In my short time here, I’ve learned to love Stockholm. There’s nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of city life (especially in Europe), but in the day-to-day business of the semester it’s hard to remember that I’m in Scandinavia and studying abroad. That’s why this past weekend came at the perfect time. I packed up my bag and embarked on a DIS led trip (DIScovery trip) to Visby, Gotland. Gotland is not only Sweden’s largest island, but also the biggest in the Baltic Sea.
It took us about 3 hours by ferry to reach Gotland. We arrived around midnight on Friday night, and were quickly ushered into hotel rooms for sleep. Early Saturday morning we were treated to a buffet breakfast with coffee (something I was so grateful for – I’m still having trouble nourishing myself without a college caf) and then met up with a local guide for a walking tour of the town of Visby.
Visby looked straight out of a fairytale, with medieval castles and houses around every corner. I was even able to see a church built by St. Olof (the king of Norway, but also whom my beloved college back home is named after). We were then given time to have a fika in town before departing on a guided mountain biking tour.
Let me just begin by saying that I am not very athletic, and have absolutely never tried mountain biking. To be fair, the description of the trip was a little vague on the website when I signed up. While I knew we would be biking, I did not know that “biking” meant peddling along rocky cliffs and through narrow paths in the forrest. My friend Ilana had only biked once before in her life, and had a rough time getting going. However, once we started going, I kept reminding myself this is why I came abroad – to push myself out of my comfort zone. After all, when would I again have the chance to bike along cliffs in the Baltic Sea?
Although I was not consistently last in the group (Ilana was, but boy was she a trooper), the faster part of our group consistently had to wait for the rest of us to navigate our way to the different lookout points. But, it wasn’t so bad with views like this:
We were rewarded at our final destination with the best viewpoint in Gotland. It felt so amazing to reach the end, even though I know we had to turn around and bike 5 miles back to Visby (our guide, Morgan, took us back on the semi-paved bike trails this time since we were a little slow on the way out). I didn’t mind though, because it was something I would have absolutely never done on my own and I was so glad to have made it to the top.
After arriving back in town we were treated to dinner at a nice little Italian place in town (where I ordered a much deserved pizza and sangria). On Sunday, we had the whole day free to spend at our leisure. A few of us set out in search of the famous Gotland Sheep, native to the island. Even though getting on a bike again was about the last thing my body wanted to do, it was our only form of transportation. Our guide from Saturday told us that Visby and the rest of the island is a lot like Copenhagen, where biking is the favored form of transportation (as weather permits).
The ride to the sheep was more more leisurely. We even stopped by Pippi Longstocking’s house (I wasn’t even aware it was on Gotland)! While we did eventually find sheep, we aren’t quite sure if they were the Gotland Sheep. Regardless, biking along the farm country turned out to be an extremely peaceful Sunday. For a late lunch, we went to a creperie in town – where I was again reminded that I am doing a poor job cooking for and feeding myself – before boarding the ferry home.
This past weekend was definitely a highlight of my time abroad in Sweden so far. I signed up for this trip on a whim with my roommate Kaitlyn shortly after arrival to Stockholm because we thought after a few weeks, we might need some time away. It turns out we were right. My trip this weekend reminded me of two major reasons I came abroad in the first place: to get outside of my comfort zone and have adventures without regret. I’m usually the type of person to overthink everything I do, so this weekend and all the experiences definitely would not have been possible for me without DIS’s meticulous planning and organizing of the whole excursion.
I’m really sad to know that DIS is cancelling DIScovery trips next semester, because I would recommend this trip to anyone in a heartbeat. For future DIS Stockholm students, think of going to Visby on your own for a weekend trip. You will absolutely not regret it.