OpenRoad Driver Volume 13 Issue 1 - Page 76

76 » OpenRoad Driver Stockholm’s old town square CO U RAG E “Our country’s first king founded Sigtuna around 970,” Eva recounts. “Settlers welcomed Viking traders, who sailed to far-flung parts of Europe, Russia and even the Middle East.” Pointing out a boulder with red, snake-like inscriptions, Eva explains, “This Old Norse message recalls a gentleman’s life. Wealthy citizens and merchant guilds placed these runic stones along 11th-century roadways to be seen by all passing. Sigtuna has over 150 such memorials.” FIDELITY Dedicated to Norway’s patron saint and Viking King, the ruins of St. Olof ’s Church stand on a grassy knoll. A newer church shares the same location. “St. Mary’s was originally a Dominican monastery,” Eva remarks. “During the Protestant Reformation, King Gustav Vasa ordered it converted to a parish church.” Sitting under its high-vaulted ceiling, we imagine worshippers learning about Christ and his apostles from now-faded medieval murals. Returning through town, we see the old and young proudly sharing their history. At the lakefront, two families robed in Viking attire set off for a sail in a replicated longboat. INDUSTRIOUSNESS “This land has risen dramatically since the ice ages. In fact, Sigtuna once bordered a fiord,” Eva notes. “We created Lake Mälaren to renew vessel access into the vast hinterland. The two-lane, 70-km/h Länsväg, or county road, from Sigtuna provides us with views of the lakeside, forests and farmlands. Though street signs are not in English, destinations are well marked. Identifying a six-lane Motorväg, or motorway, to Sweden’s capital, we zip along at 110–120 km/h, passing factories and offices. Billboards boast familiar Swedish brands: Volvo, IKEA, Absolut Vodka, Husqvarna, Electrolux, and Ericsson. Stockholm spans fourteen islands and bustles with both land and water traffic. Crossing the lock that lowers ships from Lake Mälaren to the Baltic, we park at Palace Square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s historic centre. An obelisk there commemorates merchant support during the 1788 war against Russia. Behind sprawls 13th-century Church of St. Nicholas, a massive yellow-brick church that has long hosted royal coronations, weddings and burials. DISCIPLINE In a nearby Finnish churchyard, we find a tiny statue of a boy representing orphans who once transferred shipping cargos onto lake barges. Rubbing his head is said to bring good luck or wisdom. Hoping for both, we vigorously massage his already shiny dome. Stockholm’s ancient square, Stortorget lies a short walk away. Among medieval merchant homes, a gabled red building