I headed to Rök in southern Sweden to see the rune stone which has the longest inscription of any rune stone in the world. Runes were a written alphabet created by the people of Scandinavia, the Vikings. Only a very few people in those days were educated enough to read and write runes.
This rune stone was created about 1,000 years ago and is a memorial stone set up by a man called Varin to commemorate his dead son, Vämod. Even though historians can read many runes, they still can’t agree on the meaning of all of the text on this one.
The information boards gave a beginner's guide to the runic alphabet. There were a few different variations on the runic alphabet but the one used here had 16 letters in it. I took some photos of the alphabet boards, pictured below. I also took lots of photos of the rune stone itself which stands about two metres high and is covered in runes on both sides.
Later that day, I cycled past an amazing looking house. It had the normal wooden ground floor but the second floor was all of glass. Inside was a sitting area/greenhouse full of luscious green plants, and an organic cafe with lovely cakes, beautifully aromatic coffee and an 'organic' pricelist (expensive). The view over the lake was sublime! I took lots of photos of the eco-house, its internal decorations and its surroundings.
The next day I cycled in to Lovsjö camp ground. This is beautiful campsite on the shores of a small lake. I spent some time in the evening sitting on an old jetty, watching the ducks, the changing light and the reflections in the water. The ducks in that setting were so photogenic as they calmly paddled around, quacking their bits of news to each other as they sampled the weeds and foraged for insects. I took quite a few photos there too.
Later, I sat down to transfer my photos onto my laptop and discovered I must have accidentally deleted so many because they were nearly all gone! All of my photos of the rune-stone at Rök and of the eco-house had also disappeared into the big black hole of 'lost computer stuff.' I was so disappointed, I could have cried - but I didn't!
Fast forward two more days - I had just cycled past Toftaholm when I saw a picnic table and seats of stone.
Just behind was a wooden stile going over a fence into a paddock full of mounds.
‘What’s this?” I asked myself. I turned around, cycled to the information board and discovered there were about 100 iron-age burial mounds there. There was also a rune-stone dating to about 1,000 AD and the ruins of a medieval manor house. Of course, I investigated the mounds ...
... and cycled to the rune-stone The sun was in just in the wrong spot so I haven't any decent photos of this rune stone either. I looked at the manor house which was on an island in the distance, found the bridge to the island ...
... walked around the island, got up close to the manor house and had a lovely time. The manor house is a real fixer-upper!
Walking back off the island, I stopped at the bridge and took photos of the light and the water.
Further on, at Hallsjö, I spotted more mounds which also had some medieval church ruins nearby. There were about 50 mounds there and another 50 in another field further on. Rune-stones and iron-age burial mounds – they are just everywhere!
I had booked a night at the Linnea Hotel at Ljungby. When the manager discovered that I enjoy looking at old things like rune stones, he pointed to a good one a little way out of town. Of course, I went there. It's set in a field on the side of the road with a dozen other unmarked rocks. The inscription reads: “Götrad made this monument in memory of Astrad, his father, best of kinsmen and of land-owners – who in times past lived in Finnveden.” There were more burial mounds there too, on the other side of the road.
The next morning, I found yet another rune stone quite close to the hotel.
I now have more than made up for all those lost pictures of the runes tone at Rök. I just need to find another eco-house, preferably with a lake with some ducks...
And furthermore …
I keep coming across other interesting markers on the road-side. Not exactly rune-stones but definitely an indication that much of our modern society has its roots in much older traditions.