So, how was Gotland? Let me say it like this: I took 363 photos. Three hundred sixty three pictures within 48 hours. That is more than ten photos an hour (considering that I do not take photos when I sleep) and it is not too surprising because Gotland seems as if it was created to appeal to the human eye. Every corner we took in town another lovely sight, every place Josefine took us to prompted yet another “Sååååå fint!” from us. I can’t but recommend going there for a trip, especially when it’s 26 degrees in the shade and you have four friends with you.
I actually realized that it was the first time in my life I was in a place that you cannot leave (you know, this island thing) with only Swedes. These four are actually fully Swedish genetically (as far as I know) and according to the idiotic politics Svenskarnas parti (The Swedes’ Party) spreads that is why we cannot understand each other. I learned this weekend that this right-wing party that was represented in Almedalen (t h e political event on Gotland this week that Jossan and Andrea attended) believes that only people with the same genetic heritage can understand each other’s life situation and feelings which was something we kept ridiculing by saying that Magdalena as a red head and I as a brunette can simply not understand what the other wants. Surprisingly, we got along perfectly all four despite the significant difference in my genes and theirs…;-)
Visby, Gotlands capital, is called The city of roses but what struck us most at first was the abundance of poppy seed. Large fields of the red flowers were to be found along the roads or just right beside Josefine’s house. I wonder why we don’t plant those wildly everywhere; I might have to start an initiative in Hamburg for that because poppies make everything look idyllic.
Gotland is a historically super important island that through its privileged place in the Baltic Sea had been a major trading spot and was part of the Hanse. Apparently the Germans have been there all the time, too, but sometimes it feels they have been everywhere. (I mean, they founded Stockholm or something.) Visby is surrounded by a wall from the 1100s that is amazingly well preserved but the most exciting part about the wall is that Pippi Longstocking rode through one of the ports when the movie was shot on Gotland. We walked through the same port today. I feel I am about to find a large box with money soon, too.
Visby was, as I mentioned, turned into a political hotspot this week and we found ourselves spending our first night at a pub waiting for the leader of the Left Party. While we were waiting, I observed that the pub was called Visby Hof in the German spelling and advertised with “Braukunst auf höchster Stufe”. Yes, the Germans have been everywhere. (We have not encountered a single German through on the island, on the boat was the first time now that I heard the semi-soft sounds of my rich mother tongue.) As we were waiting, Magdalena, Jossan and Martina tried to teach me the International in Swedish. It did not go well. All I remember is trälare or something. The leader came anyway and answered questions such as “If you were a taco ingredient, what would you be?”
We moved on to a little walk through Visby and stepped into a little church where Magdalena took control of the piano. I will probably never stop to marvel at the Swedish singing culture. Through intensive training in school (every school year is concluded with songs, for example) and at various cultural occasions, Swedes seem to be perfectly drilled to sing certain songs. Such as Den blomstertid nu kommer that we spontanteously performed in the church (without audience though).
There was more music this weekend such as us singing some summer tunes on the beach only to be outshone by some other young Swedes that sang exactly the same three hours later next to us with four voices. Andrea, Martina and Magdalena impressed me by suddenly joining into the beautiful love song ”Så skimrande var aldrig havet” (The sea has never been as glittering as when you kissed me) as we were standing on a cliff overlooking the glittering sea. When three of us went for a swim later, Magda and I put on my playlist “Swedish summer” and sung us through all the songs describing the sun, water, happiness and of course kaprifol, the smell of Swedish summer. We even got comments of people passing by about how pretty we were singing.
I still have to understand why we in Germany do not sing joyfully and publicly and I fear it might as so many things have to do with the Nazis destroying nice traditions. I need to discuss this with my German historian friends so that I can finally stop wondering why we do not sing the many beautiful songs we have in our cultural heritage. (YES, Nils and Anne, this was an invitation to come drink with me.)
Saturday was spent at the beach because the weather was so warm (little did we know it would be even hotter on Sunday). Magda called me a “beach amateur” because she found my handling of sand and towels was not technically perfected. She also said my hair looked like little fairies whirling in a dance, so that evened out.
On the way back we stopped at one of the many flea markets. I learned that apparently in the summer, a lot of people just put up a sign at the street, “loppis”, and then you make a stop there and can buy their clutter, eh, things they are selling. I did not buy anything because I had gone through the sales in the clothes stores with Mia on Friday, resulting in my suitcase not only not closing anymore but also breaking. (But I mean, I found the dress I wanted to badly in April for less than half the price, so what was I to do? Also, ‘only’ the suitcase handle broke.) Magda bought some hangers at the loppis and I made friends with the most tame cat ever.
In the evening we were scheduled to eat dinner with Josefine’s high school friends and Andrea. We met at a restaurant that serves Chinese food from Sichuan and while both the ordering and the payment were very difficult because of the concept of the place, the food was quite delicious and if I say that as someone who is not fond of Asian food that should mean something.
