Viking to the East


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Europe » Sweden » Skåne » Trelleborg
March 13th 2016
Published: March 22nd 2018
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Hello my fellow travellers!

For my 50th visited country I had planned something special for myself, Japan. I've been fascinated by Japan ever since I was a young boy and watched the television series Shogun, based on the book by James Clavell. The book is a fictionalised depiction based on the true life of William Adams, an English sailor, who got stranded in Japan in 1600 and came into the service of Tokugawa. In the book and television series their names are changed to Blackthorne and Toranaga and are played by Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune, my favourite actor.

Before my flight though I went to stay my friend Marcus, living in Malmö. I often stay with him before my flights since it's only 20 minutes from his apartment to Copenhagen Airport. We've also been on quite a few trips together and we always get along splendidly since we share many interests.

For this time though I went down a bit earlier than I usually do and Marcus had planned something special for us, a small road trip along the southern coast of Sweden to see some historical sights. It will be interesting as I rarely check out sights in my own country.

The first thing on our itinerary was Trelleborg, a city in the south of Sweden, aptly named after Trelleborgen, a form of castle built in a ring. The castle is made out of earth mounds covered with wooden boards. The one standing within this city is a reconstruction of the original one that was found during excavations in 1988. Only half of Trelleborgen have been reconstructed but it gives an idea of what it would have looked like and the grounds are free to enter which is nice.

Trelleborgen was most likely under the rule of Harald Bluetooth, the King of Denmark and Norway from 958 to 986, he's the one who brought Christianity to Denmark and who is also the one who's given his name to the mobile app Bluetooth.

From Trelleborg we then made our way to Smygehuk, the southernmost tip of Scandinavia, with quite a few interesting sights to offer. The first of these is Smygestenen, it's history dates back to the time of King Albert who ruled in Sweden between 1364 and 1389. As he ascended the throne in Sweden he brought with him a retinue of German noblemen to hold control over the Swedish castles and levy taxes. This didn't sit well with the Swedish nobility who responded by bringing one of the German noblemen to this stone and decapitating him, at the point closest to his former homeland (in fairness he did want to be buried in this region). They figured that the shape of the stone was very suited for this purpose an it served as an execution stone after that and at the bottom of it, protected from the weather, is a series of inscriptions, most likely the death tally of the stone. They are only exposed to the public every 15 years to keep them preserved.

As for Albert's rule in general is was wrought with wars, he was invited by Swedish nobility to take the throne from King Magnus Eriksson who's reforms against the wealthy nobility was widely unpopular amongst the aristocracy. As Albert arrived in Sweden an eight year long civil war erupted which ended with the Battle of Enköping 1365 between King Albert and King Magnus Eriksson and his son King Haakon VI of Norway. King Magnus Eriksson was defeated and captured, his son escaped though and rallied support with King Valdemar IV of Denmark and after some more fighting they managed to secure a peace treaty that allowed Magnus Eriksson to be released and then spend the rest of his days in Norway with his son.

King Albert reigned for 19 years after that before his policies of German aristocracy became so the unpopular that he was deposed by a joint Swedish and Danish effort that finally won in the Battle of Åsle in 1389, after which Albert was imprisoned for six years. After a peace negotiation he was released and rule of Sweden fell to Margaret I of Denmark, the daughter of King Valdemar IV and the founder of Kalmar Union which was a joined rule of Sweden, Denmark and Norway which lasted for a hundred years.

At Smygehuk there is also a statue named Famntaget from 1930, what's interesting about it from an international perspective is that the model of the statue is Birgit Holmqvist, the grandmother of Uma Thurman.

There are also a series of bunkers, fortifications and machine gun nests along the entire coastline in what was known as Skånska Linjen or Per Albin Hansson Linjen. It was built between 1939 to 1940 in response to the rise of the German military might and successive invasions of Denmark and Norway. In total the line consisted of 1063 defensive structures.

At the premise also stands a lime-kiln, in Swedish kalkugn, from mid 19th century as a testament to the industry of the time. Next to it is Bålhög a Bronze Age burial mound, it's 27 meters in diameter and 2,5 meters high and dates to around 1800 to 500 BCE.

