In 1948, three teenage boys crawled through the tunnels, using candles to light their way, and entered the first hall. They explored every week of the summers for two years, until a large block of stone was accidentally knocked away, widening a further opening in the cliff. They went through another 20m long passage and found more large caverns inside. They even dragged a rubber boat through, and used it to explore even further in the narrow tunnels and cracks, eventually getting in another 175m (574 ft). They kept their discovery secret for SEVEN YEARS, exploring more and more every summer, when the water in the cave was low enough to allow entrance.
Hearing this story, I was struck by the fact that for SEVEN years, they were crawling around underground, with only candles to light their way, in a pitch-dark, freezing, waterlogged cave, and their parents had NO IDEA where they were. EESH. They were 14 in 1948 when they first discovered the way in, and in 1955 they finally decided to tell the world about their discovery. Our tour guide related that they contacted a famous Swedish spelunker, who didn't believe them until they broke off some stalactites and sent them to him. He wasn't able to get into the first passage after his first attempt, until he'd dieted enough to get his weight down. And then he took all the credit for the discovery and made a boatload of money off media, talks, lectures and tourism. The boys got nothing. They were finally honored for their discovery in 2011 (!).
Fun fact: the way to remember the differences between stalactites and stalagmites is the SAME in English and Swedish! Stala(c)(t)ites...C for ceiling in English, T for tak (which means ceiling) in Swedish. Stala(g)(m)ites...G for ground in English, M for mark (which means ground) in Swedish!
Of course, we didn't have to crawl on our bellies through freezing water with candles in our hands: a visitor entrance to the main caverns has been blasted out of the rock and walkways and safety supports have been added. I've been to a LOT of caves in my life (my dad was a fan), and even though this was a small one, it was a really interesting story and fun to visit.
After stopping for ice cream, we got back in the car and headed to the northern end of Gotland, where we caught the car ferry over to the island of Fårö. Får means sheep in Swedish, but we learned later that afternoon, that the name was originally Färoy. Ö means island in Swedish, but the beginning of the name actually comes from the word fara, to travel. Our destination was the Bergman Center, dedicated to filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. We had a delicious lunch in the café and then learned all about his life and work. He worked on Fårö for years, filming several of his movies there, and spent the last years of his life living on the island. His house is not open to the public; it was bought by a Norwegian millionaire after his death and turned into a private retreat for artists and writers.
His last film, Fanny & Alexander, is one of my top ten favorites, but weirdly, I've only seen 1 other film by him, and Anders hadn't even seen that. It's an oversight for sure! Martin actually watched one of his films not too long ago; feeling that as a Swede, he should really know more about one of the most famous of his countrymen.
Next door, in the same building, was a very small, but very thorough, museum dedicated to the history of Fårö. After that cultural interlude, we headed further north into the nature reserve of Langhammars to see the rauks (which we also visited on our previous trip to Gotland years ago). It was another scorching day and the landscape of the island is almost desert-like to some degree: very scrubby, rocky, with lots of spiderweb-shrouded bushes and stunted, wind-bent pine trees. Here and there we saw ancient windmills and the tiny sedge-roofed houses dotting the fields. There were a handful of cars at the gravel parking area and maybe a dozen or so others walking around on the rocky beach, admiring the rauks.
These weird limestone rock formations are unique to Gotland and Fårö (and a few other parts of Sweden), and are a result of erosion during the ice age. Some of them were huge, towering high overhead.
I sat in the shade of one of the tall rauks while Anders explored further around the side of the cliffs, and found fossils in the huge slab of rock under my feet. So cool! We headed back toward Visby finally, catching the 5:00 ferry back to the main island. While we were driving, I looked up restaurant reviews and menus and chose a place called Backyard in the center of the old town. One review said simply, "Try the salmon!!" and I couldn't pass that up, now could I?
It turned out to be one of the BEST restaurant meals I've EVER had. It was perfect. I'm drooling just remembering it. It was a long thin slice of perfectly toasted rye bread topped with Aurora salmon, new potatoes, Gotland asparagus and Yuzu hollandaise sauce. I nearly licked the plate. 10/10 - most highly recommend! And THEN, as if that wasn't enough, we ordered dessert, too, and it was ALSO fantastic: served in a tiny piping-hot iron skillet, it consisted of a deep-fried sugared donut, topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drenched in a rum-caramel sauce with brown sugar/cinnamon crumble. *drool* ...I nearly made Anders go back again the next night for a repeat.
Next up: southern Gotland, Hoburgsgubben and a brush with death