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Published: March 5th 2012
So after leaving the Swedish mainland behind (Saturday 28th June) and catching a massive ferry across from Oskarshamn to the town of Visby on the island of Gotland (and sampling a few of the local beers on the way) I was re-united with Nina - another of the Swedish girls from P.J.O'Brien's in Cairns, who in fact I was so impressed with that I hired for the Courthouse Hotel as well. And somehow I had managed to coincide my arrival with her one and only night off for the week, which could only mean one thing - a big night out!
So off we went around to a friend of hers named Sofia's house (whose parents just happened to be away for the weekend) to kick off the festivities, before heading to a bar called Munken in the heart of the old town. Unfortunately due to the fact that Visby is on the world heritage list the local council have ruled that all bars and clubs must close by two o'clock, so after following what seemed like the entire population of Visby to a fast-food joint called Max's, we eventually made it back to Nina's apartment about four o'clock in
Needless to say we weren't up until after midday on sunday, at which point I headed straight to the local tourist information centre to find out where the nearest Western Union office was - as I had ordered yet another emergency cash advance (my third in as many weeks) from Mastercard the day before. Imagine my horror when the girl behind the counter told me that not only were there no branches in Visby, but none anywhere on the rest of the island either; leaving me with only a thousand kroner (less than two hundred dollars Australian) to last an entire week. :-(
Not knowing what to do, I headed around to a nearby kiosk (sort of like a convenience store that offers other services as well) to get on the internet and check the Western Union website to see if maybe the girl had made a mistake; when I found to my overwhelming relief that not only were there a number of branches scattered around the island, but that there was one nearby in Visby! And to make it even more unbelievable, when I showed the man behind the counter the address that I had
Just one of almost a hundred churches on the island
gotten from the website and asked him where it was, he told me "that is this place - we are a Western Union office"!!!
So five minutes later I was sitting at my computer with an extra 3300 Swedish kroner in my pocket - more than enough to get me through my last week in Sweden. :-) The rest of the evening was spent at Nina's work - a sports bar and restaurant called O'Leary's - where I sampled a few more of the local beers while watching the final of the European football championships, which ended in a 1-nil victory for Spain over Germany.
On monday I was up at eight o'clock and on my way to a local bike rental shop, as I had decided to spend the next three days cycling around the island. Of course, after having been enjoying beautiful weather since I had arrived on Gotland, it started raining on my way there; and the rain didn't ease off for at least an hour. So there I was riding through the rain wondering why on earth I hadn't just stayed in bed all day. The rain did stay away throughout the afternoon though,
Lakeside in Slite
Picturesque stop on day two of my cycle trip
and I was able to make it the eighty kilometres to my bed for the night in a small town called Ljugarn on the south-east coast of Gotland - at which point I fell asleep as soon as I lay down on the bed, and slept for the next fifteen hours!
Tuesday was the longest day of my roadtrip - another eighty kilometre haul from Ljugarn to Bunge at the northern-eastern tip of the island; followed by another sixty kilometres or so around the smaller island of Fårö, which is separated from Gotland by a narrow channel (the Fårösund) and reached by a five-minute crossing on the local car ferry. And though the weather was far better on day two than it had been the previous day, this time it was the bike providing me with difficulties - as the chain came off at least a dozen times within the first hour. In fact I was having so much trouble with the damn thing that I very nearly headed straight back to Visby - which would have been a far quicker option than continuing all the way to Bunge.
But persevere I did, and thankfully I had made
Scenic sidetrip on day three
it all the way to the far (northern) end of the island by four in the afternoon. So after checking into my hostel (where the owner fixed my bicycle for me), taking a soothing shower, and enjoying a delicious buffet dinner (provided by the owner's wife), I was off again to explore Fårö - where I spent another five or six hours peddling away to my hearts content; before eventually taking the midnight ferry back across the channel for a well-deserved sleep.
Wednesday brought the third and final installment of my cycling trilogy, which would have meant a nice leisurely ride down the western coast of Gotland back to Visby, except that the previous two days exertion had finally caught up with me, and my legs were struggling to keep the pedals turning at all. Yet still I chose to start the day with a scenic detour around the north-western corner of the island - between an inland lake and the Baltic Sea - meaning that by lunchtime I was still no closer to Visby than I had been at the start of the day. My final stop was the Lummelundagrottan, where I did a brief guided tour of
a cave that had been found in the hillside about sixty years ago; which thankfully the guide was able to translate into English for me once she had finished speaking to the rest of the group in Swedish.
And so it was about six o'clock in the evening when I finally made it back to the stone-walled town of Visby and returned my bike - which had carried me over three hundred kilometres around the island; and caused my legs to scream in agony whenever they were used for anything for the next two days. And just to top things off, without realizing it at the time I had managed to get sunburnt on the second day - giving me a perfect English singlet tan to wear around for the next few days!
Thursday started with a well deserved sleep-in, followed by what could best be described as a rest day - about the only activity of any kind that I attempted was a sightseeing walk around the town wall in the evening; which culminated in a breathtaking sunset over the ocean. The next day I was up at ten o'clock to see Nina off - as she
A Baltic Sea special
had booked a flight to Gothenburg the day before me for a cousin's christening - though thankfully she had told me I was welcome to stay at her place for another night and give her keys to Sofia the next day. So apart from taking full advantage of my surroundings by laying back on the bed and watching a couple of movies (Mystic River and Gangs of New York if I remember correctly) again not much was achieved all day, except for another leisurely stroll around the old town in the evening, and another nice sunset down by the water - my final one in Sweden.
Which brings me to the next stage of my journey: having spent the past thirty-eight days in only Norway and Sweden, the next three weeks should take me through five different countries - Denmark, northern Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg - and I'll get to see three of the cities that I've most been looking forward to - Copenhagen, Berlin and Amsterdam - one after the other. Can't wait...!
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