Although Gotland is probably most known for the rauks and the seaside and the medieval history – one of the things I love most are the farmlands that stretch all over the island. There’s something about agricultural communities that I find immensely appealing – probably largely because of the food culture that naturally goes hand in hand. Those living in proximity to nature and animals, with a daily appreciation of all that goes into growing and cultivating food seem to really understand what quality of life is all about!
So we spent the weekend at a place called Hotel Stelor, about 30 minutes south of Visby. Just from the website, I instinctively imagined it would be like the Swedish version of Mas Garganta in Spain where we got married. A rural farmhouse converted to a small hotel, run by a couple as a labour of love. And happily, I was right! Stelor is much more newly renovated with all the urban essentials (like excellent wi-fi and iPad minis in every room instead of TVs…) – but still filled with authenticity and charm like our beloved Mas Garganta. On the first night, we shared the house with guests who were all part of one wedding party – but they all checked out quite early the next morning, so for the remainder of the stay, we were actually alone there as if in a private villa, surrounded by green fields and sheep and forests. And because we were visiting before the real tourist season began, the hotel was only sparsely staffed – which it made the whole atmosphere incredibly informal and that much more personal.
Karin, the owner, was so earnest and warm and friendly that you could really immediately feel at home – the kind of woman who can effortlessly drive an industrial lawnmower with one hand, while holding her baby with the other. She also had what we called a real “dagis-teacher-vibe”, meaning Ania took to her immediately, and would have been perfectly happy just following her and her 1-year-old son, Sam, around the farm all day long. Together they’d go off to feed the lambs or play in the fields while Stefan and I finished our morning coffee, or went up to our room to get organized for the day. Free babysitting, what an unexpected bonus!
They also served excellent, fresh food – of course all locally grown or sourced. I love that this is prevalent all over Gotland: eco-focused, farm-to-table concepts that take pride in their local produce. We ate dinner one night at a lovely place called Lilla Bjers, a farm-marketplace-restaurant, where we dined on beautifully prepared seasonal specialities: lamb, asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb – in a sunny greenhouse-type space filled with olive and lemon trees and flowers. It was the perfect combination of absolutely top-class food in a relaxed and easy environment, where kids were welcome and nobody batted an eye when ours decided she needed to play hide-and-seek under the tables in the middle of the meal :) I think this is what true modern luxury really is: to feel like you’re experiencing the best, while feeling totally at ease.
Our last day was spent in the medieval city of Visby, where we spent a few hours wandering around the numerous church ruins, having a tasty seafood lunch and just generally pottering around in the sunshine. We boarded the ferry home feeling like we’d had a really relaxing, soul-nourishing weekend away…. a good way to start a new decade, I reckon!