Neighbourhood: Visby

Text by Kim Borgström
Photography by Josefine Karlsson

It’s snowing and you’re not sure what you want to do. Your instincts might tell you to stay inside and pull the covers over your head although you know the most rewarding thing is to go outside, let your senses explore, push your boundaries.

Visby, Gotland’s main city with a population of 30,000 people, is centered around nature. Sitting right on the waterfront, the sea is visible from almost anywhere in town and the elements permeate the lives of those who chose to live on this remote island. The seasons come and go over the sky and through the parks, and the most profound experiences the city has to offer are also connected by that proximity to nature. One way to truly explore it is to go down to the harbour sauna in December or January, when the snow lies deep and the icy ocean winds cut right through even the thickest of sheepskin coats.

If you’ve never been in a sauna it’s something that is difficult to explain in words; on one hand it’s a deeply sensory experience, on the other it’s a crash course in social awkwardness and of course, total relaxation and friendly conversation. In the Scandinavian countries it’s the yin to winter’s yang, a definite must to last through long and dire winters—and the genius of the experience lies in its mix of warm and cold. It’s a perfect circle where you first thaw and then burn in the humid warmth in temperatures around, and sometimes above, 80 degrees Celsius. When your skin is red and it seems impossible to continue breathing you go outside and have a roll in the snow or a quick dip in the freezing ocean. It might not sound that appealing but trust you me, there’s nothing like it to jumpstart your system and regenerate, rejuvenate your mind. Next time you’re in Visby, come find me on the top step of the sauna.

From N˚5: Arrival.