Sunday, August 18, 2013

Scandinavia’s Unknown Gem: Visby, Sweden

Central Town in Visby, Gotland, Sweden
The quaint town of Visby situated on the western coast of Sweden’s largest island can easily be described as an unknown Baltic gem. Not many people would think to visit the more relaxed pace of Swedish island life, but this ended up being my mother’s favorite port city, even surpassing the Baltic highlights that are Stockholm, Helsinki, and Tallinn. And really this small city should be better known by tourists through out the world. Visby, a city that has been given the coveted UNESCO World Heritage title, is unique in its preservation of medieval Scandinavia. The city had played an intrinsic role in the Hanseatic Trading League. It is impossible to miss the ancient 12th and 13th century church ruins and ancient walls while simply strolling through the town. Even though my parents and I only had the time to spend 4 precious hours in Visby, we were certainly able to explore many of the highlights that historic Visby has to offer. 

View of Visby and Baltic Sea from Klinten
From the shore, the structure that infamously dominates the Visby skyline remains Visby Cathedral. This Luthern Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, is a most see while in Visby. It is most remarkable as a beautiful example of Swedish church architecture. The towering black spirals of the church are easily visible even from our cruise ship anchored away from shore. And just beside the church are stairs that lead to one of the best vistas on the island. Lined by vibrant red, orange, and yellow tulips, these stairs head toward the region of town known as Klinten where views from a winding walkway offer a panorama of the city, its stone wall, and the Baltic Sea. 

Santa Katarina ruins
View from thee top of Drotten ruins
Other highlights in the city include a visit to the vast array of 13th century church ruins that are interspersed between houses and boutique shops that are in use by the residents of today. One of my favorite church ruins was named Santa Katarina. This church hosted unforgettable archways that towered overhead and grass that grew in bunches on what was left of the church’s ancient roof. Even though most travel informational centers highlight St. Nicholas with its beautiful rose window as one of the must see church ruins in Visby, I personally think the ruins of Drotten were more memorable. Drotten, like Santa Katarina, showcases large vaulted ceilings and towering archways. The best part of this ruin was the stairs, still intact, that allowed visitors to climb to the upper levels of the ruins. Climbing the winding medieval staircases brought its own small adventure and will certainly last in my memory forever. I only wish we had more time to spend in Visby and the surrounding Swedish countryside, to walk along the stoned wall and to visit the neighboring cliffs of Högklint. Visby, Gotland is quite the historic destination. Hopefully, I will return soon to wander along its cobblestone streets once again. 

With this port, we had finally visited all the locations on our Baltic Sea tour. As I travel more around this world, I will continue to write about my adventures and offer more recommendations. Happy Traveling and Hello again America!

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