11 October: Ferried back to the mainland (Oskarshamn) from Visby last evening, spent the night there, and then drove south 100 km to my present hotel—a lap of luxury sort of place that I’d have never chosen but through neglect let the agent do. I’m by nature too ascetic for this elegant spa sort of thing, and don’t like the people who seem thrilled with it. But I’ve walked around and seen some interesting trees so the stay isn’t wasted, just the frivolous stuff. On a whim I pulled into a little town called Mönsterås along the way to the hotel. As I got to the downtown, I discovered that it was ancient almost in the Visby sense: narrow cobbled streets with small shops and barely room for one lane of parking (which required making the street one-way).
The difference is that Mönsterås isn’t for tourists so its shops are functional in meeting people’s regular needs. I saw an old cathedral with a high tower that didn’t look terribly prosperous but was still cared for and went in; no one was there and I sat for a while and meditated. Despite my lack of interest in Christianity, cathedrals like this one have an atmosphere of silent solemnity that I enjoy. I don’t know its age but it was of the generation of such buildings where the pews have a door between them and the aisles. I looked it up and found they’re called box pews and apparently were built to keep warmth in for the people sitting there, who usually were members of a family. It’s hard to imagine they didn’t also serve to keep unwanted people out. At any rate, it was a satisfying, peaceful time and I was glad to have found it.
Then I walked down the street, where the only open business (it was between 9 and10) was a small bakery/café where I got coffee and a roll and sat quietly within for a quarter hour or so. It was run by an older woman who spoke little English but told me the coffee machine was “kaput” so I had the regular brew. This place also had a satisfying atmosphere, as did the old town itself. There need to be far more venues where people can be quiet and perhaps even put away their devices for a few minutes and simply ponder. Monsteras turned out an excellent place for a whim, an hour well spent.