Day 5: From Oskarshamn to Gotland
We were down to the waterfront just after breakfast to join the queue for the 11:30am-ferry to Gotland. The journey due east from Oskarshamn to Visby is a distance of 120km and typically takes around 3 hours. Today, we were entering the land of legend and history.

Since the days of the Vikings, thanks to its strategic location in the middle of the Baltic Sea, Gotland was a vital trading hub between the West and East, particularly Russia. At least fifty Viking harbours were found along its coastline from where their inhabitants sail around the Baltic region and further south. In contrast to the blood-thirsty expeditions made by the Norwegian and Danish Vikings to the west, those living on Gotland avoided plundering in order not to jeopardize valuable trade relations. Times got tougher for them at the end of 12th century when the Hanseatic League took over the trade routes to Russia making Visby, along with Lübeck, Tallinn and Bergen, one of its most important ports of trade. The bloody civil war between the farmers and merchants at the end of 13th century or the plague from the middle of the 14th century began the end of prosperous days - Gotland slowly declined and lost its importance. Today, it’s however number one holiday destination in Sweden.

The immaculate old town of Visby is a magnet for visitors. Majestic merchants’ houses, stone buildings, picturesque ruins and charming rose-gardens, all surrounded by mighty and well-preserved medieval walls. Walking through its cobblestone streets was like walking through history.

It was early evening on Saturday, so there was still a lively atmosphere on the streets, in restaurants and cafes, but a tidal wave of tourists was no longer pouring through the town as it happens during the summertime. The end of August is actually when everything starts to slow down and Gotlanders re-gain the island to themselves.

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Here it is: the Baltic Sea. The place that had been in my memories since my early days. I’m closing my eyes and taking myself back to those days when as a young boy I used to spend the whole summers playing on its white beaches. It’s a small handful of experiences that made me feel happy.

Now, I’m coming back there after many years. I don’t know whether the area presents any interest at all for you, but if it does, let me take you with me and my family on our 6000 km long journey alongside its coastline.

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