Visby Day: As Reports By Johnathan Ishmael

Posted: Wed, Jul 24, 2013

Arrival to Visby came late in the evening. With running lights on and an exhausted crew, from the rolling and the pounding of a rough passage, there was great relief upon entering the breakwater, particularly to those who had a less than a pleasant crossing. Those that had a good crossing, had to be woken to man lines and fenders.

We tied up starboard side to, just on the edge of the inner harbor. After shutting everything down, Travis made quick order of a stir-fry dinner, which for some, was the only source of food that went in the normal direction all day. Not lacking for energy, Johnathan and Thomas dared a quick recon of the marina in the inner harbor of Visby. They found only one establishment open, complete with a rather sad plastic palm tree and a left-handed guitar player who played only slightly better than a karaoke singer with a sore throat. But they endured, and watched not less than fifty converse tennis shoe wearing Swedes fist pump to improvised Bryan Adams songs. Unsurprisingly, Tom and Johnathan were home early.

The next morning, which began at the crack of 9AM started with tours of the city by the crew, while Travis stayed behind for yet another Office Day. Jon and Sara, somehow still craving old historical memorabilia, went on to explore the numerous churches, ruins and the museum. Visibly offers a unique experience as it exemplifies urban design of the medieval era. The city, once the main port for import and export, bristled with commerce from ports in the Baltic and beyond. As a result, the main city was fortified to protect not only the people, but also the value of goods inside. Therefore, an ominous wall, constructed circa 1300AD, surrounds the old city to this day and is a reminder to how vulnerable points of commerce were to invasion. Within the walls, old churches, cemeteries and houses line narrow cobble stoned roads, often very narrow and steep. Similar to what is found on a hiking trail, the roads follow what must have been switchbacks to ascend the slope at a more gently angle, or rather, to slow down on what could be a rapid descent if wagon brakes failed. Most of the wall is still intact, thought over the centuries, Visibly suffered through invasion after invasion, whether by the Germans, Danes, Vikings or pirates, it often went through decades of being occupied.

Today, most of the architecture appears original and significant restorations have ensued or are in progress. There are stone archways and small narrow doors seemingly made for hobbits or trolls with small gardens behind wrought iron gates. Most of the buildings are now used for shops and cafes. A few boutique hotels occupy prime courtyard space and there is a nice restaurant that is built into the wall itself. Inside the city walls tourists can find handmade woolen goods and antiques, not to mention the full range of street food and patio taverns for the parched walker. It is all very nice, clean and scenic. Because it is limited to foot traffic in most places and vehicle traffic is rare on the narrow side streets, there is a constant hum of people walking and biking.

Thomas and Johnathan, having had their fill of old stuff, proceeded to go on an ice cream tasting tour of Visby by rental bike. They are happy to report that man can, alone, live on ice cream in Visby. Ice cream is to Visby what coffee is to Seattle, and no scoop was left unturned. Certainly, ice cream consumption is a local sport. During one particular sugar high, they set off along the seafront road where they found a large group of Swedes fist pumping in an outdoor concert that happens everyday after people get off the beach. A few miles down the road, still high on sugar they found a campground full of camper vans with beachfront property. The Swedes certainly know how to enjoy the few days of reasonable weather gifted to them in the summer. Feeling a little low on sugar, they raced back to turn in their bikes and enjoy a fine meal prepared by Jon.

Dinner complete, and tales of the day shared, the group trekked up the hill to attend a show they heard about earlier in the day from a man walking about on stilts, promoting the event.

The Fire Show, as it was hailed by a dreadlocked gentleman dressed like a jester, is held in another one of the many ancient churches located inside the walls of World Heritage Site that is Visby. Being inside the ancient church was amazing in itself, arches and buttresses reached into the evening light as the twilight glow shown through the slits where stained glassed once were.

The show itself is good. Lots of fire, twirling batons with flames, juggled fire sticks and flaming balls were thrown, tossed, dropped, handed off and exploded for the next forty minutes. A man who had been spitting fire out of mouth for 5yrs longer than he should have, offered background sound effects while telling the story of Myth of Fire in Swedish, set to a gothic sounding techno soundtrack.

After the show, we sauntered back to the boat, stopping to gawk at S/Y Felicita West, a 210ft private sailboat that arrived earlier. The marina was mainly filled with small sailboats full of vacationing families. The powerboat contingent was against the seawall and showed off accents lights and pumped techno music as the evening deepened.

We boarded M/V Andromeda and promptly fired up the main engine and made for sea. Another night passage to avoid burning any more daylight than necessary, as we headed north, to return to the Stockholm Archipelago to continue our underwater archeology and scuba adventures.