I’m back from my latest ‘big trip’, my first since my 2016 ‘big trip’ that took in Gotland (Sweden), Tromsø (Norway), and big old drive right across Denmark.
This time, flying in and out of Helsinki, I visited Gotland again for the Bergman Week festival on Fårö, which this year marks Ingmar Bergman’s centenary (pictures of the opening ceremony for the festival are below; it was held at Fårö Kyrka, in whose grounds Bergman is now buried). But mainly I was just going back to Gotland because I love it there.
I do love Scandinavia in general. I don’t like shopping, or eating in restaurants (which is all you seem to get information about when you’re looking for destination info on anywhere in this era), but I do like being alone and just sitting somewhere outside in the white light, soaking up the vibes. Or sitting in a forest. Or visiting some Neolithic graves in the middle of nowhere.
This trip, I also went to Scotland and went right up to the Orkneys. This was suggested by a friend because, in his words, “if you like Scandinavian archaeological stuff, you should see Skara Brae!” The manner in which he said it hinted something about the Orkney sites being superior in their construction, or arrangement, or ambience, or something.
I had a feeling that this approach — ‘if you like this, you’ll like that’ — was going about things all wrong. I do not specifically ‘like archaeological stuff’ — it’s just that I encountered ancient megalithic sites on Gotland as part of a larger, solo travel experience that was definitely formative.
Ring of Brodgar (left) and Skara Brae (right). No picture of Maeshowe, as pictures were not allowed on our tour.
So, although yes, Skara Brae, and Maeshowe, and the Ring of Brodgar are astounding sites, the bulky administrative and tourist structures that they now exist within made it difficult for me to appreciate the visits. There was little opportunity to be alone or to soak up anything without a particularly infantile type of touristy guidance being superimposed over whatever you were trying to make direct contact with.
The Scandis seemed to have avoided most of these problems somehow, and even in museums, the organisation of things was more relaxed, and certainly aimed a little higher (even the things aimed at children were more intelligently arranged).
Give me good old, empty Gålrum Gravfält on Gotland any day, where I can walk among seven stone boat-graves, plus a whole bunch of cairn-hills, without seeing another tourist. Maybe I’ll get stared-down by the odd ram, but that’s about it. And certainly I can enjoy Gålrum without booking in advance for the dedicated shuttle bus and buying a ticket online! I’m so glad I revisited Gotland and Gålrum; I think it’s one of my favourite places in the world.
Gålrum Gravfält on Gotland, Sweden.
At least now I am pretty sure I would not enjoy visiting Stonehenge or the like; that whole tourist thing is not that way I like to get a feel for a place.
Next trip: less driving; less tourist stuff; more quiet; more time in one place; more wandering around alone; and more following my nose.