Visby – Medeltidsveckan på Gotland

Two of my ESI classmates work on Gotland for the summer, at a middle-ages-themed restaurant. We debated about whether it was a good idea for me to visit during the most hectic week of the year, Middle Ages Week, since they would be working ridiculous long days and wouldn’t really have time to hang out. Though on the other hand, would it be silly to visit immediately before or after the big event of the year, just for the sake of missing it? As it turned out, the rest of my itinerary filled in, and I really just had the one chance — so I took it.

Matilda had made an excellent plan for me: I’d stay in her room at the hostel a little ways out of town, since she was moving right into the thick of things for the busy week. I’d borrow her (dad’s) 1975 Corolla and commute in within walking range. This plan was excellent right until the day before I arrived, which is when the car decided it was on strike. It managed my first evening, which got us settled in our abodes and me fixed up with some groceries, but in the morning it was too tired to move. So after that my commute was instead a half-hour walk to the bus stop for a bus that runs every two hours. The first day I succeeded in hitching a lift (there’s pretty much nowhere else you can go from that road besides straight into Visby), but the other days I just timed it for the bus instead. That meant my evenings had to end by 10:30p-ish, although the larger events tended up pick up steam around 11p.

For the most part, I was on my own. I felt a little weird about being a tourist in modern clothes, more outside things than I am used to feeling when I travel. I did enjoy wandering around, especially in the old town and in the medieval marketplace, and I took a skazillion photos. One of the nice leather workers made me a belt in the same style as “everyone” was wearing, just an iron ring and a leather band, which had the double benefit of letting me feel like I owned one proper article of clothing and keeping me from having to haul my jeans up all the time, which was making me look silly.

One of my main goals for the trip to Gotland was getting to visit the church where the world’s oldest nyckelharpa player stands, a small stone carving over a doorway arch, dating from 1350. The excursion was looking infeasible in light of the car failure, since there is no public transit out that way, but then I lucked into a connection with a friend of a friend (I’d met her in Ransäter in 2013) who had just gotten back to town the previous day from a long trip abroad, and who hadn’t even known about the statue and was game for an expotition. We drove out there, admired the church inside and out, took lots of pictures, and played a few tunes inside (loud!) before she drove us back to town. Success!

Despite being crazy-busy, my ESI classmates did manage to meet up with me for lunch at a favorite veggie place. It was great to see them and catch up a bit. We planned to meet again in Stockholm later for a little longer and to play together.

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