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.
taking the ferry to Gotland
first indication that costuming is freely interpreted
we were starving, so we went to Max for burgers. the place was full of medieval garb. i am informed this is not as entertaining as i find it.
Plan A: i borrow Matilda’s (father’s) 1975 Corolla and commute from her hostel room to town.
Plan B: the car goes on strike the day before i arrive, so instead i get a half-hour walk to the bus that runs every two hours. it’s a nice walk, though.
old Hansa town in the sunlight
bike parking near a church. (there are approximately a fiptillion churches in Visby. they count all the ruins.)
scenic staircase. lots of climbing in these parts.
scenic street in the old city
steep basement steps
outdoor seating at the establishment where Matilda & Jonathan are working
the city wall has lots of arches, each populated by a ram
medieval village that would be happy to demonstrate their handicrafts after you pay an admission fee
friendly folks in the marketplace. she wove the nice gooseeye twill of his jacket, and also all the bands on her gown.
these carts are all the rage for carrying your small children and all your baggage
i did not get to watch the pancake-eating contest. yay?
looking down on a corner of the marketplace
view through a (thick!) tower wall
lots of bikes and pedestrians on the paths along the shore
tent encampments along the wall
the wall looks like it’s definitely not going to fall down now. a fair number of things propped up all over town.
the annual brännvinboll game. turns out this is basically Calvinball. it starts out sort of softball-esque except for the part where you drink from a bucket of wine at each base. (you get to carry your own cup. or flask or horn or whatever, if you’re dressed in medieval garb.) and then someone’s in charge of changing the rules all the time. when i got there, everyone needed to hop. later they needed to run backwards, and in pairs, and with liberal interpretations of “like a horse”, some of those at the same time.
the brännvinboll population: the young hip set, many/most of whom seem to have made their own garb, some of whom are working their sewing handwork while they watch the game
street shared by pedestrians, bikes, and cars (though most cars aren’t supposed to be in the old city during the daytime)
on a hill looking down toward the archers in the distance
at work at the forge
awesome dragon candle-holder
bazaar stall with a splendid array of dried fruits and nuts
best collection of Sami-style bracelets i’ve seen, made by Gotland artists who do beautiful work
these jugglers have enlisted a hapless volunteer, who doesn’t know about the expression on her mask, nor about the swords and flaming torches that are about to be tossed across the circle right next to her head
field trip to the Källunge church, home to the oldest known nyckelharpa representation dating from 1350
the side doorway arch where our ‘harpa player stands
here he is, in real life! (we had a greatly enlarged photo of him at ESI.)
inside the church
stunts in the park
Elisabet & Matilda
lunch meeting with Matilda, Elisabet, & Jonathan