Gotland & Faro
There was no getting away from it - all this Scandinavian air was turning him into a Ken Dodd look-alike ...
It was a 3 hour ferry journey from Stockholm to the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. The boat was packed and we were getting anxious that we might, again, find it difficult to find accommodation when we got there so we rang ahead and booked a room - big mistake. It turned out to be in the basement of a house, with all the charm of a World War 2 bunker but without any decorative wall-maps. A rapid rearrangement of campaign tactics was called for. Ingergerd in Stockholm had told us of the small island off the north-east tip of Gotland - Faro. It was where the Swedish film director, Ingmar Berman, had settled and died just 2 years ago. He was attracted by the stark but beautiful scenery which suited his dark and moody films.
We had a night in a hostel just before the Faro ferry in what used to be an air-force camp on the edge of an airfield. Sleeping in the well-kept billets felt like we were in a Biggles novel, the only scramble being for breakfast in the canteen the next morning. We hired bikes as there were no buses on Fora and set off the next day.
The island has a very strange beauty. Very flat with a lot of scrubby wasteland suddenly punctuated by lovely forests with purple heather between the trees which makes them seem like perennial bluebell woods. There are a few sandy beaches but most are of rocks and pebbles with wooden fishermens’ huts perched on the end of the barren land. And sheep - thousands of the grey-black Gotland breed which are housed in well-maintained thatched huts during the winter months.
The huts have what look like a wooden crosses erected on the ridge but which pre-date Christianity and are more akin to a Celtic cross depicting the sun and the seasons. The other odd adornments are the long branches at the gable ends of the roofs which stick out at an angle. The story goes that these are to repel trolls from landing on them and, as everyone knows, trolls are the enemy of Thor, the God War. Thor’s murderous weapon is the lightening bolt so, in a round about way, these are akin to ancient lightening conductors.
So far, we’ve managed to travel around by train, boat, bus or bike. Where possible, we wanted to avoid flying in order to experience more through the actual journey. However, the temptation of seeing flights to Hamburg from Gotland proved too much and so our carbon footprint is going to have to temporarily take a knock. It has allowed us more time in Faro before meeting the deadline of getting to our friends, Richard & Hildegard, in Switzerland before the end of the month. They’ve promise us breakfast on Sunday morning after our overnight train so best get cracking …
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