I’m disappointed by the hotel when we arrive. The pictures made it look rustic and small and the reality makes it look sprawling and new. We are here for 5 days of yoga. A large rock carved with the name of the Gullmarsstrand marks the entrance on the drive. Under the name the words contemplation and creativity are inscribed.
I’d prefer that these ideals stay implicit.
The place grows on me once I accept it’s not as I imagined.
The fishing village of Fiskebäckskil is intensely charming. Strangely shop-free with just a single general store in the town, the homes are assorted sizes and rest at slightly different levels along the rocky paths to the marina. Made of wooden planks painted white or pastel (unlike the more traditional red, white trimmed Swedish cottages just across the small bay), the village is a jumble of gingerbread houses. Black, clunky old fashioned bicycles rest in the gardens alongside rose bushes and baskets of lavender.
Under the expanse of a big, fat sea sky which shifts its pinks and whites and pale blues throughout the day, there’s a ferry that runs from the much larger town of Lysekil and people bustle off of it, along the pier and up into the village — there’s not much for them to head towards except for the working marina, just past the parish church, where there’s a small ice cream cafe, one fine dining restaurant and a shop that sells diesel and rope and liquorice pipes with pink sprinkles on top of the solid round bowls.
People come for a day of cycling or long walks through meadows of wild flowers or along forest paths or to visit the small beaches (though few have dared enter the fjord this week as the coast line is infested with the greatest army of jelly fish I’ve ever seen).
The whole place is just a bit wrong.
I don’t know if it’s the minimal commercial activity (this isn’t the place to stock up on wooden seagulls or Marimekko linens.) I don’t know if it’s the utter lack of litter or a bar (outside the hotel) or a human being smoking (though eventually I would find two), but the absence of vice is so pronounced that’s there something oppressive about the range of wholesome options.
I’m walking along the wooden pier on my way to breakfast and two teenage boys park their small boat nearby and clamber out in front of me. They’re tall, their yellow-gold hair is what my hairdresser would call chunky tousles. Both of them walk in their shoes (a pair of saltwater-faded red Converse and baby blue Keds) so that their heels flatten down the backs. They wear pajamas. Expensive cotton ones with the sorts of stripes that belonged to their great grandfather’s generation. They shuffle along in front of me dragging their pillows and duvets, everything flannel and no doubt recently laundered. These are not mere mortal teenage boys, I have stumbled into a Ralph Lauren commercial.
As I say, the whole place is disturbing.
To top it off the hotel’s restuaurant (which, aside from a small beach hut like operation open for part of the day — is the only place less than a mile away to get a hot cup of water for my tea never mind all the other food and drink I associate not just with a week’s holiday but with basic functioning) does not serve expresso.
Well, they do. But not for several days. Their machine is broken. Is it not ironic that the only thing broken on this island is this particular piece of equipment? I imagine the very nice boys and girls who work in the kitchen and translate the menu for us all day long (which really is just two words “herring or shrimp”), chatting to themselves merrily, “well, it’s no good for them anyway – all that caffeine.”
Almost a week of clean living, it’s not clear I’ll make it back …