Gotland, Sweden – Day 1
I slept without earplugs or an eye mask last night because I was so paranoid about not waking up on time this morning. Consequently, i did not sleep well. And it seems my ipad alarm failed to go off, so thank god I woke up before it anyway. It’s kind of weird not traveling with a clock. I have no phone and no watch, but I do have pretty much any other electro-gadget you can think of. So I’m using my ipod/ipad to set alarms, and I check the lcd screen on my camera for the last photo taken to see what time it is when I’m out and about. Kind of primitive, but it works.
It was lightly raining as I walked from the hostel to the bus station, and I felt a twinge of regret for buying these ferry tickets ahead of time. What the crap was I going to do on an island known for its beaches and cycling if it was going to be raining the whole time? And yes, rain is forecasted for all 3 days I’m in Gotland (albeit only a chance of rain). But gimme a break, it was cloudy and drizzly all 3 days I was in Stockholm. Isn’t Sweden supposed to be sunny?!
The bus ride down to Nynashamn was painless, though rainy. After about an hour, we arrived at the ferry terminal to see a massive boat pull in. Yes, our ferry to Gotland was the size of a cruise ship. Absolutely insane. I’m sure it’s consistently a packed all summer, but during the offseason there was plenty of room on board. I had booked a seat in a day cabin because somehow it was cheaper than booking a regular table seat in the lounge area, which is all i really wanted. But I felt like I should at least check it out. I walked in on a couple and their baby. Awkward party! No, I did not want to hide away in a private cabin, especially if I was gonna be stuck with a family. I promptly walked out and back down to the lounge.
I then spent the next 3 hrs 15 mins editing photos and enjoying coffee with free refills. Then to my delight, the sun actually came out! The sky was still cloudy, but when we arrived in Visby there was a wee bit of blue.
I happened to be staying at a hostel right across the street from the ferry, Visby Fangelse. It used to be a prison, and now they use converted jail cells as rooms for visitors. Pretty awesome. The dorm rooms are located behind the main building, and I don’t think they were used as cells… But i could be wrong.
I spent the afternoon roaming around town, starting with a frolic along the water just outside the town wall. Yes, Visby is surrounded by a massive stone wall… you know, to keep out the bad guys way back when. Actually, to be more specific, it was to separate the locals from the traders in the 13th century. Historical facts aside (’cause let’s be honest, that’s how I roll), it’s pretty freakin’ neat. I began following it around the perimeter of town and before long got distracted by cute little cobblestone side streets I just had to go check out. I was very much in my element, finally thinking DAMN, this is why I came here! I didn’t get this feeling at all in Stockholm. I had such a blast getting lost in the maze of Visby. Barely anyone was around so for the most part I had the streets to myself. Little pastel-colored homes with big shutters and plants by the door, narrow lanes, quaint shops, and church ruins scattered about town. It reminded me of Rome on a much smaller scale in that you had the stone remnants of medieval churches just hanging out on the side of the road, often with cafes built around them. No big deal.
Whenever I eat out – whether at home or traveling – choosing the restaurant is always a big ordeal. I am extremely picky about it. Not indecisive, mind you – once I find the right place, the decision has been made and good friggin’ luck trying to change my mind ’cause it ain’t happening. I’m just picky because I want so badly to make the right choice and thoroughly enjoy my meal and feel like it was money well spent. Bonus points if it was good value (ie the meal was worth more than what I paid). This is why back home I tend to frequent the same restaurants and order the same plates. Because I know I love it, and I know it’s great value. Why risk a less satisfactory dining experience elsewhere? Why order a dish I’m not sure I’ll like when I can order my usual?
This is why: maybe, just maybe, I’ll find my new favorite and it’ll have been worth the risk in trying someplace/something new.
Unfortunately this doesn’t usually happen, which reinforces my decision to stick with my go-to spots. But when I’m traveling someplace new, I don’t have that to fall back on. In Visby, the decision was simplified because most restaurants were closed for the season, which narrowed it down for me. After that, price is usually the main determining factor – no-go for any place with absurd prices (e.g. No I’m not paying $25+ for a piece of meat). The decision is further broken down by other things, such as what I’m craving.
And this is how I found myself eating spaghetti carbonara at Isola Bella. Affordable, delicious, and awesome decor inside. It felt like an Italian cavern of sorts. Good value? Check. Happy customer? Check.
I retreated to my prison cell (har har), fell asleep on a couch on the second floor of the main building while reading (oops), and went to bed.