The island Fårö

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

It’s Thursday, our 4th full day on Gotland. Today we want to hire a car, meet Ingrid again and explore Fårö, an island northeast from Gotland.

We return our e-bikes, that we used the last two days and walk to Mickes biluthyrning, where we rent a VW Passat from 1995. Annika drives. We fill up the car and drive to Lärbro, where we meet Ingrid. She has been living on Gotland for a year and will guide us around.

In Fårösund we drive on the free ferry; the ferry crossing takes only 8 minutes. Then we are on Fårö.

First stop: Fårö kyrka. Beside this church used to be a tourist information, but it doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not a big problem, since Ingrid knows all these places she wants to show us.

The next stop however is a request of Annika and me: a real bakery! With a few exceptions, there are no bakeries in Northern Sweden and we enjoy visiting this one. We buy bread and cake and take a break to eat the latter.

We drive through the landscapes of Fårö, which are as varied as Gotland’s landscapes. Sometimes you think, you are in Spain or Greece, sometimes you believe being in Northern Germany and (only) sometimes in Sweden. Now I understand the Swedish people better, who say that Gotland is not Sweden.

Next stop Fårö Fyr, the lighthouse of Fårö, located at the easternmost point of Fårö. There’s a beautiful rock coast, but we do not stay very long, there’s a lot to see.

Next stop Skärsändan, a beautiful sandy beach that is several kilometres long. Annika and I take a bath (the water is quite shallow) and then Ingrid, Annika and I walk barefooted along the beach.

After a longer promenade we continue our Fårö exploration trip. On the way to Langhammars Raukar we make a stopover. Here we find many things typical for Gotland and Fårö: grey sheep, windmills, thatched houses, braided fences and dry stone walls.

Next stop is Langhammars Raukar, one of the famous spots with rauks – steep limestone formations formed by the waves of the sea. On of them reminds me on the stone statues of the Easter Island.

We continue to another fascinating spot, three kilometres away: Helgumannen, an old abandoned fishing village. This group of tiny wooden houses located on a rocky beach that seems to be endless looks really remote and I ask myself what kind of live the inhabitants had.

The last stop on Fårö for today: Gamle Hamn, another spot well-known for raukar. The last photo shows the “coffee pot”. Personally it reminds me more of Buckbeak, the hippogriff in Harry Potter.

I has become late, we are hungry and a bit tired. Ingrid drives the way back to the ferry and soon we are on Gotland again. Here we take the first restaurant and get something to eat, before we drive back to Lärbro and say goodbye to Ingrid.

Tusen takk, Ingrid for a wonderful day!

When Annika and I arrive in Visby it’s so late that the sun sets and the ice cream shop is already closed.

Some thoughts about e-bikes

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

It was interesting to try out e-bikes for two days. Even though they have advantages I have to admit that I didn’t become a fan of riding e-bike, at least not on the model we used.

The e-bikes we rented have three gears and a motor, that supports cycling in three levels. The motor has a range of 50 km and the supported speed is limited to 24 km/h. The motor switches off as soon one stops pedalling. An e-bike is not a moped that moves by its own.

Pros and cons of our e-bikes:

Pros:

  • the feeling of freedom. We chose many side paths just to have a look. If we would be tired we could use the motor.
  • you get good support when you cycle against the wind
  • you get very good support when the road goes up
  • you can accelerate faster in many cases
  • the range is larger than 50 km since you don’t use the motor the whole time

Cons:

  • Our bikes only had three gears. Too little for the terrain on Gotland when cycling without motor
  • The bikes are heavy and hard to carry over obstacles. One is bound to good ways
  • Each “motor gear” is made for a certain speed. It’s hard to vary that speed
  • For this reason it’s hard to drive next to each other
  • It’s hard to find a rhythm. The harder you pedal the less support you get
  • It feels strange however to pedal without using any strength
  • When you’re speed is round 24 km/h, the motor will switch on and off due to the speed limit
  • And last not least: the training effect of course is almost zero

I played a lot with the different combinations of gear and motor support and sometimes my lazy self was glad about the motor. My bicycle self however was glad when I switched off the motor and used the e-bike just as an ordinary bicycle, even though three gears were too few.

Next week I want to start cycling to work. That’s 2×19 kilometres a day. I guess I will curse when cycling against the wind. But hey, that’s part of the story when you use a bicycle.

