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Church ruins in Sigtuna, Sweden.

Sigtuna has the ruins of three different churches still standing.

Vikings were once powerful masters of the seas. Their ship building skills were superior, enabling them to sail oceans that Europeans from other countries couldn’t. Since the days I studied history at school, we’ve even discovered that the Vikings visited Canada and established a settlement in Newfoundland, a full five centuries before Columbus discovered North America.

Watch a video about the Vikings in Canada

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When it comes to travel bucket lists, getting to the Viking homeland has long been at the top of mine. So, when the TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) European conference in 2016 was announced for Sweden, David and I signed up immediately. Then, for our complimentary pre-TBEX tour, we selected Sigtuna, Sweden’s first town.

Visit Sigtuna — Sweden’s First Town

Sigtuna is situated less than an hour’s drive from Stockholm, making it a great day (or overnight) trip. You can also take the train, which is one of the most popular ways to get around the country.

Farm along the highway between Stockholm and Sigtuna.

Farm along the highway between Stockholm and Sigtuna.

Roadtrips are always great ways to get a feel for a country’s changing landscape. Sigtuna, while not on the coast, is situated on the Bay Skarven, which stretches around Upplands-Bro and is part of Lake Mälaren. So you’ll find everything from beaches to fishing.

Inland, Sweden has lots of forests and farmland, much like I’m used to on the Saskatchewan prairies. And while most of the barns here are red, it was a little surprising to see farms with the barn, house, and all the outbuildings also painted red.

Learn more about why so many buildings are red.

The tradition of painting all of the buildings red started in about 850 AD. Why? Because they started mining Stora Kopparberget (= the Great Copper Mountain), in today’s city of Falun. While mining devastated nearby areas with its sulphur smell, the red dust created from leftovers of the mine still became popular.

Today, the paint is called Faluröd and and contains the tailings (leftover minerals after the ore is collected) along with water, linseed oil and rye flour. The mine was