While my son Johnny and I were on the island of Gotland we stayed in historic Visby, Gotland’s largest city. According to Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) it has been named to the list of World Heritage sites.
To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what a remarkable experience this would be.
Visby was an important Baltic trading center during the Middle Ages. In the 13th century a strong defensive city wall was built, and today it is “the best-preserved fortified commercial city in northern Europe.”
The most popular place to stay in Visby is inside the city walls with church ruins and ancient stone houses along nearly every street. Everything is within walking distance (perhaps a power walk) and I understand that during the summer months it is frantic with activity. The cruise ships arrive. The hotels build decks at their front doors for patio parties, and automobile traffic inside the walls is limited.
When we were there in May Visby was very quiet. Half the restaurants weren’t open yet, but we still had plenty to choose from. Our Gotland Guides, Ulf and Eva Gahm, took us on a walking tour of the historic highlights and out to the waters where Vikings and pirates came ashore centuries ago.
On our last evening in Visby we had dinner with the Gahms at a restaurant that during World War II secretly housed the Swedish Air Force in their cellar. It is where all the air traffic reports coming in from spotters around the island were recorded.
On March 6, 1944 the spotters were busily tracking the flight of an American heavy bomber, the lost Liberty Lady whose crew was frantically searching for a safe place to land.