Another European jewel that I got to experience by chance is the gorgeous little medieval town of Visby on the Swedish island called Gotland. Making halt there during a re-positioning cruise from Oslo to Stockholm a few years ago, I instantly fell in love with Scandinavia´s best-preserved historic contemporary witness.
Also referred to as the “City of Roses“, modern Visby can look back on a long and moving history.
Having always been a strong and important port city, trade actions and settlements are believed to reach back to the Stone Age.
Because of its powerful position within the Baltic trade sector and the immense wealth that came with that over the centuries, it was in 1361 that the Danish king Valdemar IV conquered the island.
Over 1,800 Gotlanders died during the takeover. Judging by a present population of approximately 24,500 (2017), a monstrous number of victims for that time.
Over the centuries, it witnessed many, many pillages by pirates, another invasion by Teutonic knights and it was not before 1409 that it was sold as a gesture of peace to the queen of Denmark , Norway and Sweden again.
In 1525, the climax in the battle around Gotland between Sweden and Denmark was reached. While fighting over Visby, the city was set on fire and almost burned down completely.
Many ruins still function as silent memorials these days. After 300 years of Danish occupation, the island was taken back into Swedish possession in 1645.
But it was not before the mid 18th century that the original status as a flourishing trade center was accomplished.
It is by far the most populated locality outside the Swedish mainland and Gotland the sole county seat in Sweden only accessible by boat and air.
Along with the relics of ancient architecture, the secluded location truly adds to the magic and mystic atmosphere that you can breathe in at every corner of the city.
Visby is a highly popular tourist destination during the summer. Particularly for the Swedes, but once in a while it is even port of call for various cruise lines when sailing the Baltic sea.
As the port itself is quite small, larger ships are forced to anchor offshore and the only way to get to the city is by tender boat.
This is actually my favorite way to bridge the distance between the ship and the shore as it adds big time to my personal cruise experience.
From the port, I just followed my instincts and began walking up the hill towards the mighty walls of one of the burned down churches.
From the stones of the rocky cobblestone pathways to the buildings around, everything seemed to burst with history and stories of long-passed ages.
When standing right in the centre of the church´s ruin, I had this funny thought that this would be the perfect place to marry in.
And thinking about it today, I might even consider this. A magic place. Completely silent and still so full of life. I could see the old stone walls illuminated by candle light and a simple altar set up in the middle with just a few chairs grouping around.
What could be more perfect than to say yes underneath a starry canopy in a place that over the centuries resisted sieges, sicknesses and suppression?
I had fallen in love with Visby the moment that I stepped onto the pier. To me, it was one of these places that seem completely out of this world.
Where time stands still and life runs in a different rhythm. A hideaway from our rushed modern life. Even if only for a few hours.
After making halt inside the beautiful cathedral, I climbed further up the hill to experience one of the most beautiful panoramic views over the city.
What a perfect day this was! No clouds on the ultimate blue sky and a view to eternity. I could have instantly checked in into one of the cute little hotels to explore the island.
I have not been to too many Swedish cities yet, but Visby gave me the straight impression to be the perfect example.
I felt right in place here and I pictured it to be one of the most romantic getaways I could think of to retreat to. Taking picnics in the outdoors, riding a bicycle through golden wheat fields and watching the sunset from the ancient city walls.
Writing about it now, gosh, how could I not have returned yet? But when not being on a cruise, getting there demands for a much longer stay than simply a few hours.
There are daily ferry connections from mainland Sweden (about 3 hours one-way) and a few air links from major Scandinavian airports such as Stockholm or Copenhagen.
Here is actually a link of cruises that will visit the port of Visby in 2018 and 2019, just in case if you were interested to discover this beauty by yourself!
But, of course, you can get a much more intensive overall picture when spending a few days in the area, which I really should do sometimes soon.
Unfortunately, it was soon time to board one of the tender boats towards the ship again. The sun stood low on the summer´s sky and I retreated to one of the sun loungers on the top deck to watch the ship slowly depart this beautiful little gemstone a little while later.
What a wonderful day this was. And even though I hardly had the chance to discover all the hidden beauty that Gotland would have to offer, I felt that I had found another place that my soul had connected to. And maybe this will the site one day, where I will make the most important promise ever…. Time will tell in Visby.