Along the Away

a traveler's tales

Archive for August, 2012

The last day of our ‘summer holiday’ was of course best spent on the beach, doing… not much.

On our way back to Visby I had to stop to take a photo of this roofless church:

Then we were back to Old Visby to eat yet another delicious meal, sigh! Oh holidays, I wish you would go on forever.

A summer holiday is not complete without a bike ride – and what a bike ride we did. 40km round trip from Visby to Tofta Beach. We hired bicycles from the town – three single bikes and one tandem bike – and off we went. I don’t own a bike at home in Sydney (I need to fix that) so the only time I ride is when I’m on holidays, which means the idea of hopping on a bike makes me feel like a giddy 5 year old – it’s all I can do not to squeal as I go along, weeeee!

Another symptom of not riding often is that I start out a bit wobbly – especially when trying to take a photo of a sign at the same time as steering round a turn…

But no worries, turn around and ride back again – snap! Yep, we’re heading in the right direction.

Excited + Wobbly + Slow. This was probably the only time I was in front, specially for photographic purposes.

And I listened to music and sang as I went along, ah the simple joys! AND I took a turn on the back of the tandem bike – it was a bit fun and a lot freaky (the back person pretty much puts their life in the hands of the front person – you better steer me right!!!)

And then we were there, at Tofta Beach! Where I witnessed a strange phenomenon – why is everyone facing away from the water?!? Apparently in Sweden an even tan trumps a stunning water-view; beach goers rotate around to follow the sun – so weird!!

After awhile we went to the ‘The After Beach’ which is the party after the beach (following the same concept, in Sweden after work drinks are called ‘The After Work’.) There was a really cool Swedish cover band playing a wide range of summer hits, past and present, such a fun vibe!!

The drink lines were long but the bonus was that we could buy them in a bucket at a time, yeah!

Then we drunk-rode back to Visby. No, not really, I’m sure we were perfectly under the limit by then.

A selfie in transit – obviously getting less wobbly and more confident, it’s like riding a bike (um, literally.)

This guy raised my eyebrows! But apparently it’s not too unusual – it’s how the winter sport fans stay in shape during the summer.

It was such a pretty ride – I had to keep stopping to take photos! But then that got me into a little trouble because then I was even slower and the super fit, super speedy Swedes I was with we’re zooming ahead of me. So Sverige kept urging me to ride a little faster until I started wailing ‘but whyyyyy? What’s the hurry? I thought this was supposed to be fun!’ A little lovers tiff on the bike path because I’m a slow, dreamy cyclist.  Then we laughed and made up and she rode super slow next to me all they back to Visby, such a good friend :-)



Today’s exciting excursion was to Fårö island which was truly spectacular on the eyeballs – I have too many photos to share, this post is more of a visual diary entry.

But first of all – the beach yesterday; my feet got burnt. Weird, the sun conscious, UV-paranoid Australian got burnt. I was a bit delayed in getting my sunscreen on as the sun didn’t feel as harsh as ours… but anyway. Ouchies. Good thing I don’t need to wear any real shoes for awhile.

Moving on to the good stuff. We got the car ferry from the Gotland mainland to Fårö and then hit the road – but not for long, we stopped pretty much every 15 minutes for the whole day it felt like, we probably didn’t, I was a backseat tourist staring out the window enjoying the view.

Fårö is famous for the stone structures called ‘rauks’ scattered all around the coastline. I should really say sculptures, not structures, because they are really beautiful and expressionistic. I snapped aplenty, my fave photos are the ones that contrast our people shapes against the starkness of the white rocks.

I call this elephant rauk:

I like to call this one ‘Lady Wearing a Top-Knot’… am I right?

We stopped at a groovy cafe that had lots of old trucks in the yard at the front, broken down, rusty old things communing with nature.

We found some giant concrete feet. Yikes.

What the. Purple flowers on a pebble beach. So awesome!

Wild berries, warm in the sun, and delicious. We just picked them straight from their bushes by the side of the road (I hope no-one walks their dogs round here).

As if Gotland doesn’t already have enough amazing sights – a 13th century town and ringwall, dramatic coastal rock formations and beautiful beaches – it’s got the underground covered too. The Lummelunda Caves (Lummelundagrottan) is one of the biggest in Sweden, measuring 4km long in the parts that have been investigated. The area above ground is a natural reserve with some really pretty foresttrails and buildings. We spent a couple of hours walking around the area, it is such a beautiful place to visit especially on such a gorgeous sunny day – Swedish summer is better in Gotland than the mainland :-)

We joined a tour group into the caves which was delivered in Swedish and English (thankfully!) There was a small group of us English speakers, so the guide addressed us first and then the Swedes. It was really comical how our small group would give a laugh at the jokes and then five minutes later the bigger Swedish crowd would roar with laughter – haha! Obviously all the jokes are given the same to each group.

