radio broadcast. So, no sneaking out early for us. This church has 2 organs. 3 of the 8 songs that were played utilized both organs. Those 3 I found interesting. The others were just blah. And 1 of the songs, which had been composed just a few years ago by one of the organists was terrible! It was a horrible, modern thing that sounded like it should have been the soundtrack to a cheesy 70s sci-fi movie, all discordant notes, and long pauses. We felt like it was something an 8 year old or an AI could have composed. When the piece ended, several people got up and left. Rob and I felt we needed to at least stay until intermission, at which point lots of people got up and left with us.