Monday 27 October 2008

cider & rune stones

It’s another Swedish post! Did the runic inscriptions give it away?

This time I wanted to take you through some of the alcohol I tried in Sweden, but first I wanted to introduce everyone to Systembolaget.

Systemet is a chain of government owned liquor stores. It is the only retail shop in the entire country where you can buy alcohol over 3.5%. This means, if you want to buy anything stronger than light beer, you have to go to Systemet.

The opening hours are quite restrictive and the anti-drinking messages are strong. It’s a Government monopoly to prevent underage drinking and alcoholism.

At first I was totally against it, thinking it was another one of the Swedish Government’s ploys to play parent over adult citizens, but I have been converted.

Anundshög rune stone

Because Systemet, buying for 9 million Swedes, is one of the world’s largest wine, beer and spirits buyers. I can’t even comprehend the purchasing power this commands!

They stock the most amazing range of alcohol from every nation in the world. I had no idea Romania made wine until I saw it on a Systemet shelf! Saba from Israel, I’d only read about the stuff! Beautiful Belgian beers a plenty!

Now imagine that every tiny village in Sweden has a Systemet, so even people in the remotest towns can order in the very best, the very latest alcohol at very, very, very reasonable prices. In fact some Aussie wines on the shelves were cheaper in Sweden than here!!!

With all this in mind, I was able to achieve two more of my 2008 Food Challenges: trying wine from the USA and South Africa.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the South African Drostdy-Hof Cape Red, made of Pinotage, Shiraz and Ruby Cabernet grapes. It had smoky flavours, as well as hints of liquorice, vanilla and forest berries.

But I did get a snap of the 2006 Frei Brothers Redwood Creek Chardonnay (Sonoma, California). It was a light, refreshing chardonnay without overbearing wood. Vanilla, apple and pear flavours with a pull towards lemon at the end. Very good. Me likes.


After all this alcohol talk, I’m sure you’re imagining Vikings glugging down mead, so why not throw in some photos of rune stones.

Rune stones are typically raised stones with inscriptions in the runic alphabet, the writing system of the Vikings. The tradition began in the 300s and lasted into the 1100s. Most are located in Scandinavia, but there are also rune stones in locations where the Vikings travelled. Sweden has around 2,500 with almost half of those in Uppland.

Rök, Östergötland (ÖG136)

The Rök Runestone is the most important rune stone in Sweden because it is the earliest known example of Swedish writing and therefore signifies the historical beginning of Swedish literature. It was probably carved in the 800s and the extensive writing outlines a dramatic story of battles, betrayals, heroism and monsters. It’s too long to include here so visit Wikipedia to read the full (and complicated) story. Ironically, the stone was named after the village of Rök, however this word means “stone” in Old Norse so the village was originally named after the stone anyway.

I don’t like beer, but every now and then I sample a beer that makes me reconsider. Eriksberg is simply delightful. This pilsner is from the Carlsberg group and is slightly malty, quite aromatic and certainly a little stronger than most lagers. I’m a big fan.

Broby Bro, Uppland (U151) This stone is from a group of approximately 20 runestones called the Jarlabanke Runestones, pertaining to a local strongman, Jarlabanke, and his clan.
Old Norse: Þorbiorn ok Ingiþora letu ræisa stæin þenna æftiR Igul, faður sinn, ok Ærinvi æftiR boanda sinn ok æftiR ...
English: Þorbjôrn and Ingiþóra had this stone raised in memory of Ígull, their father; and Erinvé in memory of her husbandman and in memory of ...

Kiviks Fläderblomscider
This was the most beautiful, smooth and wonderful cider I have ever had. The base cider was made from apples and the extra edge came from elderflowers. It was halvtorr, which means “semi dry” and it was an excellent balance between sweet and savoury. Highly recommended and won’t even make a dent in your wallet.

