If you are lucky enough (like me) to take trips that include multiple pre-organized stops...it seems that there is always one stop that you:
A) Aren't real thrilled about and
B) Absolutely fall in love with.
Two years ago, on a trip from Istanbul to Venice - I fell in love with Montenegro. A place that I knew nothing about, other than it was a big word on the trip itinerary. It was amazing and beautiful and fresh and full of people thrilled with their success in their break from Yugoslavia.
This year? Visby, Sweden gets the prize.
Now, there may be a few reasons for Visby's ability to take the top spot that have nothing to do with the actual town. For instance, Visby was our first stop after our 20 hour marathon in Moscow (yes, the marathon in Moscow gets longer each time I speak of it).
It was also our first stop after our unplanned recovery day following our 23 hour marathon in Moscow. It was also the first stop after we missed our stop in Tallin due to poor weather. In case you've lost count, that means we had to spend TWO days in a row ship bound during which my father and I did NOT win the miniature golf tournament.
It was also the first time we'd seen sunshine in days. It was the first time in a week we could wear next to nothing (not true, but the sunshine made it feel like there was hope for the future).
Have I mentioned how much I loved a walled city? Well, I get giddy just thinking about them. My favorite to date is Carcassonne, France. You can practically feel the history seeping from the stone walls as you pass through.
We'd set off on our tour sort of ho-hum about the day - and then, "Hold the phone! Is that a walled city???" Ding, ding, ding! Walled cities were built for protection. They are maintained solely to make me jealous of the people who now live there. I often wonder how my HOA would feel if I threw up a stone wall around my townhouse. And should I include my neighbor within the wall since we do share a duplex?
We toured the city - begged for some shopping time and moved on to discover another treasure of Visby.
Man Caves. On Crack.
Turns out you can rent these cute little fishing cottages for about $100k a year. Each cottage is only one room (with toilet...in that one room) and is spitting distance to the Baltic Sea.
My guess is that not many women would sign up for a hideaway to be used in the dead of winter for collecting fish from the freezing sea.
At least I know one that wouldn't. Although I do like their little net dryers...am wondering how my HOA would feel if I installed some large branches into my yard on which to dry my sheets and blankets.
You know that awkward feeling where you just know someone's about to make a total fool of themselves? Where you don't want to make eye contact or even breathe because you're too afraid you might start laughing?
The church grew silent and I tried to hide under a bench to protect our guide's feelings.
And then he started belting out these amazing hymns. The acoustics were fantastic, the songs jaw-dropping. Okay, so I guess I called that one wrong.
But it wasn't the walled portion of Visby that was my favorite. Or the beautiful old church. Or the quaint fishing village. Or the amazing views of the Baltic Sea.
Nope, it wasn't until our last stop that I made the decision to move here as soon as possible (well, only for the summer months...the rest of the year gets chilly from what I hear). What drew me in was the Stavra Cheese Factory.
I love cheese. I love cows. And here I found a place where they co-exist. Yes, the cows produce the milk not fifty feet away from where it is made into cheese.
This place even had automatic milkers because they believe that a cow should be able to decide when she wants her udders vacuumed. Yeah - the COW decides.
(For those who don't believe it can be done..."The milking unit comprises a milking machine, a teat position sensor, a robotic arm for automatic teat-cup application and removal, and a gate system for controlling cow traffic.")
You know how they say "Happy Wife, Happy Life"...well, over there it's "Happy Teats, Happy Cheese." or maybe it's "Happy Swiss, Happy T..." oh, never mind.
Anyway - Visby, Sweden is now on the list of diamonds in the rough. If I can figure out a way to combine a week or two in Visby, Montenegro and Positano...I'm on it!