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Wednesday

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

A bicycle tour in seven scenes

1. To Ihre by bus

It’s Wednesday. As yesterday we’ve planned a bicycle tour, this time north from Visby again. Today we want to try to take the bus and cycle back. We have to get up early, the bus leaves at 7:55. As we hoped, the bus driver will transport our bikes. The way however is a bit unexpected: Two bus drivers lift the heavy bikes on a transport rack attached to the back of the bus. It doesn’t look very stable. The bus driver however observes the back camera to check the bikes and it works, we arrive in Ihre without any problems.

2. The beach at Irevik

This stone beach is one of the beaches, where you can find fossils, e.g. Rugosa. There are so many fossils that I find them though hardly looking. (I found fossils however on almost every beach in Gotland.) As a child I collected fossils and it would have been almost impossible to remove my from these beaches. Now I love to look at the white swans as well, but I have many stones in my pockets.

3. Lickershamn

Probably the highlight of the day: Lickershamn, a cute old fishing town where you can buy both smoked fish and ice cream (a good combination if not eaten simultaneously!). We sit outside, it is warm as if it were summer and we enjoy the smoked salmon pieces and the shrimp salad.

4. Raukar near Lickershamn

We saw them already on the way to the sea: The raukar near Lickershamn. A rauk or sea stack is a steep rock formation formed by wave erosion. Due to the post-glacial rebound these rauks are quite far away from the Baltic Sea that formed them.

5. Lickershamn fornborg

Quite near there lies a fornborg, an ancient refuge castle. If you are not into archeology it’s hard to find the leftovers from the iron age in the forest. So I decided to take a picture of the blue flowers that bloomed everywhere in the light pine forest.

6. Ungemiss gård

We pass a farm, now café and art atelier, too. A chicken comes closer curiously. We however want to reach the Krusmyntagården before the kitchen closes and do not take a longer break.

7. Krusmyntagården

We’ve been there two days ago; Krusmyntagården is a wonderful place with great food, even though Annika and I do not fall in love with the saffron pancakes, a speciality from Gotland. It’s really nice to sit outside, have an ice cream, a lemonade and relaxing.

Extra: Brissund bathing place

Next stop: the near sandy beach in Brissund. The water feels much colder than the day before and is hardly more than knee deep. Refreshing however since the air is so warm.

After the bath we head home, first along the main road, then along the beach promenade, then through the old town. The dinner (taken on the roof terrace of our apartment): green asparagus with ham and potatoes.

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Tuesday

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

Today is Tuesday and the day starts as Monday did: with a breakfast on the roof terrace under a blue sky. The air is calm and warm and we want to make a bicycle tour again, this time with e-bikes. At the bike rental we hand back our normal bikes and get our e-bikes which we want to test for two days. Yesterday we cycled north, today we’ll head southwards.

Right south from Visby we leave the main road and enter the Södra Hällarna, a natural reserve.

The ground is dry and the vegetation looks more Mediterranean than Swedish. To the right there are cliffs by the sea.

With a normal bike we could follow the minor paths, but the e-bikes are too heavy to carry. We keep left and land on the main road again. The next stop is a bit special.

No, it’s not the tree houses, even though they look both interesting and beautiful. It’s this:

Here, in a amusement park in Kneippbyn stands the Villa Villekulla, the house of Pippi Longstocking! Everyone who knows the series from 1969 and the two films of 1970 also knows this house, that was used for the outdoor shots of the series and films.

The amusement park is closed – it is still off-season – but the door is open and we are able to creep in to take some photos. Pure children memories!

Some other nice spots nearby: Fridhem and Högklint.

Now we try to choose smaller ways for our bicycle tour but we do not succeed. South of Kneippbyn lies Tofta Skjutfält, a military training area and the ways that Google Maps proposes are blocked by fences or serious prohibition signs. So we stick to the main road, which is a bit boring. But at least there’re possibilities to get food, e.g. in the Suderby Herrgård.

We continue to Gnisvärd. On the way there we see the large stone ships, old graves from the later Bronze Age surrounded by stones in the form of a ship.

And much more is to see, from ancient rune stones to cozy cabins by the sea.

Later we follow a small path to Tofta Strand, a sandy beach. It’s more than 20 °C and it feels even warmer in the sun. Hardly imaginable that I photoed ice and snow less than a week ago. Annika and I take a bath. The water is still cold, but the sun warms us after the bath.

Later: Annika and I are back in Visby and take a stop at Glassmagasinet, “Swedens biggest ice cream shop”. And they do have a huge amount of different sorts of ice cream, anything from dark chocolate with 78% cocoa to bright blue Smurf ice. The best thing is not the assortment, it’s the taste. The ice cream is real Italian ice cream and tastes fantastical! Attention: This place can be very crowded even off-season.

