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Published: July 18th 2006
On the 16th we took the ferry out the Gotland, an island in the Baltic off the southern coast of Sweden. The word ferry doesn't really adequately convey the sheer size of the ship. The one we took out to Gotland can hold up to 700 passengers and many, many cars. The inside is like a 757 airliner on steroids. It even has seats just like an airliner, the only difference is that between each seat, under the console, is a life jacket. There was a playroom for the small children to play in. They even showed a movie, just like on an airplane.
Gotland as I said is an island. The biggest city on the island, Visby, is actually two completely separate things simultaneously. On the one hand it is a world heritage site because of its ancient walled city with huge castle towers and gates. On the other hand it is Sweden's summer swinging hot spot because of its sunshine, beaches, and bar scene. Put them together and you get a very interesting mixture of families, young adults, cruise ship passengers taking tours, teenagers out for a good time, and other assorted visitors.
We stayed in a
beautiful little hotel called Villa Borgen on the main drag inside the walls. The rooms were very tiny but also very clean and surprisingly quiet. They had a perfectly wonderful Swedish breakfast in the morning: sour milk, yoghurt, milk, juice, meats, cheese, cereals, roe, and that wonderful Swedish coffee. Volumes should be written about Swedish coffee, especially the part where you sit in a little cafe in the midafternoon and drink small cups of it with milk and contemplate which pastry you should eat with it. I absolutely love the coffee.
Anyway, back to Gotland. The walled city of Visby looks almost like an Mediterranean village with its narrow roads and alleyways. It is apparently famous for its roses, and almost everywhere you look, in gardens everywhere, are huge colorful rose bushes. Most of the streets are inadequate for cars, so you can wander where you want to, and almost everywhere you go you see something to take a picture of, so your progress can be very slow. In the center of the walled city is the trashy (although relatively tasteful) tourist part, with tee-shirt shops and cheap souvenirs. But there are also art galleries, nice little restaurants, and
private homes. And when you get to the end of some narrow little street, there will be part of the huge wall that surrounded the town in Medieval times. Or the remains of one of the many churches.
The second day we rented a car and set off the explore the rest of the island. Away from Visby, the island is mostly rural. Families stay in small cottages or campgrounds close to the beaches. The interior of the island is mostly rural, with small fields of crops or livestock like cattle and sheep. We went north as far as Faro, the island at the northern tip. It has a small ferry that runs every 30 minutes or so. Faro is reknown for its wool. We took a quick look around, then headed back to the big city because we had reservations on the big ferry back to the mainland.
All in all it was a very interesting couple of days. We are going to try to upload some photos so you'll be able to see some of these sights.
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