Gotland: Visby and The Medieval Week
On the 6th of August me and Markus flew down to spend a week on the island Gotland. Already on the bus drive from the airport we realized this was going to be awesome. I think both our chins dropped at the first sight of the city wall. Despite being old and worn it looked like something from a movie, seriously.
Actually, that can be said about pretty much all of the old part of Visby – it looked like something from a movie. I’m a little jealous that some people get to live their everyday life in a place like that.
This post only has a few of the photos, but I have uploaded a HUGE album to Flickr so if you want to see all the photos you can go here.
The eastern gate was the first thing to greet us after we got off the bus. The wall goes all the way around the old part of Visby. Outside the wall the city is fairly normal and modern looking, on the inside it’s like another world, full of narrow cobblestone streets and medieval houses leaning on each other.
First two days was spent just walking around with our jaws dangling by the kneecaps. It didn’t really mattered which streets we walked or which way you turned your head, everything was absurdly pretty.
There were lots of medieval and newer-but-still-really-old houses, most of which still intact and in use, but also lots of ruins. You’d turn a corner and suddenly find yourself standing in front of an old church or a tower or something.
And flowers… flowers everywhere! Apparently Gotland is known as “the island of roses” and I can see why. Lots of houses had climbing roses covering the walls. Not to mention ivy.
It was hard to miss the annual Medieval Week, just about everyone was dressed in medieval clothes and there were lots of activities going on everywhere. The “medieval” people greatly outnumbered the “modern” people in town and I immediately regretted not having put together costumes for us…
We spent a lot of time at the market, there was so much to see there. They sold jewellery, pottery, lots of home-made stuff like jam and knitwear but also medieval clothes and weapons. You could buy little wooden shields and swords for the kids – but also real stuff, like authentic, fully functional swords and bows. There were also complete sets of armoury! I was THIS close to buying a green wool cape but changed my mind at the last minute. Now I kinda regret it. I also regret not buying one of the swords.
There were lots of random performances going on. We saw people dancing, playing instruments (bag pipes for the win!), practising sword fighting or archery or just telling stories. There was a forge in the market where people could learn about smithing. One woman walked around with living rats in her arms, telling people facts about rats and letting people pet them if they wanted.
(I think the sound in the clip is a bit weird, so you might wanna turn down your speakers…)
Wednesday we went to see a tournament! They had tried to make it as authentic as possible, with wooden benches for the audience to sit on, jesters entertaining between rounds, a fancy terrace where the nobles were seated and people walking by selling caramel apples. The competitors were divided into two “teams” – the countryside and the town – with 4 knights on each team. They also had archers competing in sharp-shooting.
First the knights competed in various acrobatic games, like collecting rings off the ground with a lance or slicing apples on sticks with a sword, all while riding at high speed. It was really impressive. After those rounds were finished the town side was named winner – but the chieftain of the countryside would have nothing off it, so after some arguing they decided to have a final round of jousting.
Of course they couldn’t have people actually trying to knock each other off the horse, I understand that would’ve been too dangerous, so you could tell that final part was a bit staged – but it didn’t matter. It was fun to watch anyway.
Friday we rented bikes and went up north along the coast until we reached Lummelunda and the Lummelunda cave. Apparently it’s one of the longest caves in Sweden, almost 4 km long. When we got there we got to borrow rubber boots since the cave was “a bit flooded at the moment”.
Yeah, the water was more like an underground river – and it went well above my knees at one part of the cave. Kinda scary with the darkness and all, we couldn’t see where we put our feet. The cave was really cool though, full of stalactites and stalagmites and lots of vaults and side-tracks. You’d walk down a narrow, zigzaging tunnel that would suddenly open up into a large hall and then down another tunnel, into another great hall etc. I was fascinated! Slightly claustrophobic Markus was freaked out.
Of course we visited the museum too. They had lots of skeletons and armour from the large battle with the Danish that took place in the 1300s, but my favourites were the rune stones!
Like I said, I was THIS close to buying a cloak but I did however buy other things.
We found a little new age store where I picked up a Herne the Hunter necklace. I’ve had a thing for him ever since I read the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper as a teenager.
At the market I found a beautiful amber ring and a pair of handmade wool slippers (lined with fleece, so they’re super soft inside). I also picked up a Patti Smith t-shirt and a cute new bag.
Now, in conclusion: Gotland (and the town Visby) is probably one of the most beautiful and special places Sweden has to offer. I would love to go there again and explore more of the island!