The story of the discovery of the caves is amazing – in fact a movie has been made out of it. Three Swedish teenagers discovered the caves in 1948 just by being curious and one wiggling his way through a gap in the rock. Part of the tour includes watching a short documentary including interviews with the now adult discoverers. The two boys waiting on the outside were about to give up on the other when they finally heard him calling them to follow him in. This original entrance to the cave is not very accessible because the gap is too small for an adult to fit! That really says a lot about how intrepid these teens were, I wonder if the generations of today would be so brave? Now that it seems everything has been discovered and we can detect pretty much everything geographical from our satellites it kinda sucks the magical hope of possibilities from exploring your own backyard. Anyway, the caves have since generated massive amounts of revenue in various ways but these three guys never earned a cent. They told the world about the caves a few years after discovering it, having explored as much as they could (even after having grown to big to fit in the original entrance and finding another way in). I love stories like this, such curiosity and bravery!

The caves are magnificent as most are (there is something otherworldly about exploring somewhere that is usually hidden from view). Increasing the wonder of the experience was the plummet in temperature in the caves (about 8 degrees!) plus all the fairytale names for all the halls, stalactites, stalagmites and fossils. It was hard to take photos but we tried:

Back out into the sun and above ground again we walked our way back through the countryside and fields of flowers, so dreamy.

On our drive back to Visby we stopped at Lickershamn which is a little coastal spot with a pebble beach and an impressive rock formation atop the cliff at the end of the beach – it is the largest ‘rauk’ in Sweden and is called Jungfrun. A rauk is a sea stack which is a strange occurrence of the sea eroding the soft rock on a coastline leaving behind the hard limestone core.

We walked along the trails up to Jungfrun where I read a sign that gave a pretty sad story:

The legend behind the highest rauk in Gotland tells about a man named Likajr who placed his daughter, Öllegard, on the top of the rauk and challenged her boyfriend Helge, who was a slave, to climb up and get her. If he did, he would be allowed to marry her. Realizing that the young man, carrying Öllegard on his back down the cliff, was about to accomplish this task, Likajr fired an arrow into Helge’s head. Both the boy and the girl crashed into the sea and were never seen again.

We got back on the road, stopping on the way at an artist’s residence to look in the studio at view paintings and some beautiful pottery.

By the time we got back to Visby we had a quick potter about at home then went into the old town for dinner. We always pass these concrete sheep on our way – and all over Gotland actually! They’re pretty cute though – had to hop on for a pic :-)

Well!! I have just discovered one of my favourite places I’ve traveled to (ever) – the island of Gotland located off the south east coast of Sweden’s mainland. I went there for a week with my Sverige baby, her fiancé and two of their friends. And what a week! It was everything a summer holiday should be.

Firstly, we got up super early the night after the summer party at the beach house (that was a bit painful, a sleep in would have been good) and drove to Oskarshamn to get the ferry to Gotland’s capital Visby. We were taking the car, so once we parked it in the parking level we went to the private berth we had booked which meant we had our own room to spend the 3 hour ferry ride. It had a TV, ensuite bathroom and plenty of room to spread out. It’s not that exciting (except if you’re me and love the being-in-transit side of things).

Once we arrived in Visby we went to our cosy holiday apartment which was in perfect walking distance to the old part of Visby – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have so many photos to share of this gorgeous town. Cobblestone roads narrow and wide, sweet little boutiques, churches, buildings, flowers, gardens and so many alfresco dining options. Being a popular summer holiday destination with Swedes, there was such a carefree holiday vibe in the air, it was so much fun.

The town itself is an impressively preserved medieval trading town surrounded by a beautiful stone wall built in the 13th century. Formerly a Viking site, there are still more than 200 buildings, gates, ramparts and roads which lead from the fortification to the surrounding cliffs.

First some photos of our wandering around Visby:

A common scene: mmm where shall we eat?

Donnerska Huset = Donna’s House. Yes please, I’ll take it!

Visby Marina:

The city wall runs for 3.5km and is 11m high – along the way there is 36 towers and the three main gates.

There are quite a number of ruins in the town – many are churches that fell in to ruin for reasons such as fire or desertion.

The Visby Botanic Gardens are beautiful – a lush green park with flowers galore. The gardens were started in 1855. Seriously, dates like this are kinda crazy to an Australian. The history in countries elsewhere in the world is truly astounding.

The castle is lovely to walk around the wall is magic at sunset. We took some beers down there and enjoyed them from a park bench as the sky changed from dusk to night. Even though its summer I must say, it gets pretty cold.

We ate so many yummy dinners this week – I can’t stop eating all the many variations on a standard Swedish creamy shrimp salad dish – I would not have expected to like it but it is so delicious!! We also made lots of summer picnic lunches for our daily excursions including fika such as flask of coffee and fruit or biscuits. Picnicking is my favourite summer activity, mostly because I love to eat and tend to make it the centrepiece of everything I do, plus picnicking fits into every fun summer activity like going to the beach, the park, a bike ride, a bush walk etc All of which we did on this holiday, yay! More to come, of course!