From Smygehuk we made our way to the small village of Kåseberga, outside of Ystad, where Ales Stenar, a megalithic stone ship monument, is located. It's the largest of it's kind in Sweden, spanning 67 meters with 59 boulders laid out in the shape of a ship. Very little is actually known about the monument, including it's time of erection with some tests indicating that it's 5,500 years old while others indicate that it's 1,400 years old. It's likely some form of grave monument but might also have been used for various rituals and traces have been found of people using it up until the Viking Age and the stone ship itself might very well have been erected in that time between 500 and 1,000 CE. Unfortunately it's suffered quite some damage from poor restorations but it's still a nice site to visit for it's historical significance.

Unfortunately the site is also mistreated by it's visitors, I saw a lot of people climbing all over the stones which is very disgraceful in my eyes. The site is located next to some steep cliffs that are known as Kåsehuvud which is a nice viewpoint.

From Kåseberg we headed into Ystad, the southernmost city in Sweden, it's a quite old and beautiful city, dating to at least 1244. One of the first sights we came upon was the beautiful Pilgrändshuset, a lovely building from 1480 located close to the centre. The whole centre of Ystad is very beautiful with several old buildings remaining. At Stortorget, the main square, stands the lovely brick church S:ta Maria Kyrka which began construction in 1200.

The most beautiful sight in Ystad, in my opinion, was Gråbrödraklostret, formally Klostret i Ystad, founded at 1267 it's one of the oldest and best preserved monasteries in Sweden, originally belonging to the Franciscans it's now owned by the municipality and serves both as a church and a museum. Both the money for the construction and the land it stands on was donated by a knight known as Holmger and his wife Katarina. It remained in the ownership of the Fransicans until 1532 when the ongoing reformation in Denmark led to King Fredrick I ordering the friars to leave. The sentiment however caused the citizens of Ystad to forcibly evict the friars and turn the monastery into an almshouse, hospital and other services.

It stayed that way until Sweden got ownership of Scania after the treaty of Roskilde in 1648 and the Swedish authorities turned it into an akvavit distillery. After that it served as a granary as well before it eventually fell into disrepair until the municipality bought the property and started renovations in 1909.

With that we returned to his home and watched a movie on his home cinema. Tomorrow morning I'm boarding a non-stop 11 hours or so flight to Tokyo to finally see Japan for the first of, hopefully, many times.

Until tomorrow I wish you all peace and happy travels!


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23rd March 2018

Catching up
I was disorientated for a brief moment when it sounded like this was going to be your first visit to Japan... and then I looked at the date of the blog :) Looking forward to following along with you on your first impressions of a country that I know you have so much love for!
23rd March 2018

Catching up
Haha, aye sorry about that, my writing style of always writing as if it's a bit in the moment can be disorienting for older travels. I have such a massive backlog of travels to catch up on. My first trip to Japan was a month long so it will take me a while to catch up and in May/June it will probably be interrupted for a while with my upcoming trip to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Small spoiler, my first trip to Japan was awesome and was packed to the brim with wonderful experiences. :D
26th March 2018
Trelleborgen

There is a lot to see in Sweden
Travelling in Sweden is very rewarding because there is a lot to see here. We have been thinking about taking a vacation and go for a road trip here but so far that hasn't happened. But over the years we have still been able to see quite a it by taking it piece by piece. But Trelleborgen is still on the To-Do-List so I guess we have to plan yet another trip in the south of Sweden. /Ake
26th March 2018
Trelleborgen

There is a lot to see in Sweden
I agree, there is certainly more here than what usually comes to mind, I imagine I will probably look around a bit more in Sweden. :)
8th April 2018

Viking History
Very interesting for me to read about Viking History from the Scandinavian side. My own learnings of the Vikings come from my growing up in Yorkshire, site of multiple marauding invasions of the Vikings. It is interesting to read about them from the Scandinavian perspective. I look forward to reading about your travels in Japan :)
8th April 2018

Viking History
Aye, you guys really got the brunt of it down there. :D I hope you'll enjoy my write ups from Japan and find some inspiration for your own Japan trip. :)

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