There is always a good reason to travel. It is a particularly good one if it gives you the opportunity to visit friends at the same time. So I was lucky enough to visit my best friend Hanna in Sweden. She is currently studying on the island of Gotland, the largest Swedish island. As I was able to take a week off after the Easter holidays this was the perfect opportunity.
Gotland here I come
Now, of course, the first question was how do I best get to this island? There are several options – such as the direct ferry from Rostock to Visby from Hansa destination, the largest city on Gotland. Unfortunately, it currently only runs once a week. Then I discovered the Swedish train Snälltåget, which from April to September runs daily overnight from Berlin to Stockholm - and all without changing trains. Of course I expected that the train would be infinitely expensive and in the end offer no real alternative to flying. I was all the more surprised when I entered the data and the ticket was offered for only 350 Swedish kronor, around 35 euros. For an additional 30 euros I booked a sleeping compartment. From Stockholm I could take a ferry with me Destination Gotland book, which connects the mainland with the island several times a day. For the way back I decided to fly back anyway, so I could spend an extra day on the island. After all, offers Scandinavian Airlines the possibility of opting for biofuel and thus reducing emissions somewhat. After everything was planned and booked, my trip could start after the Easter weekend, April 19th.
With the night train from Berlin to Stockholm
Departure from Berlin Central Station was punctually at 20:58 p.m. I got on the train. The compartment and the bed I was to sleep in were already selected when I booked. I opted for the bottom bed. From previous train journeys I knew that it could get very warm at the top. The best thing about these old trains is that the windows can still be opened. That's how I stuck my head out as we left Berlin Central Station in the last twilight.
I shared the compartment with two other people. Jason, an American who has lived in Stockholm for a number of years, where he worked for a sustainable start-up. And Avar, who was born in Sweden, couldn't stop traveling after a stay abroad in South America and has lived here and there ever since. We bought a few drinks in the small shop one car further and chatted comfortably with some music and snacks in the compartment. We reached Hamburg shortly before midnight. Another person got on there, a young lecturer from Uppsala University. Soon we turned off the lights and snuggled down on our narrow beds in the provided blankets and pillows.
Morning coffee at Snälltåget
The night was only interrupted around 2:30 a.m. when the police carried out a passport check at the border with Denmark. The next time I woke up, it was just before 10 a.m. and we were just driving onto the Oresund Bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden. I stayed in bed for a while before joining the others at about nine o'clock in the dining car "The Pub", which was attached in Malmo. Jason was working on his laptop because he didn't want to take an extra day off. I had reserved a seat beforehand so I was able to order my breakfast at 45:14am. Since the transition from breakfast to lunch is very fluid, there are already warm dishes such as beetroot patties, but also pancakes. In the kiosk two cars away, small snack packages were also available earlier in the morning. The coffee can - of course - be ordered with oat milk. The journey went through the Swedish countryside, past forests, lakes and of course the typical red and white houses, before we reached Stockholm Central shortly after XNUMX p.m.
By ferry from Stockholm to Gotland
Since the next ferry from Gotland didn't leave until 20:45, I now had a few hours to explore Stockholm. I had been here several years ago, but I couldn't remember much: The only thing I could remember was the Vasa Museum, which, due to its extraordinary architecture with the two huge masts, is the ship hidden in the museum symbolize. So I walked from the main station along the promenade towards the botanical garden. Since Stockholm stretches across countless islands, almost all roads lead along the water. There are also parks and quiet corners everywhere that invite you to linger.
After about an hour I took a break in one of the parks right by the water, with a wonderful view of the panorama of Stockholm. Then I strolled back through the side streets, past chic designer boutiques and nice cafes. Here in Stockholm, too, the rethinking of the infrastructure was noticeable, in addition to wide cycle paths, the seats in front of the restaurants, which were built on wooden plateaus on former parking lots, opened up to many people. Back at the train station, I took the bus to the port in Nymäshamn, which is about 50 minutes from Stockholm.
View of the harbor at Köttbullar
The ferry terminal is more like an airport, with digital ticket check-in and a small café. We went to the ferry via the gangway. Shortly after departure, the hustle and bustle in the board restaurant started. In addition to the classic Köttbullar, there was also a selection of vegetarian dishes and a vegan option. After dinner I explored the outdoor terrace for a moment before I went back to my seat and let myself be rocked to Gotland with a book in my hand on a light sea.
The port of Gotland is located directly at the old town of Visby. Next to the promenade is also the campus of Gotland's Uppsala University. From here it was a few minutes walk up the hill to Hanna's apartment, with a magnificent view of the harbor and the sea.