It’s seven a clock. We cycle to the beach, sit down on a breakwater and look at the sun going down. It will take almost two hours until it has sunken down at the western horizon. A rare experience when you live in Umeå or Skelleftehamn, where the Baltic Sea is in the east.

A last photo from our roof terrace. We won’t sit here for long. It has been a long day and we are tired. Soon we fall asleep. Tomorrow: Another cycle tour.

 

 

 

Three bicycle tours on Gotland – Monday

This article is part of the series “2018-05: Gotland”.

It is Monday. Yesterday Annika and I arrived in Visby,  Gotland and planned to explore the island mostly by bicycle. It is warm and sunny already in the morning and we have breakfast on the roof terrace of our fantastic apartment, that we’ll have for a almost a week.

After that we pack our backpacks and walk through the old town of Visby to a bike rental outside the city walls.

It is almost 9 o’clock and the bike rental should open soon. There is however a small paper attached to the door, that the rental is closed today. Fortunately it’s not the only one in Visby. We walk again through the beautiful old town to another bike rental at the harbour.

This bike rental is open. Annika and I want to try out e-bikes, partly for curiosity, partly because of “holiday laziness”. Just this day all e-bikes have been rented to passengers of the large cruise ship that we saw on our way there. We decide to rent normal bikes and to reserve e-bikes for the next day. And off we go.

We ride along the sea. We pass the jetty were people use to bath even though the water is shallow.

Then we follow a bicycle path that leads to the beach promenade. It’s the first time in the year that I sit on a bike after the long winter and I enjoy the warmth of the sun. Just t-shirts, zip-off pants and sandals, that’s enough. We want to be as near to the coast as possible. And it is possible even though the path becomes smaller and smaller. We are cycling round stones and over tree roots crossing the narrow path. I have to stop for a photo of the marsh marigold flowers at the beach – one of my favourite flowers.

Sometime there are so many stones that we have to walk our bicycles. And suddenly the way goes up. Many stone steps lead up along a steep slope and we have to carry our bikes. Now we’re quite glad that we don’t have e-bikes which are certainly much heavier than ours.

A bit later: We have found better and larger ways, mostly minor roads and arrived in Själö hamn where we make a rest. We don’t have anything to eat with us, we trust in the open cafés along the roads. Själö hamn however has neither café nor kiosk. No problem, we just started the tour.

We continue northwards, partly on roads, partly along the beaches (walking the bikes) till we arrive at Krusmyntagården (spearmint farm). Here’s a restaurant and a shop where you can buy herbs and other products. We sit outside and eat the first ice cream of the day.

Annika rings Ingrid, a facebook friend. We make an appointment at the parking place of the Lummelundagrottan – a limestone cave – in an hour. This time we follow “real” roads and soon we arrive at the parking place where we wait for Ingrid . A bit later she arrives and we get to know each other in “real life”.

Ingrid shows us around Lummelunds bruk. In older times there was a water mill and the creek and pond are still left. The ground under the tree is covered with wood anemones and wild garlic.

A bit later we arrive at the huge main building of Lummelunds bruk. Beside of it there’s a tourist shop that among others sells local fossils. I already found two fossils at the beach and learned that it is solitary corals, called tomteluva (gnome hood) because of the form.

We return to the parking place and decide to drive to Krusmyntagården again, Ingrid by car, Annika and I by bike. There we sit outside, eat the delicious food of the restaurant and talk and talk and talk. What a fantastic afternoon: great food, great weather, and great company.

It is already in the evening when Annika and I say farewell to Ingrid and start cycling home. We follow the main road 149 that has a bicycle path. It’s still warm and sunny.

The next day we want to cycle again, this time south.

First impressions of Visby, Gotland

And now to something completely different after all that snow and ice.

Yesterday Annika and I took the plane. First to Stockholm Arlanda and then to Gotland – Swedens largest island –  where we’ll stay in the Visby – Gotland’s main town – for a week.

Some first impressions from our yesterday’s walk through this wonderful medieval town:

 

Ice report 5 May 2018

This morning I took the car to the lotsstation – the pilot station – on the peninsula Näsgrundet and took a closer look at the Baltic Sea. It was mostly free of ice, but the sheltered parts between mainland and the nearer islands were still covered with grey old ice. The rocky shore was partly covered with ice, too and some white ice floes floated on the ice cold water.

During the day it cleared up and the temperatures rose to 17 °C. Seven hours I returned to the same place. The floating ice I had photoed in the morning was gone by now. Had it melted or drifted away? I had to go to another more sheltered spot to be able to make probably my last ice photos in Skelleftehamn this season:

Why “the last snow” and “the last ice”? The reason is simple: Tomorrow Annika and I will fly to Gotland for a week. According to the weather forecast the next week should be warm and sunny, both in Skelleftehamn and on Gotland. I guess when I’m back, all snow and ice – beside of some huge manmade snow piles – has be melted away.

