Gotland: Days 6 & 7 – Visby to Tallinn

Day 6

No travel

Date: 17th July 2010

We had originally planned to go back to Stockholm on this day, but all of the ferries were booked out. Rather than go for standby again we opted to book tickets for the 00:50 ferry at night. This gave us a very long day in Visby. Our plans of spending the day exploring the old town were foiled by a very heavy thunderstorm, which included a blackout from around lunchtime. We couldn’t walk around visiting the sites, and even our usual fallback when bored travelling, the movies, was out of action due to the blackout. Instead our day was spent hiding from the rain in bars and eating salad (the restaurants couldn’t cook anything). The best beer I’ve had in Sweden was from the local brewery and was stocked in all the bars, so it wasn’t all bad. Rather than being an enjoyable and relaxing day it was more of an uncomfortable and boring one. However candle lit dinners (and candle lit trips to the toilet) are always a memorable experience.

Day 7

Ferry Visby – Nynäshamn
Bus Nynäshamn – Stockholm
Ferry Stockholm – Tallinn

Date: 18th July 2010

None of the websites indicated that you could put a bike on the ferry bus to Stockholm, but apparently you can if you’re lucky, and we were. There were two buses picking up passengers from the ferry to Nynäshamn. The first told us definitely no bikes, but the second told us there might be space if we waited. After us, five other cyclists arrived to catch the bus as well. Our driver chatted to the other and between them they managed to fit us all on. I think it’s much like catching a plane on standby – if the driver likes you and you’re a bit lucky you’ll get on. Smile, be courteous, and be there as early as possible.

So we arrived in Stockholm at about 6:00 am and had all day to kill. We started by dropping our gear off in the train station lockers then having a sleep in a park somewhere. After that it was a full day of Stockholm site seeing which was easily filled up. It was actually difficult to find time to fit in a few drinks. The outdoor museum and zoo Skansen was worthwhile and could easily occupy most of a day. We also happened upon a dog show where I met my first Australian sheep dog. They’re a gorgeous breed which look like a mix between kelpie, border collie, and blue cattle dog.

Stockholm is an excellent city for biking around. It has bike paths everywhere which are well sign posted and easy to follow, but it’s not crazy busy like Amsterdam. A lot of design effort has gone into making it a safe and easy place for cyclists. There were enough hills to make me glad to have gears, mostly around Gamlastan (the old town), but not enough to be bothersome.

Again we went for the separate cabins option on the ferry on the way home, but this time we were both in rooms with other people. I had a bunch of Russian dudes who weren’t bothersome in nature, but were in body odour. I stayed up playing blackjack and hanging around the various bars until I thought my tiredness would overcome the bad smell of the cabin. Still, the ferries between Tallinn and Stockholm have a reasonable enough range of facilities to be comfortable, and after combining that with a sunset over the islands I’d recommend taking it over flying if you can spare the time.

We found Gotland a very easy cycling destination. The ride from Stockholm takes about a day, and once there you are only limited by how many hours of riding you’re willing to do. It’s flat and well serviced by small villages, camp grounds, and B&Bs. The views aren’t spectacular, but it’s very relaxing place for a ride.

Gotland: Day 5 – Visby

Cycled Slite to Visby

Date: 16th July 2010

Millerine and I share a birthday, and this was it. We awoke fairly early and had completed the 35km to Visby by mid morning. We left the Gotlandsleden and took the shortest route along one of the main roads. It still felt quite safe, and there were no hills even though we passed through the middle of the island.

Outside the Visby town wall

Outside the Visby town wall

Visby is a very attractive city with a well preserved city wall around the old town and a bunch of church ruins. St Katrins is possibly the most beautiful ruin I’ve seen.

The ruins of St Katrins in Visby

The ruins of St Katrins in Visby

The weather was hot and sunny, and perfect for walking around exploring (with frequent bar stops). We were also fans of the glassworks. Visby is definitely a tourist town, but not incredibly overcrowded and still very pleasant.

View of Visby from the park

View of Visby from the park

Gotland: Day 4 – The Northern Coast

Cycled Stenkyrka to Slite

Date: 15th July 2010

The first part of the ride was spent searching for breakfast, which is pretty difficult when most places seem to open at midday. I can be very grumpy when I go without breakfast, and this morning was a struggle. I highly recommend BYO breakfast unless you’re staying somewhere with breakfast supplied. Supermarkets and even stores are hard to come by outside of the bigger towns, so it’s best to carry some emergency supplies. We eventually came across a cafe that was open and had some incredibly satisfying sandwiches. It seems the Swedes enjoy their sandwiches and don’t care much for a normal heavy breakfast of porridge or eggs and bacon. However they all seem to provide the most excellent tea.

