Where the Swedes Go for Solitude
I arrived on Gotland, an island 200 kilometers south of Stockholm in the Baltic Sea, late in the afternoon at the end of March. From the airplane window I saw tall pine trees, mist. Toy cars chugged through brown farmlands along black ribbons of road. I picked up my car, a red Volvo, from a local retailer specializing in used cars — not used in the sense that all rental cars are, but in the more pedestrian sense of “old” — and drove up Route 149, a shady, gently curving road that took me to the manor where I would be staying that night. There were ponies at the manor. These were not the wild ponies that roam the south of Gotland, but they were ponies nonetheless. I petted them in the company of Ulrika, who runs the property with her partner, Berra. Gotland is about the size of Long Island. Forty percent of its nearly 60,000 inhabitants live around Visby, the old port city that has preserved its medieval walls. Berra was going into town to pick up dinner, and I went with him. We wound through corkscrew cobblestone streets, and he pointed out Visby’s smallest and most expensive piece of real estate, a cottage the size of a billionaire’s dog house. Early the next morning I left, and for the remainder of my stay sequestered myself in the island’s most rural regions: Valleviken, where a maritime-themed hotel rose up out of sheer nothingness on a lapping inlet; the Furillen peninsula, the site of an old limestone quarry; Ekstakusten, a jagged curl of nature preserve. The idea was to find solitude.
From "Solitude and the Sea" by Christine Smallwood for The New York Times T Magazine, 2016; Photo by Domingo Milella
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