Sunday, August 15, 2010

It Only Took a Few Hours to Fall in Love

Sometimes it is surprising the places that capture you. My favorite places have little in common...sometimes I am enthralled by people watching and the culture in a large city, other favorites are inspired by a beautiful setting or the charm of a small town.

One of those surprising places for me was Visby on Gotland in Sweden--a port on our cruise, one which we knew little about and had few expectations. We were captivated by Sweden and the entire archipelago for its beauty. Gotland is like the summery paradise of the country. It really was a storybook place...made all the more so as the land of Pippi Longstocking, a favorite character of mine in youth. The walled, medieval city has beautiful church buildings and a quaint feel that made me feel at home even as a tourist. Even though groups were coming ashore from the ship, the town didn't feel overrun with passengers. I guess not being able to dock in a large port, rather having to tether in, helped with this. It was a very easy town to navigate and much more pleasant to explore on one's own than on a group tour. As we walked around the walled city and throughout the streets, I pictured myself living in many of the cottages along the way.

We were visiting on a crisp, summer day and the sky was pure blue to match the sea. However, even picturing the harsh winter weather, all I could think of was reading by the fire in one of the cottages. It was one of those places that maintains a sense of being away from it all, even as it has the modern conveniences of elsewhere. I believe that is often characteristic of islands. There is a special quality about islands--at once visited and loved by tourists but still special and isolated by the nature of their separateness.

Visby is one of those places a cruise ship exposes you to, that you might have never discovered otherwise. Visby teased us during the short day ashore, begging us to come back for more some day. A few hours was simply not enough. My husband and I both added Visby to our weather listings on our phones, frequently referring back during the cold winter--perpetuating the fantasy of the cozy fireplace scene. This place was definitely a surprise--and has probably stuck with me more than any other place I have been to for such a short time. We hope to make it back for a longer visit one day to get to know more of this place and hopefully continue to grow more fond of it...

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