Today was the excursion to as close to my ancestral homeland as we know for sure. Visby on the island of Gotland off the southern coast of Sweden, where my father’s Swedish side is from about 100 years ago. That there happened to be a big medieval festival the week I was able to go was an extra bonus!
Medeltidsveckan in Visby, Gotland, Sweden
I got myself up in time for a quick breakfast, thankful that it was the first time this trip I didn’t have to pack everything and check out already, then over to the bus station with plenty of time to get my ticket and onto the bus to get a window seat. I saw the weird golfball building mentioned in my guidebook on the way south, but then just more grass & trees until we actually reached the coast at Nynäshamn.
I bought my ferry ticket round trip, plus the return bus ticket to Stockholm, since they wouldn’t let me buy that with my original bus ticket, so at least that was all taken care of. You actually get assigned seats on the ferry, and since once we left the coast it was just water & haze for so long, I dozed at my seat between watching some Swedish romantic comedy I wouldn’t have understood even if I had plugged in my headphones. 😉
Finally we started seeing land outside, so I took some more photos out on the windy but sunny deck, then we were docking at Visby by 1:30pm. It was an absolutely gorgeous day to the point of being too hot without breeze or shade. I felt really badly for all the people in medieval garb, especially the cloaks and furs I saw! There were a few kilt & tartan sash outfits, including a couple young shirtless guys in kilts (woohoo!) but most were more authentic simple style Viking medieval clothing, not corsets or fancy Elizabethan England garb like so many renfaires. Of course this wasn’t a renfaire but specifically a medieval festival. Otherwise the marketplace area was a lot like other faires I’ve seen and enjoyed, with various vendors at their own tents, swords, armor, garb, cups, forged iron decor, kids Viking toys, food, knitwear, fabrics, etc.
Teje had mentioned before that she was planning to make mjød, a Viking honey beer like mead, so when I saw a booth at the medieval marketplace I bought a cup. Since I asked them to take a photo of me drinking it, they transferred it into a big drinking horn…haha! When I asked how it was made I found out this was non-alcoholic mjød, but there was real mead from California over at another booth…haha! They had already heard that’s where I was from so we laughed about me coming all the way to Visby for California mead..
There were a few performers, including some slapstick improv that I couldn’t understand, but the audience was roaring. I got some video of some girls singing to bring audience in for the next show (I think?).There was a fire-eater too, and I think another hurdy-gurdy with another instrument I didn’t recognize. I’ll have to check my Trondheim photos later now that Melanie told me that was a hurdy-gurdy.
I had seen the whole market and bought a small cow’s horn drinking horn (washing machine safe he told me – haha!), so I went strolling up the hill to see how many churches I could see. I was able to get to most that were on my map, but several were closed for medieval week – darn! I did get to go inside the one non-ruin St Maria Domkyrkan with modern but pretty stained glass, and inside the ruin St Katarina which was very cool. Only one had a graveyard but just a Lindstrom, no Pettersons or Enbergs. I’ll bet I would have had to go outside the old town to find any more recent graves like only 100 years ago, and there really wasn’t time in my only 6 hours there today. Since I don’t even know where in Visby any of them were from, that would still be difficult to track down, so I considered today not geneological research but to be a taste of where my ancestors came from.
Speaking of taste, on my stroll through town to the market I had walked past a restaurant that wasn’t cheap, but they had pickled Gotland salmon that I really wanted to try, first time I’ve ever heard of pickled salmon except Astoria where my dad is from, so I was hoping to get there right when they opened at 5pm so I would still have time to make to the ferry by 6:30 to check in. I had eaten a sandwich on the ferry, plus I was curious about the fresh flatbread, onion and cheese wraps at the market. Nice not to be starving for dinner for once! I got there early while the staff was still eating and there was a sign that I was guessing said the garden only was closed for an event, so I was trying to catch someone’s eye to be sure I shouldn’t just move on to another restaurant. I got seated right at 5 in an empty restaurant of course, but by myself that was a good technique since not only did I get a little conversation with the two waiters who kept coming through, but also since I was asking how dry or sweet the wine was, I got a glass of Riesling instead of the only white wine they sold by the glass. My bill still had the other wine listed for my one glass.
I had the pickled salmon with creamed local morel mushrooms and mustard sauce, which was very good, but the fish wasn’t salted before pickling, and not very much vinegar, so it was closer to sushi but good fresh salmon flavor. I was wondering if the Astoria style might be Visby style, but I’d say the herring I had in Bergen was closer to Astoria. The morels were fabulous but only about 4 bites since the dish was an appetizer. I also had the soup of wild Gotland leeks with salmon roe (yes, Dad, I know you use salmon roe for bait!) which was very tasty. Two starters for my meal was a good plan portionwise. From the dessert list I chose local cheeses with walnut flatbread, which also came with some salmberry preserves and plum-type preserves called something like fikon like ficus but wasn’t listed on the menu so I’m not sure of the spelling. How can you go wrong with cheese of course, but the preserves were also tasty. If I hadn’t been rushing to the ferry I would have looked harder for some salmberry jam to take home, but the jars I found were too big. I thanked the waiters for the fabulous food and made my way around to the ferry by a quick trip to the beach since I realized I should at least touch the waters at my ancestral shores! I sneaked a rock away in my pocket as a “piece of my homeland”..shh, don’t tell! 😉
I just had time to buy a couple postcards and a silly shot glass, then I got into the long line of people checking in for the ferry, so I’m glad I got there when I did. I was hoping to find a doll or figurine in the Visby costume like I have, even if I had to pay a lot, but the rest of the day I didn’t actually come across touristy shops past the docks, only fancy stuff like crystal, antiques, and knitwear. The only doll I found was the blue & yellow Swedish national costume. I didn’t even see the tiny wooden shoes my mom got me on her quick trip to Visby!
We were on a newer ferry on the way back, with plasma TVs and a bigger cafe, so I found a pear cider to pass my time during another obviously Scandinavian movie I don’t understand. Actually I watched the only video I had on my new iPod: The Shakespeare Code from the new Doctor Who. I had downloaded it from
No Absolut Ice Bar tonight since not only was I wiped by my long day, but the bus was late picking us up from the ferry, then there were some roadworks that delayed us too, so I don’t think I would have made it before the doors closed at midnight anyway. Now for a shower & sleep!
Until next time!