söndag 28 augusti 2011

The island of the penguines of the North..

Yesterday, on the hottest day of this summer - with a cloudless sky and some 25 degrees C - I set out in a small ferry onto the heaving sea to visit an island I had never been to before.
I was heading for the famous bird island of Stora Karlsö in the Baltic close to the coast of Gotland.
This visit had been high on my agenda for years so finally:
"Stora Karlsö. Here we come!"
This little limestone island that rises from the sea like a rock in a storybook, is situated 30 minutes boat ride some 6 km west of Gotland. The island where I was going is a nature reserve, after Yellowstone National Park the oldest established protected nature area in the world.
Gotland, Sweden with the two islands: Stora and Lilla Karlsö

This fossil rich limestone island rising majestetically out of the sea is mostly known for its rich birdlife and flora.
En route, we had to pass the smaller sister island, Lilla (Minor) Karlsö, which can be spotted here through the spray made by the speeding the ferry.
Little Karlsö with its steep rocky slopes.
Norderhamn (The Northern harbor) of Stora (Major) Karlsö with its small museum and a resturant and café, is a fairly sheltered port with a jetty.
The pink marble of Karlsö.
There is evidence that Stora Karlsö has been inhabited since the
stone age. During the Middle Ages there was a marble quarry, which provided material for a number of Gotland's churches.
Deep caves were used for storage in the old ages. Needless to say, many interesting findings..
..has been dug up here by archeologists through the years.
A cave with a view
- actually, certain parts of the island quite remainded me of Capri, Italy
..and the smells of a Greek island in summertime..
The scents of the flora here is heavenly- especially on a sunbaked day like yesterday! Oh, how I want to bottle this feeling and take it back home with me !

Karlsö is mostly covered with
alvar, with many juniper bushes and some small groves of deciduous trees. In spring, there is an extraordinary number of orchids-mostly elder-flowered orchid and early purple orchid. There are also several very rare plants for Sweden such as Adonis vernalis, Lactuca quercina (called 'Karlsösallat' in Swedish), hart's-tongue fern (actually depicted on the Swedish 100-crown bill!) and Corydalis gotlandica (the only endemic plant on Gotland).
The island is mostly known for its rich birdlife, however. It has large colonies of Common Guillemot - the penguines of the North - (about 7500 breeding pairs).
(Above:Wikipedia photo)
Here at the small museum you can get an idea of the mighty performance every year when the Guillemot chicks after hatching are beaconed by their fathers at sea to jump off the steep cliffs and land on the rocks 100´s of meters below (they bounce on their fat bellies and are presumably not hurt)

An impressive King´s eagle hanging from the museum ceiling with a nameplate between his claws: "May I introduce myself..!"
The Stora Karlsö lighthouse. The rooms here can be rented per night and is supposed to be a great stay - if its lady-teacher ghost lets you rest quietly, that is!
The smells, the humid spray from the sea, the wild thyme, well it all reminded me so
much of a Greek island! Just missed a chilled Retsina!

Limestone pebbles and fossils form a long beach. I couldn´t resist a dip in the clear water after a couple of hot hours guided walk across the island. Nice!

The island vehicle, alas!
The farewell committee acting up like an Hindu godess (Shiva?) waiving!
The 9.00am-3pm trip is about 300 Swedish crowns. (48 US dollars) The guided tour included.