Täby, Uppland (U164)
This runestone is from the mid-11th century and is located at the causeway, known as “Jarlabanke's bridge”.
Old Norse: Iarlabanki let ræisa stæina þessa at sik kvikvan, ok bro þessa gærði fyr and sina, ok æinn atti allan Tæby. Guð hialpi and hans.English: Jarlabanki had these stones raised in memory of himself while alive, and made this bridge for his spirit, and (he) alone owned all of Tábýr. May God help his spirit.

Rekorderlig Sommarcider (Rabarber/Jordgubb)This is a special edition strawberry and rhubarb flavoured cider. It looks lurid pink and it tastes luridly sweet. It was kind of nice, but it’s more like an alcoholic soft drink than a fruit cider. Maybe my tastebuds have matured more than I thought? 

Täby, Uppland (U226)
Arkils tingstad is the remains of a Viking assembly location, created by the Skålhamra clan. There are two rune stones at Arkils tingstad.
Old Norse: Ræistu stæina ok staf unnu(?) ok inn mikla at iarteknum. Ok Gyriði gats at veri. Þy man i grati getit lata. Gunnarr hiogg stæin.
English: (They) raised stones and produced the staff(?) and the great signs (of acclaim); Gyríðr also cherished her husband: he will therefore be commemorated in weeping. Gunnarr cut the stone.
Rekorderlig Krusbär
Wow. This gooseberry cider was sickly sweet. It was awful and I could barely finish one glass. After drinking this I realised that the Rekorderlig brand is too sweet for me.

Vallentuna, Uppland (U236)
This stone says "Ulf's heirs at Lindey had these stones raised and made the bridge after (in honour of) their father and brother. Visati hewed (cut these runes)."

Bro, Uppland (U617)One of the Hakon Jarl Runestones from the time of King Knut the Great (died 1035). Called the Bro Runestone after the church where it stands, it was commissioned by a noble family
Old Norse: Ginnlaug, HolmgæiRs dottiR, systiR SygrøðaR ok þæiRa Gauts, hon let gæra bro þessa ok ræisa stæin þenna æftiR Assur, bonda sinn, son HakonaR iarls. SaR vaR vikinga vorðr með Gæiti(?). Guð hialpi hans nu and ok salu.English: Ginnlaug, Holmgeirr's daughter, Sigrøðr and Gautr's sister, she had this bridge made and this stone raised in memory of Ôzurr, her husbandman, earl Hákon's son. He was the viking watch with Geitir(?). May God now help his spirit and soul.

For other Swedish posts try:
Swedish landscapes
Muskö, Stockholm's archipelago
Sailing on the West Coast
Swedish food
Göteborg's Xmas Markets

And these recipes:
Fisksoppa (fish soup)
Fläderblom Martini (elderflower cocktail) V
Glögg (spicy mulled wine) V
Glasört & Smör (samphire w butter) V
Kräftor i Lag (crayfish in dill broth)
Lingonberry Daiquiri V
Pepparkakor & Glacé Fruit Ice Cream Sandwich V
Pytt i Panna (potato & meat hash)
Rödbetssallad (beetroot & apple salad) V



  1. Hi Anna :)
    I see that you have found pictures of Runestones just close to where I´m from in Täby and Vallentuna, we used to play in those areas and collected frogbabies there!!! Makes me want to turn back time :)

  2. What a nice blog I almost want to go to visit and get rained on.I was born in Stockholm but I was floured when that you stated the whine was less.
    must have visited when the dollar was strong.My dad visits me here in southern cal yearly and is very happy with our US prices.Very nice observation of some swede culture warms my heart so see the rune stones.
    On a side note in the good old days you would not find cider in plastic bottles I was a big consumer of the non alcohol version .

  3. PS. everybody hates krusbar/gooseberry! we had tree gigantic shrubs at home and NO one ever wanted the berries or ate them we tried everything making marmalade, pie,lemonade,even chutney.I always wonder why they sell it in a store truly horrid stuff



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