Monday, August 29, 2016

Sigtuna, Sweden's First Town

Sigtuna, Sweden, was built around 970 AD and is known as the first Swedish town. King Erik the Victorious declared himself the king of Sweden--the first time anyone had ever done so--and decided it was high time to build a town. Thus, the birth of Sigtuna.

And what better way to spend one's first day in Sweden?

I had arrived in Stockholm a mere three hours earlier by the time I boarded the bus to Sigtuna, which is about an hour's drive. Our guide, Eva, explained that many Swedes have not even been to this city--turns out our bus driver was among them! Regardless, Sigtuna had always been an international city, evidenced by coins and currency found throughout the ages.

At our first stop, the five-star 1909 Sigtuna Stads Hotell, we had coffee and got an overview of the hotel and our day to come. Unfortunately, the hotel owner was sick, so Eva read her story in place. Marilyn Bellman had always dreamed of owning a hotel, and after taking some self-development and leadership courses, leading to increased confidence, she bought the 1909 Sigtuna Stads Hotell. Her goal is to make it as cozy and home-like as possible, and I think she's done quite well!

Eva and Ted, the Museum Director of Sigtuna Museum, gave us a walking tour following our morning provisions. On the museum grounds, you could see exactly where the church walls were--in those areas, the grass did not grow over the foundation.

We also came across runic stones, of which Sigtuna has the most in the world! Destination Sigtuna sums it up much more eloquently than I ever could, so here is their description:
Visitors are sometimes surprised when they are advised to look for runic stones near the many early Christian churches (built of stone in the 12th and 13th centuries). “Weren’t the Vikings heathens?." Not many know that the majority of all runic stones are Christian. The cross on the stones indicates just that. Most of the stones were put up in memory of deceased family members and intended to be seen by others. They are to be found where people congregated or passed by. The churches that came later were built on those sites, too, and runic stones proved to be quite good building material. 

Our tour ended at the Rådhus, or town hall. Not only is it the smallest town hall in all of Sweden, but my favorite anecdote originates here. Way back when, Sigtuna had a population of only 380 people, yet there were 16 bars on the main street. Clearly, they had a drinking problem. Legend has it that, in a hidden compartment on the outer wall of the building, there was a spare key to a prison cell. If the men got too drunk to go home to their families, they'd let themselves into the cell and make themselves at home!

One last thing of note--the beautiful pastel colors of the buildings are not by accident. In Sigtuna, there is actually a list of approved paint colors, and you must abide by it.

I think any history buff would enjoy Sigtuna, so make it a day trip the next time you're in Stockholm!

Thank you to TBEX and Destination Sigtuna for providing me with this amazing opportunity!

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