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Friday, August 01, 2008

Sigtuna, Sweden: More Rune Stones Than Any Other Town

Sigtuna, Sweden 12

Ever the gracious host, HH had set up a cot for me, cleared a shelf in the bathroom, and lent me his extra cell phone. I was an excellent houseguest too! Even though I already bought him presents, at his request, I also went to Banana Republic to buy him several shirts and a very expensive pair of slacks (I told you he was a clotheshorse!). He kept trying to pay me for them, but I refused since I was staying with him for so long and because I figured it'd all even out in the end. I'm nice like that.

Though we only saw each other after HH came home from work each evening, I didn't want to wear out my welcome. I know how exhausting it can be to entertain someone every night. And even if I'm not specifically entertaining them, it's nice just to have my own space or downtime after coming home from work.

One night, early on into my stay, I left dinner on the table with a note that said I was giving him some alone time and going for a walk. Instead he called and told me to come home and eat with him. He said we could go for a walk together after dinner and that if he wanted personal space, he'd tell me so. Well, he never did.

So we quickly fell into a routine where I made it home in time to cook dinner ("Honey, I'm home. How are the kids?" he'd often joke.); or he'd tell me not to cook and we'd go out to eat that night (Indian, Malaysian, and Turkish food. Hmm. We never really did go to an ordinary Swedish restaurant, just lots of cafes.); we shared details of our day (His: grumblings about his employees. Mine: finding the little "Iron Boy" statue or English-language bookstore.). Then we would take a walk after dinner exploring different parts of Stockholm.

A week of such domesticity and a weekend in Helsinki, Finland, and I was quite bereft when HH was gone most of the second week because of several business trips. So I slept in a lot, shopped a lot (H&M. Grey wool slacks for only $5!), and ate a lot of cheap doner kebabs from a takeaway place down the street. Mmm. From the first time Norwegian guy cousin introduced me to doner kebabs when I visited Oslo, I always try to eat them at least once when I travel.

HH unexpectedly came home one night after his business trip to Norway and before leaving early the next day for Denmark. Apparently his friend had tried to set him up. With a woman who didn't quite get his sense of humor. Who had a gap between her teeth. Some people think it's sexy I said. Like Madonna. Except this woman had an annoying habit of pushing her gum into that gap. He missed me! Ha! The bar was pretty low though when I get appreciated simply because I laugh, have no toothy gaps, and don't chew gum often, much less repeatedly push it through my teeth. :P

Since his trip to Copenhagen wasn't going to be an overnighter, I promised I'd make him Nem Nuong and Nem Nuong Cuon (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty and Vietnamese Grilled Pork Patty Salad Rolls) for dinner. He had only managed to find one Vietnamese restaurant in Stockholm at that point and they charged the equivalent of $20 USD for a bowl of Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup), which he swore tasted like instant noodles.

"I brought you a present," he said after dinner that evening. Then he pulled out a copy of the Financial Times. Yay! Something to read in English! I was suffering from a serious dearth of English-reading material. HH laughed. He had looked for souvenirs for me in Norway but I had already been there so he discarded that idea. If you've read my nem nuong recipe, you know that he then pulled out a 2-lb box of After Eight mint chocolates. Norwegian girl cousin was quite impressed when I told her about them, said they're quite pricey in Scandinavia.

So that night, too tired from his business trips and with more work to do that weekend, he asked if there was something in my guidebook that we could do nearby.

In Rick Steves' Scandinavia, I found a whopping five sentences on Sigtuna.
"Between Stockholm and Uppsala, you pass Sigtuna. Possibly Sweden's cutest town, Sigtuna is fluff. You'll see a medieval lane lined with colorful wooden tourist shops, TI, cafe, romantic park, lakeside promenade, old church, and rune stones...If it's sunny, Sigtuna is worth a browse and an ice cream cone, but little more."
Look! The aforementioned "medieval lane lined with colorful wooden tourist shops..." :) Can you spot the side of my arm? I've been creatively cropping the photos in this series so that's why there are some odd sizes.

Since that was the extent of Steves' information on Sigtuna, we stopped at the tourist information office for a map of town. I highly encourage stopping off at the TI in any town for fact-gathering, maps, and brochures that you can cut up and put into your scrapbook. I also keep a travel journal. In case you're wondering how I can recall such details and know so much about where I've been. Well, and Googling helps too when memory fails.

