September 2022

Runes, Ruins, Roaming

Hej! Hallå! (A greeting, but also a song I’ve been listening to recently)

Last week was Core Course Week, which meant everyone dropped everything to travel outside Stockholm! 

Okay, we didn’t drop everything – we spent the week only with our core class, taking our studies out into the real world. My core course is the World of the Vikings, so my class went to Sigtuna and Uppsala to explore ruins, runestones and other artifacts from the Viking Age. Additionally, we spent Monday and Thursday with the Gender & Sexuality core course for an exciting interdisciplinary approach to thinking about the vikings and Swedish history.

Since the focus of the week was primarily academic, let’s start with highlights from our academic excursions.

Sigtuna (Tuesday): This town was established after the trading town Birka was abandoned around 975. That means there were lots of ruins to look at! We visited a few church ruins that were built during the late Viking Age. We were even able to go “inside”. 

This area of Sweden has lots of runestones, so we saw a few of those as well, notably one that was in someone’s backyard. We tried to translate one runestone letter by letter, and got the words “[name] raised this stone” before our instructor gave up and told us what it said. That afternoon in the Sigtuna Museum, we saw more runes that had been carved into everyday objects by potentially ordinary people (one carving on a scrap of wood said “kiss me” – I bet the author would be thrilled to know this is now on display to the public many years later).

The only downside to our Sigtuna visit was that it rained the whole day. But regardless, we had a fun day.

Gamla Uppsala (Wednesday): We visited the mounds!! These are large burial mounds created before the Viking Age in the 6th century. Powerful people and their grave goods were cremated, the ashes poured in an urn, a cairn stacked on top, and then buried under a tremendous amount of dirt. I was very excited about visiting these mounds and they did not disappoint! 

Locals go running on the trails that pass the mounds!

City Walk on Racism (Thursday): Together with the Gender & Sexuality course, we went on a walking tour of Uppsala that focused on sites related to the history of racism and racial biology ideology in Uppsala and Sweden in general. None of the sites we stopped at were places that were obviously racist or remnants of racism, so this walk was very informative. Coincidentally, our guide at the Uppsala University Library later that day had written a thesis on Carl von Linneaus, who had influenced some future racial biologists, so she had a bit to say on this topic as well.

One of the rooms in the University Library

Beyond academic visits, we also had time for cultural and social activities. This included visiting the Uppsala Domkyrka, an ornate, enormous Gothic cathedral, and playing mini golf! We also had some free time to wander around the city.

Eating meals together was also part of our social time. Dinner on Wednesday was risotto with crème brûlée (or Swedish meatballs for the meat eaters) in a cozy room on the second floor of the restaurant. Breakfast at the hotel on Thursday and Friday was very good and had lots of variety. Dinner on Thursday was pizza and tiramisu (pasta carbonara for meat eaters). Lunch on Friday was roasted cauliflower and gnocchi. Everyone else got veal with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. I hadn’t had mashed potatoes with lingonberries yet, but luckily there was an extra plate so I finally got to try some!

We were all very tired when we left Uppsala on Friday evening after having such a fun trip! I enjoyed a relaxing weekend afterwards.

That’s all for today! Vi ses!

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