Our journey around Sweden continues in Motala, in Östergötland in the south, on the eastern shores of Lake Vättern, with a modern population of just under 30,000.
The first historical records from what became Motala are from the Middle Ages, but its history goes back a lot farther.
Archeologists have found a site there from the Stone Age, eight thousand years ago, where there was a strange practice of placing the heads of the dead on wooden poles before burying them under the waters of the lake.
According to archeologist Fredrik Hallgren, one theory is these were trophies of defeated enemies, but he leans towards an alternative suggestion that they were especially chosen loved ones.
Motala was a village on the outskirts of the medieval religious center of Vadstena until King Gustav Vasa built a manor house at Motala in the 16th century.
Many Swedes associate Motala with an important period of Swedish broadcasting history. The country’s first broadcast radio transmitter, operating on longwave 191 kHz, was built there in 1927.
The location is important as the town marks the middle of a straight line between Stockholm and Gothenburg. With the radio programs originating in Stockholm, the call signal “Stockholm-Motala” was a Swedish icon until the station closed in 1962.
But even earlier Motala was the hub of an extremely important example of Swedish infrastructure, the Göta Canal. Built in the early 19th century, the canal linked a series of rivers and lakes into a 600 kilometer waterway from Gothenburg on the west coast to Söderköping, south of Stockholm on the Baltic Sea. The canal itself has more than 30 locks.
To help build the canal, the Motala Verkstad engineering company was founded in 1822, and survives today, with the old factory preserved as a museum of industry.
The Göta Canal has also spawned a series of popular B movies, mainly dealing with people madly racing boats along the waterway, starting in 1981 with “Göta Canal, who pulled out the plug?”, and two sequels more than 25 years later.
Motala was also the birthplace of Alexander Bard, founder of the late 80’s and 90’s hit Swedish dance music group, Army of Lovers.