Spring is in the air. The whole country is in full blossom and all flowers, whether, tulips, lilas, magnolias, cherry trees, honeysuckles, you name it, profusely display their colours in the air. We enjoy average temperatures of about 25 C and rarely does the blue sky lose its radiance. However we have the feeling that big part of the country is still closed for the winter season or just barely waking up from the lethargy of the cold months. We drive through a big amount of little villages or settlements, which look immaculate, pretty and abandoned at the same time. Deserted. The streets are empty, the cafe’s (very scarce anyway) are closed, the fish stands forgotten, the ice-cream vendors and shops are shut, the bicycles for rental (if available) are dusty.
Mind you that we are, according to our Lonely Planet book, in some of Sweden´s touristic hot spots, so surely in a few weeks, when the summer officially begins, life will be injected in these little (very, very little) villages, like the flowers that prettily flourish in spring. For now we do the best we can with our solitude. Christian even ventures out to make friends with cows and horses.
One of those hotspots is the island of Gotland, which in any case, has a beautiful coastline with sandy and pebbly beaches, some of them offering some impressive rock formations that make you wish you would be a geologist to know how they were formed. If it was all the wonders of time and erosion or if it was something else. The beaches are normally zipped to the rest of the land by some conifer forests, some of them dotted with wonderful traditional wooden houses, surrounded by beautiful gardens. It feels like it´s a little childhood summer paradise, a beautiful happy place, ideal to play hide and seek with your friends or build tree houses, cycle to the candy shop or unveil the mysteries of the forests and the sea during the long summer days. The Baltic sea, which actually looks much warmer than it really is, if you put your feet in. The inner side of the island is a continuos sumptuous green frosting in the shape of conifer forests mixed with beeches and birches.
Yes, and the sunsets continue to be spectacular. In some cases they melt with the sea in delicate tones of pink and silver and it´s hard to tell the horizon.
This is the mood of the sky when we arrive to Visby, medieval city and capital of the island, where we find a handful of people promenading through is cobbled streets and we have our best dinner yet in Sweden at restaurant Bakfickan. Truly delicious fish prepared with love and attention.
The other place is the area around lake Siljan, which is an oasis of peace, at least at this time of the year. Perfect setting to meditate or just contemplate the peaceful sunsets. Peaceful villages surround it with most of its houses painted in the typical Falun red and forests, lost of forests.
We have a close encounter with one of the locals while wandering through one of these villages. A woman probably in her mid 60´s, with hair like I imagine Dolly Parton coming out of bed, ´dressed´ with a kaki tank top, leopard print panties (think Bridget Jones running in the snow) and wooden shoes. That’s it. She apparently was just coming out to collect the post from the post box on the opposite side of the street and proudly and happily invites us to take pictures of her old timer cars and and old gas station that is on the corner of her garden.
Equally amused and surprised by this encounter we continue driving through the region, till we reach Nusnäs, a little town which key activity is to produce the famous painted wooden Dala horses.
We don’t want to leave the area without visiting the copper mine, which is the origin of all the red paint that covers the facades of most of the houses in the whole country. It is located in Falun. As we descend down the rocky guts of the mountain, through wet and dark wooden stairs, the guide explains about the mining practices and working conditions in the 17th and 18th century. We leave the mine truly humbled, with a mixture of admiration, respect and relieve.