Social media is a great thing: when Eliza who studied the same programme as me in Uppsala and who as during numerous occasions has been a great company at Värmlands nation saw that I was on the island, she contacted me and joined us after dinner. We were sitting outside the restaurant which had turned into a disco and Eliza and I tried to connect to those times in the nations drinks-wise which resulted in me spilling a Tequila shot at the bar. You do not understand the impact of such a mishap if you do not know that one little tequila shot costs 72 kr (8 euro, thus eight times as expensive as at the One Euro Bar at Reeperbahn) and I had already burnt all the money on my Swedish account. It was only with a puppy face that I got another shot. As Eliza and I got outside again the conversation had for some reason turned to “Ein Hut, ein Stock, ein Regenschirm” (I might have been part of that turn, don’t remember). That is a German rhyme (“A hat, a crane, an umbrella”) you sing while walking and honestly, it looks kind of militaristic. Andrea who has attended the German school knew the rhyme too. It never ceases to amaze me that that woman has such in depth non-school-related knowledge of the German culture. I mean, not even all German kids know “Ein Hut, ein Stock, ein Regenschirm”! (I am overjoyed everytime I know a German word she doesn’t know like “schnorren” and “Eselbrücke”. Usually these are also words I cannot explain in any language so that is the downside.)
We were trying to explain how the rhyme went and realized that no one really understood so we got up and moved to the streets of Visby and displayed for our friends, the guards of the restaurants and all people passing by how to walk to “Ein Hut, ein Stock, ein Regenschirm”. It is appropriate to say that our friends had a laughing fit and some by-passers asked us to repeat it again for them. Jossan filmed our performance so now there is even more video material to blackmail me with.
This morning, I woke up after we had gone to bed at three, with a headache. In the end, we had ended up on the dance floor where the DJane played a surprising mix of Beyoncé, I never promised you a rose garden, Flytta på dig and Tuff brud I lyxfodral. Today was then dedicated to the roadtripping we had originally planned. We might have envisioned the roadtrip a little less hot and sweaty because as we sat three on the back bench in a car without air conditioning, we had the opportunity to bond by rubbing our sweat-wet arms against each other. If you can do that, you’re close. In every sense of the word.
Josefine took us unerringly to marvelous sites of the isle. We got to see raukar which are stones formed in a special way, often with elaborate tales around them such as the Virgin Rauke that we went to see. It is a sad tale of the virgin Öllegard dying when falling off the rauke if I remember correctly. I am most fascinated by the name Öllegard, I might have to use it as a pseudonym in my next publications.
Of course we also did all those things we had planned: we bought Daim ice cream and when we were leaving Öllegard’s place of death, someone on the car’s back seat shouted, “It’s 1 pm! It’s 1 pm!”, meaning that we should immediately tune in to radio channel number one. Because that was also part of the plan, that is also part of the summer feeling, to swing and sway to the signature melody “Sommar, sommar, sommar”.
Our next stop – yes, we did maximize our time – was Krusmyntagården, a herb garden by the sea. Jossan and Martina collected stones, Andrea stood in the Baltic Sea and read the Swedish PR industry’s journal and Magda and I sang in the shade.
Because it feels very wrong to be in Visby a weekend and not see Visby, we were taken on a short but comprehensive tour of this town that looks like a beautiful open air museum but is actually inhabited. There is a lot of burnt down ruins that shape the view of the city, and then there is roses everywhere. Interestingly enough, the ruins do not look bad at all and the roses make you think Sleeping Beauty is about the come around the next corner. You thought you had seen the limits of beauty by now but then Jossan and Magda steer you towards the Botanical Garden. A lush, green oasis with especially pleasant light. After a small round there, we were led to the Love Port that looks right upon the Baltic Sea (I really love the fact that Gotland is surrounded by the Baltic Sea). And then there is hammocks everywhere. Free, public hammocks overlooking the water. Does it get any better than this?
Unfortunately, our 48 hours were with this tour forworn and we had to hurry down to the ferry. We left Andrea and Magdalena on the island and with a heavy heart I bade them goodbye. As we stepped on the ferry, we realized I was Leonardo di Caprio while Jossan and Martina were Kate Winslets. We had not booked our tickets at the same time which led to me being seated in second class and them being located in first class. I made them pledge that if we sank, they would come to get me, and actually Jossan even came to eat dinner with me, and Martina took me up to the windy sun deck where we watched a magnificent sunset.
When we got off the boat with 1500 people, our suitcases came out last and we had to run to the commuter train that would take us to the outskirts of Stockholm where we ran again like crazy to catch the metro. I was struggling with dragging my suitcase and the metro driver cheered for me on the intercom calling, “Come on now!” I made it, also thanks to Jossan blocking the door.
I have been writing this post since we boarded the ferry. Tomorrow marks my last day before going back to Germany and I have planned to maximize even this day. So now I am going to crawl under the sheets Marita prepared for me. It’s funny but coming home to my friends feels like coming home, now that I’ve been there so many times, know the door codes and the potential quirks the elevators have.