|Visby, the City of Roses...and sheep|
Gotland is an island in the Baltic off of the eastern coast of Sweden and it takes about 3 hours by high speed ferry to get there. You can book almost everything on the website destinationgotland.se and your whole trip will be covered -- transfers, ferry rides, rental car, hotel, etc. If you are already in the Arlanda area, it might make sense to just book a flight directly. Flights are about 40 mins long and start around $300 versus a 3 hour ferry ride around $150 including bus transfer. Either way, it is a very nice vacation destination from Stockholm.
Gotland is rich in history and is considered to be the homeland of the Goths. We rented a car and drove all around the island - checking out the various coasts and small towns from north to south. We discovered the amazingly foreign looking chalk formations in Fårö and saw numerous windmill farms, stone ships, and lots of horses, sheep and cows. Some towns are more industrial in nature and could/should be avoided (yes, I'm looking at you, Slite) if cement factories are not your idea of an ideal vacation destination. However, for the most part, many of the small towns on Gotland had little roads to explore and beautiful sites to discover - all perfect for picnicking.
It is amazing to stand in front of a stone ship and realize that those stones were placed there by the vikings' ancestors 2,000-4,000 years ago. I mean, what else have you seen (or touched) that dates back to the Bronze Age? There are over 350 stone ships on Gotland and we stumbled across 5 of them without really trying. Not much is known about stone ships - other than they may be burial sites to equip the dead with everything they'll need on their journey to the underworld, but their actual function remains unconfirmed by archeologists. It is still fun to stand there and ponder the reasons why these stones were placed there and to just marvel that they have lasted for so long in their original configurations.
Our day in Fårö was one of pure exploration. We drove down this tiny gravel road along the Langhammar nature reserve and just stopped at every location that featured rauks or chalk formations (by erosion). We stopped frequently to take pictures of these Ice Age stone monoliths. The resulting landscape was strangely foreign and unique. Bessie played the part of an adventurous mountain goat and loved running up and down these tiny cliffs. The water was shallow in this area and was perfect for wading.
|Ferry to Faro|
|Looks kind of like a face, right?|
|Bessie loved it!|
We didn't spend much time in Visby - mostly because we were out and about exploring the entire island, but I did manage to take Sam "beyond the wall" and show her the beautiful entrance gate with reconstructed portcullis.
Personally, I always feel like a princess when walking around Visby and I let my imagination take over as I explore the medieval walled city. It's not a UNESCO World Heritage Site for no reason - the place is beautiful and is well preserved. Afterwards, Sam did admit to feeling a bit like a character from Game of Thrones. We both agreed that it would be the perfect place for a Renaissance Fair. After doing some googling, it turns out that Visby DOES host a medieval week - or fair like no other August 4-11. We just missed it by a week! Who knew?? Maybe next time...
Both of my trips to Gotland were during the low season with very little tourists and I must say, I highly enjoyed having the entire city of Visby and island of Gotland to myself. We bypassed the ferry lane that had Disney-line-like signs of, "The drive from this point to the ferry is 1.5 hours" since there were no other cars on the road. We were spoiled and frequently stopped at beaches that were completely deserted. We could let Bessie run free and explore as we wanted.
By far it was the most relaxing vacation I have had in a long time. We had no scheduled time or agenda for the entire 3.5 days there. I love Calvin to pieces but to be able to go back to sleep if I wanted was the most luxurious freedom ever. Sam and I were able to completely unplug from our phones and computers and just focus on sitting on the beach and watching the waves. I wouldn't trade one minute of it for anything and neither of us wanted to leave when it was time to head back on the ferry.
We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather (72F, sunny and breezy) and eek out some more true summer days at the end of the season. Visby literally pulls in the flags and shuts down the last week in August and they made it clear the main tourist season was over. You can never replicate an experience twice in a row, but so far we have been 2 for 2 for unforgettable experiences in Gotland. In my book, those odds are tough to beat.