Drive north of the Swedish capital for about half an hour and you’ll reach the lakeside district of Vallentuna, a pleasant community with cobblestone churches, picnic areas and playgrounds.
It’s also a journey deep into Sweden’s ancient Viking past.
Scattered among Vallentuna’s greenery are dozens of mystical runestones that form the gateway to a 1,000-year-old Viking civilization now believed to be one of Scandinavia’s most significant historic sites.
Known as Runriket, or Rune Kingdom, this collection of more than 100 Viking age runestones — ancient lichen-crusted slabs of Old Norse inscriptions — are beautiful relics that shine a light on modern Sweden’s past, revealing surprising truths about its ancestors.
Vikings are often depicted as brutish Odin-worshippers who pillaged, drank and made blood sacrifices. While there’s truth to the stereotype, the relics of Rune Kingdom actually paint a picture of devote Christian settlers on the cusp of embracing medieval lifestyles.