ON OUR FOURTH DAY IN SWEDEN, Yanyan and I move away from Stockholm and take a day trip to two sites around the capital. In the morning, we go by train to Sigtuna 40 kilometers north. At first glance, the center of this compact little town seems like every other Swedish town with its cobbled streets and red wooden cottages. But its actually Sweden’s oldest surviving town, having been established in 980 AD.
Its origin in the Viking era is evident in the runestones that can be found in the town center, and the district in fact has more runestones than any other region in Sweden. Runestones are raised stones with inscriptions of runic, the writing system used by Germanic-speaking people before the adoption of the Latin alphabet.
Yanyan and I stroll the Storagatan, Sweden’s oldest street, where much of the tourist activity happens. At the end of the street is Sigtuna Museum, which houses artifacts showing the town’s role as the country’s first trading center. Sigtuna was the first Swedish town to mint coins around 1000 AD.
Sigtuna also has extensive church ruins, the most notable of which is the St. Peter’s Church just outside Storgatan. The church is believed to have been constructed in the early 1100s as the town cathedral until the diocese was eventually transferred to Uppsala.
In contrast, the nearby Mariakyrkan is still very much in use as it has been since it was constructed in the 13th century. The Dominican church’s facade is made of red brick with the interior walls and ceiling decorated with 14th-century and 15th-century paintings.