In the pretty town of Mariefred on the southern shore of Lake Mälaren, just an hour southwest of Stockholm, sits one of Sweden’s most impressive castles, Gripsholm, constructed during the first half of the 16th century on the site of an earlier 14th-century fortress. Built in red brick with round towers, it has served as…
Döda Fallet: The Dramatic Story of Sweden’s Dead Falls
Once upon a time there was a waterfall known as Storforsen (the Great Rapids), which tumbled 35 meters (115 feet) out of Lake Ragunda along the Indalsälven river in Jämtland, Sweden. Yet in 1796, this mighty waterfall was silenced forever due to a combination of human interference and the power of nature. The site of one…
Unity and Conflict: Queen Margrete I and the Kalmar Union
The Middle Ages were a time of intermittent warfare in Scandinavia, with recurring power struggles and ever-shifting borders. Yet in the late 14th century, a remarkable woman, Queen Margrete I, managed to unite the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in what became known as the Kalmar Union. The decades leading up to this…
Raiders, Traders, and Settlers: A Brief History of the Vikings
“Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could happen. Behold the church of St. Cuthbert, splattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments.” So wrote Alcuin, a Northumbrian scholar…
A Royal Visitor Remembered: The Thai Pavilion in the Swedish Countryside
Deep in the countryside of Jämtland stands a surprising structure: an authentic Thai pavilion. The story of how this incongruous structure came to be built among the forests and fields of north-central Sweden dates back to the late 19th century and the connection between two monarchs from very different countries.
The French Army Officer Who Became a Scandinavian King
In 1818, a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Bernadotte ascended the Swedish throne as Karl XIV Johan. The new king was a career soldier whose life took an unexpected turn due to a combination of the Napoleonic Wars, the decline of Swedish power in the Baltic region, and the premature death of a Danish prince.
Tracing the History of Norwegian Polar Exploration at Oslo’s Fram Museum
For anyone with even the slightest interest in polar exploration, Oslo’s Fram Museum is not to be missed. Built around the polar expedition ship Fram, it tells the story of Norway’s expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Nobel Museum in Karlskoga and the Story of the Prizes that Almost Never Were
The prizes established by Swedish inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel in his will are generally considered the most prestigious awards in the world. Yet the Nobel Prizes almost didn’t end up existing at all. During the last years of his life, Alfred Nobel spent the summers at Björkborn, a 17th-century manor in Karlskoga in the…
This Day in History: Swedish Traffic Switches Sides – September 3, 1967
You’ve heard of D-Day, but have you ever heard of Dagen H (Swedish for H Day)? H stands for Högertrafikomläggningen, or the Right-Hand Traffic Diversion. On Sunday, September 3, 1967, Sweden changed from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right. As you might imagine, this switch was anything but easy.
Runestones: Words from the Viking Age
Remnants of Scandinavia’s Viking past are scattered throughout the countryside of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Among the most intriguing are the stones covered in Viking runes that give a glimpse of the culture and society of the era.
The Nobel Prize: History and Trivia
The Nobel Prizes have been awarded every year on December 10 since 1901 and are among the world’s most prestigious honors. Alfred Nobel was a Swedish industrialist who designated most of his estate to establish the prestigious prizes that bear his name.