Sustainability on Gotland - visit to the Surflogiet
While Hanna and two other friends who were visiting at the time were spending the next day in the Uppsala University library, I jumped on my bike. There is a big one right by the harbour, behind the largest ice cream parlor in Europe with over 300 different varieties Bicycle rental, which offers various bikes as well as e-scooters. My goal was that surflogist, about 20 kilometers south of Visby near Tofta. I already knew this accommodation, among other things, because Hanna had already told me that she would like to work here for a few months in the summer and that they had made sustainability a priority.
On site, Victor, one of the main site employees, showed me a little of the site. Since the season doesn't start until the end of May, a lot was still under construction, but the attention to detail and, above all, the claim and handling of more sustainable tourism became very clear. This was also reflected in the enthusiasm with which he spoke about the project. It all started as a small surf shack in the 80s. In the meantime, the Surflogiet offered about 70 people a job with meaning and a good view during the summer months.
From the furniture in the beach bar, which they built partly from the leftover wood that was washed up on the beach in spring, or tables made from old wooden cable reels from farmers. From the complete avoidance of plastic material and packaging, to working with local farmers so that as many products as possible can be bought on the island. Sometimes only a few 100 meters away. For some products, such as fries, they work together with other hotels to create more local demand so that this production and the associated procurement of machines is worthwhile for the farmers.
In addition to the 11 tipi tents, the Surflogiet also offers a public restaurant for around 120 guests, who can make themselves comfortable right on the beach. Even small events can be celebrated here. Another highlight is of course the small sauna, which offers a direct view of the almost Caribbean turquoise sea with a white sandy beach. A truly inspiring place where sustainability is lived from start to finish.
On the way back I took a small detour. Since it was quite windy, I was happy about small, somewhat more protected side streets anyway. The path led through small villages that hadn't really woken up from hibernation yet, even though the birds were already making every effort to change this, and the first flowers made the meadows shine in wonderful shades of yellow and blue. It went along the coast at Stiftelsen Fridhemsgatan, a former country house, with a small waterfall and Pipi Longstocking's Villa Kunterbunt in Kneippbyn, which is now surrounded by a huge amusement park. Finally, from the Södra Hällarna nature reserve, you have a wonderful view along the cliffs in front of the gates of Visby, before you return to the old city walls. Incidentally, these are among the best-preserved medieval city walls in Europe.
Immerse yourself in nature - with sport and enjoyment
If you want to get to know Visby and the surrounding area in a completely different sporty way, the tours from Running Tours Gotland just right. Since 2021, William - who was born and raised on the island - and his father Mathias have been offering a very special experience. They combine running and sightseeing over a distance of currently five or ten kilometers. They want to create a new and, above all, more sustainable way of exploring the island. The offer is available weekly in the summer months from June to August. It started at one of the city gates of the old town of Visby. After a short introduction, we first walked along the old walls, through the park, which runs through the city along the entire wall. From here we went through an adjacent nature reserve on the north side of the city through the meadows and forests with some inclines, which gave us a wonderful view over the city afterwards. Small breaks were always taken so that we could enjoy the view and give William some information about the local area.
The three most important values that the two want to convey with this very special offer are: bringing the culture and history of the island closer, leaving no negative impact on nature and at the same time taking care of yourself through sport. In the end, 2% of the proceeds are donated to nature conservation projects on Gotland and the Baltic Sea. The run ended with small refreshments and snacks from local producers in Almedalen Park just in front of the historic old town overlooking the sea.
And while we're on the topic of food, this is a very special campaign that you can do anywhere in Sweden Edible Country. On Gotland you will find this very special activity in Salthamn. Jaqueline and her family and employees are gradually converting this former farm into a sustainable farm with various accommodations. In the adjacent forest with a view of the sea, there is a table surrounded by nature. The idea of Edible Country is to be fully immersed in nature here. Not only regional, but also seasonal recipes are cooked, using the herbs that grow right around the table. It was wild garlic season on Gotland and the whole forest floor was covered with it. All we had to do was bend down and the main ingredient for our dish was right in our hands. The recipe was provided to us, as well as all other ingredients. We were then allowed to do the preparation ourselves directly on site. A truly unique experience. And a meal can hardly be prepared fresher.
We spent the last few days with a little stroll through the historic old town, in the various cafés with cinnamon rolls, of course, and in the sauna right by the water. Of course, a short cool down in the 5 degree cold Baltic Sea was a must.
For any traveler looking for a place to unwind and relax, Gotland is definitely the perfect destination. The island offers both culture, history and a young and lively city full of small shops and hip cafes, as well as untouched nature and endless expanses without a soul. Especially in spring or autumn, outside of the peak tourist season, this is a truly unique place.