Close enough to get there by boat


At the risk of sounding like a travel blog... I was in Gotland, Sweden last week for work.  And I wanted to share some pics with you - because Gotland was magic! And can I just say (again) - I have NO idea why it has taken us 10 years of living in Latvia before we start travelling in Scandinavia.  Especially to a place like Gotland, which is a big island in the middle of the Baltic Sea, one of the closest destinations to Latvia you could choose.  This is why thousands of Latvians ended up in Gotland at the end of the Second World War - when they got into small fishing boats and travelled over the Baltic Sea to escape the oncoming occupation by the Soviet Army - Gotland was the closest bit of land to the Latvian coastline, that wasn't about to be occupied.  And this is why I ended up there last week, following the trail of these people, talking to locals who still remembered the "boat people" arriving in the autumn and winter of 1944.
But enough of history, I thought this was a budding travel blog.  On our first day the tour guide in the city of Visby set the tone for the rest of the trip: "I am descended from vikings.  All my ancestors were vikings.  And Visby is a viking city...". So without further ado, here are some real viking rune stones:



 

 
What amazed me about these stones, especially the rune stones (as opposed to older and rarer "picture" stones above), was that the whole story of the person was described on the stone.  So there we stood in the gallery, reading the message from the parents, who had erected these three stones to honour their three sons, who had been killed in battle defending their interests from the other terrible tribe.  And how their sons had been brave, and strong, and kind.  This had all been carved in the 9th century, or something.  And we "remembered" them.

Now I know nothing about sacral art, but seeing the artwork in the churches of Gotland was truly something.  It was naive folk art - nothing like any of the other churches I've visited. I couldn't help wondering if there was still a bit of pagan viking lurking in the psyches of the artists...








And then, of course, there was Faro island, where Ingmar Bergman lived, and which had rock formations to rival the Twelve Apostles....



... and sunsets over the sea, which as someone who has grown up on the East coast of Australia, seems awfully exotic, and romantic. Thus endeth the travelogue. Amen.

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