Then I’ll take a bath in the ice cold water and call it “spring bath”!

P.S.:

Snow report May 4 2018

Winter lovers in Skelleftehamn, you have to face it: winter is over and the snow is melting fast. Almost the entire property is free of snow. There is however some snow left round my house, so let’s check it out:

1. Next to the neighbours garage (45 cm)

There’s a pile of snow next to the garage. Anyway, that doesn’t really count. It’s remnants of a roof avalanche that slid down weeks ago.

2. Behind the garden hedge (33 cm)

There’s snow in the shadow of the garden hedge. Anyway, that doesn’t really count. That’s the place, where I had my personal snow dump.

3. On the garage driveway (47 cm)

There’s an icy pile of snow on the garage driveway. Anyway, that doesn’t really count. That’s the place, where my neighbour dumped the snow when he cleared the snow for me while I travelled around in February and March.

4. On the lawn (2 cm)

There’s a shallow spot of snow in the progress of melting. That snow does count as a matter of fact. No one moved snow to this place, it’s the last real remnant of the long winter 2017/18.

Incidentally, the last photo reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ children book The Cat in the Hat.

This will probably will be the last article about snow for a longer while. I probably won’t find any snow in June, July, or August. Or what do you think?

Valborgsmässoafton 2018

30 April

Valborgsmässoafton is the last day of April. On this days many people set fire to big bonfires, partly as an event being celebrated with friends, partly for burning last years gardening rubbish (and more …).

This year I was invited by A. and M. who I’d got to know exactly eight years ago on another valborgsmässoafton. They are among my oldest friends in Sweden and I’m very happy that they exist. Their stuga – or summer cottage – is located in Bygdeträsk south of Skellefteå.

This time I come from Umeå, where I spent the weekend. I try to avoid the larger roads and prefer the small gravel roads. Mostly they are in good conditions, only some parts are quite muddy and have deep ruts in the clayey ground. Less and less snow can be seem, but there’s still snow left.

There is still ice on the lakes as well, but it looks soft and grey and near the shore there are more and more open patches. You can still see the snowmobile tracks, a vague reminder of the winter.

Some hours later: I’ve arrived in Bygdeträsk and with the help of A. I manage to park my car without getting stuck in the soft clay of the property (which happened to a craftsman recently). The other guests have arrived, too and – of course – the bonfire is burning!

But what about the hot tub? Wouldn’t it be nice to take a hot bath outside later in the evening? That of course needs some preparations. While M. cautiously tries to split the thick ice block in the hot tub with an axe I put on chest waders to wade a bit into the lake with a long hose attached to the water pump. First I thought I had to chop away ice, but near the shore the lake is just filled with knee-deep slush. Soon the pump starts to fill the hot tub with ice cold water heated by the wood stove.

To make a long story short: it will take eight hours until the water is hot enough for a relaxing bath and I will have fallen fast asleep when the only two people still being awake will start their bath.

Anyway, there are other things to do as e.g. watching the whooper swans on the ice and in the water.

Then there is a lot of eating (M. is a great cook and grandmaster of barbecuing) and talking and playing games. Every half an hour someone goes out, adds wood to the oven and checks the water temperature, that sloooowly increases. I become more and more tired but I want to have a bath. At 1 o’clock in the night however I give up. I’m just too tired! I pump up my camping mat in the workshop, unroll the sleeping bag and soon I’m fast asleep.

1 May 2018

After a late breakfast I say thank you and goodbye to the others, jump into the car and head home, again with many detours. I see some cranes, some reindeers and a black grouse (called orre in Swedish) that flies away before I can slow down the car for taking a picture.

Many gravel paths lead through forests. Left and right are old walls of snow that the sun has not melted yet. Leftovers from last winter’s snow clearing.

Again some patches are rutted, some are wet and muddy but no problem, until …

Luckily I see this obstacle in time and manage to drive around this hole in the street. (My car is the red one in the background.) One of the rare opportunities where I’m glad to have a car with all wheel drive.

One hour later I’m home again and I hardly can believe my eyes. Five days ago my backyard was still covered with 30 centimetres of snow, now the snow on the lawn is almost gone and beside of some small white patches brown grass is everywhere! Even though I’ve been living in Sweden for eight years I’m astonished again how fast snow melts in springtime.

Two hours later heavy raining is pouring down. Hej då, vinter!