Why is the sparsely populated island of Gotland located off the East Coast of Sweden home to a disproportionate number of artists, designers, sculptors, authors and musicians?
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One reason is that Visby, the main town on the island, has unique cultural and natural values that got it placed on Unesco’s World Heritage List. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Visby was one of the richest and most prominent trading settlements in the entire Baltic Sea region. A 2.1 mile, 35 feet high wall with some 50 towers surrounds the heart of Visby, including the ruins of 23 churches and abbeys.
It is impossible not to be captivated by the extremely well preserved medieval character of Gotland as well as the rest of the island’s famed natural beauty, ideal for touring by foot, bicycle or horseback.
“The landscape can be compared to Provence of France. There is a special light here that artists appreciate because of the combination of the chalkstone and the surrounding ocean,” says Örjan Ringbom, founder and dean of the Gotland Art School. The school offers interdisciplinary programs in art, music composition, film/animation, and dance pedagogy.
These days, most people fly to Gotland, a quick trip from Stockholm, Scandinavian Airlines
Coincidentally, the comparison to Provence extends to the culinary arts. Visby is Sweden’s most restaurant-dense town in the entire country, and many eateries strive to use local raw materials. It is no accident that the Swedish Restaurant of the Year 2005 went to 50 Kvadrat in Visby. In the autumn, one can try truffle hunting on the eastern side of the island at Smakrike Krog restaurant, run by Rickard and Lotta Hasselblad (tel. 46.498.493371).
Even a quick promenade of Visby reveals a surprisingly large number of shops run by ceramicists, glass blowers, textile printers and furniture firms. One way to get a close look at Gotland’s art is to visit in early June, when roughly 95 professional artists and artisans open their studios to visitors.
The island Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, is becoming increasingly appreciated by visitors from all over the world. Several cruise lines stop for a visit in the island’s main city, Visby, which was placed on Unesco’s World Heritage List for its unique cultural values. Several daily flights from Stockholm-Arlanda or Bromma will take you there in less than an hour and a high-speed ferry leaving from Nynäshamn or Oskarshamn will take around 3 hours.
Gotland Tourist Association, Gotland: Int.+46-(0)498-20 17 00 While in Stockholm, call Int.+46 (0)8-406 15 00. The information office is located at Kungsgatan 57 in central Stockholm.