Sunday June 28, 2009

While we were eating breakfast this morning, the Prinsendam was dropping anchor just outside the port entrance of Visby, on the Swedish island of Gotland (100 kms west of the mainland). And the crew were preparing to ferry us all ashore in the ship’s bright-orange tenders (lifeboats).

Best known as the Town of Roses & Ruins, Visby (or ‘Wisby’ as the locals say it) claims a swashbuckling history spanning the Viking (or ‘Wiking’) Age, a flourishing medieval period, and the growth of the powerful Hanseatic League. Today, its sandy beaches, generous gardens and ye-olde-worlde architecture make this red-roofed island town one of Sweden’s most beloved resorts.

In search of something a little different, we Mad Kiwi Midlifers travelled north into the countryside where an ancient treasure-trove (old churches, even older ruins, strange limestone formations, and beautiful Gotland scenery) awaited us. We poked around inside a wooden church that dated back to the 13th century … inspected an unusual Swedish farming operation (cropping, beef and dairy) … and sampled some of the owners’ homemade cheese and jam.

Back in Visby, before returning to the Prinsendam, we had time for a brief wander amongst the ancient walls, turrets, alleyways and historic buildings of this one-time powerful fort.

Not hard to see why Visby’s Old City has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Just a shame we couldn’t stay a few hours more …

TOMORROW: We’re in “Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, friendly old girl of a town.” The show’s not over yet, folks, so stay tuned …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief. And don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!