We continued to follow the Gotlandsleden which turned off the main road pretty early and went along a dirt road following the coastline. It wasn’t a terrible road by any standards, but made for slow going compared to the asphalt. Some sections were potholed, but it was generally OK. Along the way we came across a restaurant/B&B with a fantastic beach front, and an Australian waitress who was somewhat excited to see a fellow citizen. We also saw quite a few small snakes. There seem to be a lot of them out on the road sunbaking and turning themselves into roadkill.

Snake on the road in Gotland

Snake on the road

It was another fairly hot day, so our lunch break lasted around four hours. We settled into a roadside cafe and had the tallest hamburger I’ve ever seen and a bottle of wine, then we had a long sleep beside the sea at Hallshuk, near some fishing huts.

Hallshuk fishing huts

Fishing huts near where we napped in Hallshuk

We finished the ride into Slite pretty quickly. Slite is a town entirely based around the cement industry and has the dead feel of a mining town. It does have a campsite, restaurant and supermarket though, so suited us just fine.

Slite cement plant

Slite cement plant

Gotland: Day 3 – Lummelunda Cave

Ferry Nynashamn to Visby
Cycled Visby to Stenkyrka

Date: 14th July 2010

The ferry we went for was sold out, but they allowed us to get standby tickets and, after waiting in line with other cars and motorbikes for some time, we got on. They were expensive tickets for a three hour trip though – around 500 SEK each. There’s a very nice view of Visby as the ferry approaches.

View of Visby from the ferry

Again there’s a bike route signposted immediately when you get off the ferry (Gotlandsleden). There were a lot of cycle tourists in Visby. Looking at the gear some of the bikes are carrying most of them were probably new to the activity. There were families with huge family tents, backpacks sitting in buckets on the rack, and even a rolled up foam mattress (a proper mattress, not a camping one) tied to a pannier rack.

We arrived in the afternoon and left from Visby at about 3:30pm. Following the Gotlandsleden north, it was flat apart from the climbs to get from the beach to the main road, and very little traffic. Even though it was a late start we still managed a stop to see the Lummelunda Cave along the way. It was a fairly regular tourist cave, but a little overhyped. Apart from Visby itself it’s one of the main tourist attractions of the island, but it would be OK to give it a miss.

Accommodation is easy to find in the area. We passed a few signposted campgrounds, and managed to find a small cabin for the reasonable price of 400 SEK at a “Mix Ranch” near Stenkyrka. The place had a bar and restaurant, and a bunch of goats and other animals on the property.

Gotland: Day 2 – Stockholm to Nynäshamn

Cycled Stockholm to Nynäshamn

Date: 13th July 2010

There’s a bike path called the Nynasleden that goes the entire distance between Stockholm and Nynäshamn. It’s a reasonably short ride from the Stockholm ferry terminal to central station, and the bike path starts near the station. It’s about an 80km route, with some of that on off road bike path. The route is also one of the best sign posted bike routes I’ve seen. We got confused a couple of times, but were on track within a few minutes each time. At the time of writing there’s an excellent map available on OSM cycle maps. I’m not sure if it follows the Nynasleden exactly, but I’m not sure we did either.

Swedish cycle route signs - Nynasleden was our route

Sweden was going through something of a heatwave, and I hadn’t ridden a bike in a few weeks so found this day pretty hard. It’s a little hilly. A fair amount of up and down, but no long climbs at all. After Stockholm the path only passes through small villages. There aren’t that many opportunities to stop for food or water, but enough to make it comfortable. If you want to stop for a swim there are a few lakes that looked very tempting.

There was a camping ground in Nynäshamn where we stayed the night. It’s reasonably priced at about 150 SEK. We had to get a Camping Scandinavia card for 130 SEK, but they provided that at the checkin and once we had it we didn’t need to worry about it again. I’ve read a few websites recommending getting a Camping Scandinavia card before the trip, but I wouldn’t bother.

Gotland: Day 1 – Tallinn to Stockholm ferry

Cycled Viimsi to Tallinn ferry wharf
Ferry Tallinn to Stockholm

Date: 12th July 2010

The ride to the ferry from our place in Viimsi is a pleasant ride by the sea. The Estonian bike route No. 1 starts in Pirita (near Viimsi) and goes into Tallinn and beyond. That part of it is entirely off road bike path and is mostly used by recreational cyclists and rollerbladers. It passes through the ferry terminal, which is very handy if your destination is over the sea. The ferry tickets to Stockholm cost 1900 EEK (130 euros) for two berths in separate single sex cabins and bikes. It was 3500 EEK if we wanted a cabin for the two of us and we went for the cheap option. It turned out there was nobody else in either of our cabins, so we just moved in together anyway.

The Tallin to Stockholm ferry ride went from 6pm to 10am and was non eventful for the most part, but there’s the opportunity to see a nice sunset and enjoy the bar. The ferry passes through a whole bunch of nice islands (the Stockholm Archipelago, and I think also the Ålands if you’re awake early enough.