Exploration, history, ruins, and Valborg.

What is with this week? It's like....taking forever.  Last weekend I was at the summer house with everyone and all week the kids have been home from school sick, so it's been theeeeeee lonnnnnngest week EVER! Yesterday we fixed the garden and backyard and grilled for the first time, so it really is starting to feel like the seven days of Swedish summer I've been hearing so much about.  But still...CAN IT BE FRIDAY PLEASE? I need a break! Phew.

With that rant over, let me say that I am in the works of starting something new on this blog--a new category if you will, specifically for locations in Sweden that I visit.  I feel that it's an important enough thing to warrant its own feature and I want to keep my "thought journal" separate from my "travel scrapbook."  But I've been too lazy/busy to work on this yet....still, if reading about foreign locations and Scandinavian history is something that interests you, keep your eyes peeled! Soon my pretties.

Now, onto this week's adventures.

Wreta Abbey 
My boss, maybe feeling the strain on everyone from being sick and stuck indoors, pulled us out of the house for a mini-excursion Tuesday.  I got to see Sweden's oldest church and monastery, Wreta Abbey.  No one knows exactly when it was built, and they assume that a wooden church was build before the stone structure that stands today, but it's been around since at least the early 1100's.  Considering the fact that the Vikings' heyday was still going strong in the 900's....that's a long ass time ago.   And in fact, under the church/crypt, they found Viking burial monuments.

Source: Linköpings historia
I didn't get any photos of my own of this church.  I went in anticipating to, seeing as I have my new camera, but when you're in such a building, this kind of strange feeling takes over and photography is the furthest thing from your mind.  At least it was for me, and I'm sure others felt the same way.  I'm the least religious person on earth, but the history and beauty and love and care of Wreta really touched me in what some could call a spiritual way. I could almost see myself in a past life, living there as a nun and being in peace and quiet and ponderous devotion for my entire life.  One of the Viking stones, complete with carvings, was on display inside and I touched it as probably thousands of other people and tourists have done.  I touched the grooves on something made so long ago, the same grooves that the carver cut and cleaned and traced and worked so hard on.  Things like this are what makes living in Sweden so special to me.  It makes me feel so privileged just to be alive and see the artists of the past.

Wreta Abbey has an awesome badass founding story too, as you might expect.  At the time the first church was ordered built, Christianity was a new thing and Swedes weren't too fond of it in certain areas.  They were still pagan and had no desire to give up their awesome hardcore metal custom of blót, which was a custom that went something like this:

1. Sacrifice animals, usually horse and pig.
2. Cook them
3. Offer the best meat to the gods
4. Put the magic blood of the sacrifices on stuff like walls, table, and each other
5. Eat the remaining meat for yourselves
6. Pray for awesome stuff to happen
7. Mead.

Inge the Elder became King in the 1100's, and he was a Christian man (and supposedly very handsome, and TWO METERS TALL!!  (Basically 6' 6'' and that's insanely huge for someone living in the 1100's, yanno?) Anyway, Inge the Christian was really pissed about these sacrifices and demanded them stopped.  After the Swedes gathered that he wasn't going to endorse their bloody parties--of which Yule was the greatest--they stoned him and ran him out of Sweden, exiling him.  His brother-in-law, Blot-Sweyn, became king.  As you can guess from his nickname, Sweyn allowed and endorsed the sacrifice rituals.  But Inge, metal hardass that he was, came back from exile three years later and killed the shit out of Sweyn.  And Inge became King again.  And nobody fucked with him.  At some point during his rule, he ordered Wreta Kyrkan (the church) to be built.  They assume that some of the remains, of which there are several kings, in the church are his.

Stjärnorp Castle
From the church, we went to a place my boss had seen on a map.  It was marked only "slottsruin" (castle ruin) so we had no idea what to expect or what we were looking for.  Then we turned a curve and saw, in front of a lake, a dark tower on a hill.  It was Stjärnorp Castle....or had been at one point, anyway.  The ruins themselves were majestic, but they were un-majestically closed to the public.  This is frustrating for someone like me who is careful, cares nothing about graffiti, loves old ruins, and will not blame anybody but myself if I end up with a broken neck.  But more about that later.

I couldn't find much of a history about the castle other than that it was owned by a family until it burned and the family had no money to repair it.  Now it sits dejectedly in front of a ravine, by a beautiful lake.  It was at one time the kind of castle you'd imagine Keira Knightley starring in a movie about....a courtyard, a balcony, carriages, a forest, and probably a handsome Swedish prince.  Alas, it has been left to rot.

This week was Valborg, or as the English speakers know it, Walpurgis Night.   In asking people how to celebrate this traditional, pagan holiday, the best I could gather is that you light a fire, have fireworks, and get stone dead drunk.  Sounds kind of like the Fourth of July, amirite? Still, this holiday took place in the middle of the week and while most regular working Swedes have the next day off, I don't really seeing as how my job and home life coincide.  I didn't really want to bother with drinking alone at a bonfire and then having a hangover with two sick children around the next day. Seemed kind of tacky.  So we went to the local bonfire and watched it for awhile, snapped a few pics, watched the fireworks, and went home.  Much more my style! Am I getting old or crabby?


  1. It's a history lesson that isn't awful and boring like in high school! I love it. It'd be so fun to see that castle!

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