Yes! We’re in! Chris makes an early morning call and gets us on the ferry to Visby today. Despite many attempts, on line booking kept failing at the last hurdle when the system refuses to recognise any city or country options for our address. Not sure why that was required anyway – they want birth dates too. Very thorough compared to other ferry lines.
We run a few errands (including of course a quick scan for furry friends – sadly no hares or deer this morning) then it’s on to the ferry just before midday. It’s quite a long crossing but we zip along at great speed and arrive in just a little over three hours.
The motorhome has been having a little trouble starting recently and it seems to be getting more of a challenge as the days pass. It’s unusual, as it normally is quite problem free. Even now, there are no warning lights. The fear of being stuck somewhere remote with a 5 tonne vehicle that doesn’t start is too horrifying for words – luckily there is a Rapido/Fiat service centre on Visby – we head here first. In a stroke of luck – they can look at it tomorrow.
In searching for a place to stop, TomTom suggests we drive into the old town, but one look at the narrow entrance gate, part of the 12th century rampart has me playing traffic cop, backing Chris out, backwards through a roundabout. It’s amazing what you can get drivers to do when you act with authority. Even the tourist train halts. Visions of getting stuck in the gate, stuck up a narrow road…and worse, taking out centuries of history! Thank you TomTom, but no.
We end up settling in an absolutely perfect spot, right on the sea with a convenient bike path all the way into the old city. Trauma of starting issues (hopefully soon to be addressed) behind us, there’s nothing to do but enjoy the glorious late afternoon on offer.
In other news, searching for the service centre reveals a village called Sanda on the island. We just might need to check that out! And there’s a place called Sanda in Stockholm too. It does explain why everyone here can pronounce and spell my name!
It’s clear as we ride the bikes in, why Visby is such a popular destination. The shore is lovely, tree lined with both walking and bike paths… and that’s even before the walled city comes into view.
Visby is stunning in the late afternoon light. The most intact Swedish medieval village, it has a settlement history dating back 9,000 years. Now UNESCO World Heritage listed, it lies protected in its walled cocoon, one of Sweden’s many gems. I’m so glad we decided to come and persisted through the ferry booking frustration.
The UNESCO listing has not stopped Visby keeping up with the times. Alongside the cobblestoned streets, 12th – 16th century church ruins and pretty half timbered cottages are endless restaurants, cafés and boutiques. 129 restaurants, to be precise and too many boutiques to mention.
We explore for a while, lucky to just make it through the main square church ruins before they’re closed. As we wander through the streets, it’s clear that the people of Visby like an autumn harvest – home orchards of heirloom apple, pear and nectarine trees are groaning under the weight of fruit. Others grow walnuts and chestnuts in abundance. I’d imagine there’s a brisk trade between neighbours, some of the oldest trees must be carrying close to 100kg of fruit. Yum.
Visby is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I go into snap happy overdrive, and as usual, have to be dragged away. The bike ride home has many stops along the way, especially for a shot of the town peeking over the defensive wall.
I’ll have to read up a bit to learn the history of what we’re seeing, but in the meantime, cocktails are calling. And there’s the sunset to be photographed. And there are portobello mushrooms that need to be coaxed into gentle submission with lashings of butter and garlic.