Got Land? I did during Spring Break

Posted on April 28th, 2013 by

As loyal readers already know for spring break I traveled with Devon to Visby on Gotland, an Island off the southeastern coast of Sweden. Visby is an extremely well-preserved medieval town, and was a member of the Hanseatic League, a group of predominantly German towns specializing in trade on the Baltic and North Seas. At the local museum, Devon and I learned much about its history. After joining the League, Visby was prompted to force the farmers on Gotland to sell all their merchandise in the town, thus allowing the League to charge an extra tax. The farmers refused and an armed conflict ensued that ended with hundreds dead on both sides and little resolved. The rivalry between the town and the countryside grew worse when in 1361 the Danes attacked and killed half the male population of the countryside in one battle. Farmers did not fare well against mercenaries. The survivors begged for admittance to the city but instead the townsfolk waited until the Danish king arrived and offered their surrender without a fight. What a bitter blow to those poor farmers. After the Danes took over, Gotland declined, eventually relegated to a refuge for pirates. Today, it is a popular destination for Swedes and international tourists.

The trip there was very fun. For a South Dakotan who had never seen the ocean, travelling across the Baltic Sea was a joy. The ferry itself is impressive in its size. It could take 1,500 people in one trip. It had an elevator, gift shop, and restaurant. When we got off at Visby, Devon and I accidentally took the elevator down to the car storage area where there were dozens if not hundreds of cars. since it was so large, We had complete freedom of movement. Tables and chairs were everywhere so comfort was an achievable goal. Here are some pictures of the inside of the ferry.

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The windows were very thick and distorted the view but We were still able to enjoy the view during our trip.

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Here is more information about the ferry. there were two making continuous trips all day.

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So after a short trip, we made it to Visby and our exquisite hostel. After checking in and unloading our bags, we went for a walk around town just to get a feel for Visby. We were told there would be a parade later that night so we wanted to be around for that. Right away I was taken with the coastline and walls. We were thrilled to see places where we could actually go up on the wall and climb up the towers. Here are some pictures from the first day.

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We had the joy of watching a parade the night we arrived in Visby. It is apparently tradition to dress up your kids in old clothes like witches, paint their faces, and walk through town. It was a very pleasant surprise. There was even a band at the end. I had some videos but I had problems uploading them. These pictures will have to suffice.

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Anyway, the bulk of our time in Visby was spent wandering around the city and admiring the old buildings and walls, not to mention the fascinating trees. The winds are so strong that some trees are blown almost parallel to the ground. we spent a lot of time walking outside the walls and admiring the moat and trees. The streets were a nightmare to navigate. In classic medieval style they were a convoluted network of  winding, twisting roads that sometimes converged or split at random. signs were of little use because there were few straight streets or intersections as I know them (streets meeting at right angles). The streets must be hard on cars, as they were either cobbled or made of shaped stones.

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So that’s about it. It’s impossible to express what it is like to be around such beautiful and old things such as Visby but hopefully these pictures casn do it some measure of justice.

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3 Comments

  1. Roland says:

    You may have been told this before, Ryan, but Jacobi is a last name Ingmar Bergman gave to many of his film characters. And one of Bergman’s films with a Jacobi (“Shame”) has lots of scenes from Gottland and Visby. Trivial information, perhaps, but since you were just in Visby…

  2. Ryan Jacobi says:

    Maybe somewhere there was a script never published about a young country bumpkin from South Dakota who traveled to Visby…

  3. Roland says:

    The narrative for your visit would have made a much more pleasant film than “Shame.” And that Jabobi is…well, find out.