Visby

The Swedes are very well-organized. To get to Gotland, we boarded a Gotland-bound bus in Stockholm and in 45 minutes arrived brought in Nynashamn. We were the only Americans on the bus. The orderly crowd proceeded from the bus to the ferry terminal, received their tickets, checked in their luggage, and embarked onto the ferry. The ferry was like a miniature cruise ship with comfortable reclining seats. The trip to the island of Gotland took 3 more hours. As you can see, it takes time to get to Gotland, but it is worth it!
We are in Visby, the capital of Gotland. Visby is a medieval town of narrow cobble streets, crumbling church ruins, and terracotta-colored doll houses with brightly painted doors and shutters, tiled roofs, and small gardens, all covered in rosebushes. You just don’t expect so much color and so many flowers this far north.
The houses in this town are low to the ground, with windows at eye level. One house made me feel like Alice in Wonderland – the front door was so tiny – it barely came up to my chin, and I am not a tall person!
The town is partially surrounded by an ancient wall, and some of the houses are built right into the wall. Our little hotel consists of three small buildings forming a courtyard. The fourth wall of the courtyard is the wall of an ancient church ruin and you can enter the ruin right from the courtyard. This town is pleasure to just walk around. It’s fairytale-like.
We did just that, walked and walked, and then went outside the walls to the shore of the Baltic Sea. There is a promenade along the water and we walked along, away from the town. Even though there were hotels and private houses along the way, the sea shore was completely unspoiled, wild even. The air smelled of sea, the sea was studded with black rocks and many mother-ducks were tending to their families. And then we saw a family of swans! I had no idea swans lived in salty waters! Come to think of it, I had never even seen wild swans before!
We sat on a bench waiting for the sunset. The sun takes its time to set in this part of the world. It was hanging low over the horizon for a good hour and a half until it was finally sucked into the sea. But then dusk set in, and it stayed light for another hour and a half.
By the water, many people were strolling or biking. On this island, it seems, there are even more beautiful girls than in Stockholm, even a few beautiful broad-shouldered men. Actually, Swedish men warmed their way into my heart as fathers. Maybe this is a result of the paternity leaves, but these big Nordic men seem to be the main caretakers of their children. You see them everywhere coddling babies, changing diapers, applying band-aids,- there are more babies in the arms of men than in the arms of women here – it is the sweetest thing ever!
Most babies are impossibly blond and angelic, their mothers are naturally beautiful, but the grandmothers – they look like they are…from Minnesota. They are tough-looking, husky and plain.
Plain is the word for the house interiors. Since the windows are so low to the ground, you can easily look inside, and it is quite plain there. Spartan even. Plain wooden tables and chairs, tv’s that seem to be from the 1960’s and kitchen appliances from the same era. I guess, that is how the Swedes like it. But the town and the sea are glorious! I think it might be more beautiful in the winter, and at Christmas time it probably looks like a story-book.

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