Wednesday, July 26, 2006
so on day seven in europe, we left amsterdam and got ourselves to a swedish island called gotland, which lies out in the baltic sea. this means we took a cab, two planes, a train, a bus, and a three hour ferry to visby, the capital of gotland. here we were picked up by my friend arne and driven about 10 feet to our hotel. let's just call that a Long Day. (that was friday, by the way, in case you;ve lost track.) we only took one picture all day, sunset at something like 10:30pm from the deck of the ferry boat.
day eight was absolutely glorious--sunny and windy, cool, but not biting, and the city was GORGEOUS! it was a perfect day for arne and anna to get married, but that part will be in a different post--i have too damned much to say! gotland is technically part of sweden, although the people and the dialect are quite different. of every place we visited, visby was the most awe-inspiring to both of us. it is just wholly different from anything we had ever experiences before. it's a midieval walled city, largely in tact, and the people there are fiercely proud and protective of their heritage. cars of non-residents are not allowed within the walls of the city. the streets are cobblestone, and i mean real, honest-to-god, hardcore cobbles. (very hard to navigate in heels!). the roofs are traditional ceramic tiles from local clay. the building that housed our hotel was built in the late 13th century, and an addition was added to it in the 1700s. the hotel personnel refer to the the addition as the "new part", and folks--that just boggles my mind.
in the morning before the wedding, we took a really long walk through the city, and i think it was my favorite thing about our entire vacation. between the perfect weather and the glorious setting, it was impossible not to fall in love with the place. i took almost a gig of pictures on our walk, which is why it has taken me so long to get through them. and these pictures will never do it justice. every corner we turned revealed something more amazing than the last. most memorable was a ruin of an early 14th century church, which was built over the ruins of a much older pagan temple. there were runes carved into the stone as well as latin words. the walls were crumbling, and in some places, overgrown with vines, lichen, and flowers. and all this is just there in the middle of the city, open, matter-of-fact, right beside a cafe. that alone was worth the price of admission. however, add to that the spectacle of the city walls, the broad vistas over the rooftops down to the sea, and the gardens, and throw in a little shopping for local artwork, and you have yourself a perfect morning.
all we did in visby was scrape the tiniest tip off the iceberg--i am DYING to go back! i am unbelievably grateful to anna and arne, without whose wedding we would never have even known about gotland, which is undoubtedly a future vacation destination for us all on its own. it would be a wonderful place to go with children, and it apparently has much to offer beyond visby's walls: cave paintings, viking ruins, pristine beaches... go, people! buy plane tickets RIGHT NOW!
the pictures from our walk in visby have also been added to the set from europe. click these links for the posts about paris and about brussels and amsterdam. more to come...