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Bicycling on the "Enchanted" Island of Gotland


Article contributed by: Backroad Travel In Sweden

Did you ever fantasize about bicycling on a country road in the glow of the setting sun at 10:30 at night?

In Scandinavia, summer days continue into long " timeless" evenings which are perfect for bicycling , canoeing or hiking.

I invite you to come bicycling on the Swedish island of Gotland! The island is also referred to as " the Pearl of the Baltic Sea" and is, in my mind truly, a magical place. It is the ideal place to explore by bicycle and has long been a bicycle paradise for Scandinavians. Gotland is 75 miles long by 35 miles at its widest part and is almost entirely flat. The island boasts of more sunny days than in other parts of Scandinavia and the cooling waves of the sea are never too far away.

"Gotland was first discovered by a man named Tjelvar. At that time Gotland was bewitched so that it sank into the sea by day and rose again at night. But this man was the first to bring fire to the land, since then it has never sunk".

This is the account of the Guta Saga, a history of Gotland put down in writing in the 13th century. To this day, the island of Gotland appears enchanted with its wealth of memories of the past. The medieval wall around the city of Visby is a striking remnant of a time in history when the city was a powerful Hanseatic port and is one of Europe's best preserved structures from the Middle Ages. It was put on UNESCO's World Heritage List as a unique cultural treasure.

Roses in brilliant colors climb walls and houses everywhere and scent the air with their fragrance. Narrow lanes and picturesque ruins of gabled houses and churches give Visby, " The City of Roses and Ruins"its charm and medieval flavor. The summertime also brings a lively outdoor life to the city with many sidewalk cafes
and restaurants.

The Viking Age brought Gotland into the center of world trade. Boulders marking graves in the shape of Viking Long Ships can still be seen along the roadside. Huge fortunes were amassed in the countryside, and today we marvel at the hoards of silver and gold that were buried in the soil of Gotland. Magnificent stone churches from the 12th and 13th centuries are testament to the wealth of the Middle Ages. Toward the end of the 14th century there was a shift of power in the Baltic region and the island's age of greatness was over. Very few changes took place for hundreds of years. Today, we feel grateful that this "unfortunate" fate preserved the town of Visby in its medieval state.

For those interested in nature Gotland offers an unusual variety of scenery, all equally fascinating; dramatic coastlines with steep cliffs, sandy beaches and flowery meadows (perfect for a relaxing bicycle stop) and windswept woods on rocky soil. Gotland is the land of limestone and one of the most fossil rich places in the world. The lime gravelled roads, adorned with wildflowers, gleam in the sunshine and the light is as intense as in the Mediterranean region. Gotland has distinctive and rich flora. Thirtysix species of orchids flourish here, perhaps due to the mild climate and the limestone soil. No visitor should miss the monumental sea stacks, dramatic stone pillars carved out of soft limestone by the action of the wind and the waves. Sitting among these " stone giants" watching the sun set into the sea is an experience you'll never forget.