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SWEDEN | Thursday, 8 May 2014 | Views [167] | Scholarship Entry

If you ask a Swede about the island of Gotland, you’ll get one of two responses: that it’s the best place ever, or that it’s horribly boring and there’s nothing to do.

When I learned two months ago that I would be required to move to Gotland for work, it was with a distinct sadness that I would be leaving my friends on mainland Sweden. But I soon found myself living inside the 13th-century walls of Visby, the Hanseatic trading capital. Each morning, I wake up to a bright blue sky and walk down the cobbled streets to work, taking in the vista of the Baltic Sea behind red-tile rooftops. Not so bad.

It took me several weeks to discover just how amazing Gotland is. While it’s nice to stroll around the city on foot, a bicycle or a car yield greater rewards. On a bike, it’s eight kilometers to Högklint, where limestone cliffs drop down to the sea and the beach is covered in round, fossil-stamped rocks. From there, I pedaled to a local farm and sipped soup made out of asparagus from the field out back. I never knew asparagus could taste so good, but Gotland asparagus is considered a delicacy and served in Stockholm’s fanciest restaurants each spring.

Another day my mother and I rented a car and set of for Fårö, a small island in the north which is pronounced completely differently than you’d expect. On a whim we stopped mid-journey in Tingstäde and were amazed to find that we could simply walk into a church built in the 1200s – the door was open, just waiting for us. We admired extensive mural-like paintings on the walls. There was nobody else there, even though it was Sunday – we took our time admiring the art, then strolling through the churchyard and looking admiringly up at the tall spire.

We continued driving and spent the afternoon criss-crossing Fårö in every direction. First we took the northerwestern coast and marveled at tall limestone columns, called “rauks”, left standing on the beach after millennia of weathering. The wind whipped our hair and chilled us to the bone. On the eastern coast, we strolled on a relatively placid pebble beach with a picturesque lighthouse and a diversity of shorebirds. Later, we drove through the dooryards of centuries-old farms as sheep wandered across the road from pasture to pasture. It was like the Swedish version of James Herriot.

All in all, I agree with the lucky Swedes who have their summer cottages here: Gotland is not to be missed. However I got here, I’m happy that I can stay.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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