Sigtuna was founded in the 10th century. The first Swedish coin was minted here. The street you see in the photo above is Stora Gatan, the main street in town and the oldest street in Sweden. The current streets and sites are based on the original city plan of 980 A.D.

There was some kind of festival going on that day. I had no idea the Swedes played the accordion.

Sigtuna, Sweden 1


Sigtuna, Sweden 2

Drakegården (The Dragon), an 18th century house that was once an inn and private home. Today, it's the TI office.

Sigtuna, Sweden 3

Swedish girls in braids, aprons, and clogs.

Sigtuna, Sweden 4

Rune stones, were popular from the 4th to 12th centuries as memorials to the dead. We came across lots of these that day. This was the first one I managed to locate. I quickly darted into someone's yard to take the photo.

Sigtuna, Sweden 5

St. Per church ruins, which dates from the 12th or 13th century.

Sigtuna, Sweden 6

Another rune stone inside the church.

Sigtuna, Sweden 7

Sigtuna, Sweden 8

Apparently, at more than 150, Sigtuna boasts more rune stones than any other town in the world. I decided to view the rune stones as a treasure map. We walked all over Sigtuna and took pictures of all that we could find. What can I say? I'm a nerd and this was my idea of fun. :P

Sigtuna, Sweden 9

Sigtuna, Sweden 10

This was actually the smallest rune stone, although you can't really tell by the photo.

Sigtuna, Sweden 11

After that, we grabbed a couple of hot dogs and sat by the lake. You can see just a bit of lake in the upper right of the photo. Swedish hot dogs, long on dog, short on bun. In Stockholm, I even tried hot dogs served with ketchup on a bed of mashed potatoes. It was...different.

Sigtuna, Sweden 13

We stumbled upon a yard sale and the owner asked HH what region of Sweden he was from because she couldn't place his accent. That's because he was speaking Norwegian! According to HH, spoken Norwegian and Swedish is very similar, while written Norwegian is more similar to written Danish. And Icelandic, since it's ancient Norse, is completely incomprehensible to him.

No time to linger though! We had several other towns on the agenda that day.

You can read all Europe posts with the tag Series: Europe, but I suggest reading this particular trip in this order:"Meet-Cute" Stockholm - Sweden
Helsinki - Finland: A Two-Night Cruise and One Day
Sigtuna - Sweden: More Rune Stones Than Any Other Town
Gamla Uppsala (Old Uppsala) - Sweden: Beowulf and Burial Mounds
Uppsala - Sweden: Birthplace of Celsius
Tallinn - Estonia: A Two-Night Cruise and One Day
Eger and Sirens Valley - Hungary: Floral? Fruity? Woody Notes? What Notes?
Agios Georgios, Corfu Town, and Vidos Island, Corfu - Greece
Glass Bottom Boat, Corfu - Greece
Gaios, Paxos Island - Greece
Parga - Greece
Autostitch of Parga - Greece
Paleokastritsa, Corfu - Greece
Butrint and Saranda - Albania

Tourist Information Office:
Drakegården (The Dragon)
Stora Gatan 33
P.O.Box 117
19323 Sigtuna
+46 592 500 20

1 year ago today, frozen yogurt at Pinkberry - Pasadena (Old Town).


  1. Do they have those "French" hotdogs? It's like a hollowed out bun with the top cut off and filled with a healthy squirt of this sweet mayonnaise-y sauce. Then they shove the hot dog into the bun. They are big on dog as well! LOL

    A story about nothing, huh? Doesn't sound like nothing.

  2. I wish I could go to Sweden now. But I wish I could go to Switzerland even more. Man I want to get out of the country one day but I don't think i can do the flight.

  3. Darlene,
    I didn't even know about French hot dogs and I've been there twice! Well, I evidently wasn't paying attention! Yup! A very long story about nothing. :) Glad you're enjoying it. You seem to be the only one.

    Flying isn't nearly as fun as it used to be. :( But it's totally worth it to travel and explore other countries.

  4. I like your little collection of rune stones. What an amazing time in your life, to be able to travel for weeks at a time, live and wander and explore at your leisure.

  5. Nikki,
    I've got more rune stones coming up! That's part of the reason why I enjoyed my stay so much. Normally I can't stay for long because it's too expensive or I need to go to the next location. So I'm always playing catch-up as a tourist. Whereas here, I could leisurely explore.


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