Saturday, 26 August 2017
Since the days of the Vikings, thanks to its strategic location in the middle of the Baltic Sea, Gotland was a vital trading hub between the West and East, particularly Russia. At least fifty Viking harbours were found along its coastline from where their inhabitants sail around the Baltic region and further south. In contrast to the blood-thirsty expeditions made by the Norwegian and Danish Vikings to the west, those living on Gotland avoided plundering in order not to jeopardize valuable trade relations. Times got tougher for them at the end of 12th century when the Hanseatic League took over the trade routes to Russia making Visby, along with Lübeck, Tallinn and Bergen, one of its most important ports of trade. The bloody civil war between the farmers and merchants at the end of 13th century or the plague from the middle of the 14th century began the end of prosperous days - Gotland slowly declined and lost its importance. Today, it’s however number one holiday destination in Sweden.
The immaculate old town of Visby is a magnet for visitors. Majestic merchants’ houses, stone buildings, picturesque ruins and charming rose-gardens, all surrounded by mighty and well-preserved medieval walls. Walking through its cobblestone streets was like walking through history.
It was early evening on Saturday, so there was still a lively atmosphere on the streets, in restaurants and cafes, but a tidal wave of tourists was no longer pouring through the town as it happens during the summertime. The end of August is actually when everything starts to slow down and Gotlanders re-gain the island to themselves.