Monday, October 02, 2006

Visby, Sweden

Another place I'd never heard of until I actually went there. A beautiful, quiet town and a lovely surprise.

A thousand years ago Visby was a Viking fishing village. Today the main industry is tourism and of course the people don't refer to themselves as Vikings. But then, no Norseman ever did. "Viking" was a name given to them by the people they invaded and conquered. It comes from the old Norse word "Vik" meaning bay and "ing" referring to one who comes from the bay since "Vikings" were excellent seafarers and almost always attacked via the water. And by the way, Vikings never wore helmets with horns on them. Any Swede will tell you this an invention of Wagnerian
Opera and Hollywood. Thousands of Viking burial grounds have been and not one helmet with horns was ever found. Nevertheless, they hock them like nobody's business in all the souvenir shops.

Located on the island of Gotland, one of the hundreds that make up the Swedish archipelago, today Visby is a seaside resort catering mostly locals from the mainland. I never realized what sun-worshipers Swedes are before coming here. Anywhere there is open space; a park, a beach, a dock along the water, the locals will bask in the sun until well after 9 PM. I guess they have to get their fill to last them through the long, dark Swedish winters.

I had but a couple of hours in Visby to snap the following pictures: One of the little commercial squares in town, A ruined church dating back 800 years or so to Sweden's Catholic days, The present Lutheran Church with its distinctive three spires which can be seen for miles out at sea, The churchyard along side the Lutheran Church, A quiet back street, and finally Visby's old world charm shown here by a picturesque doorway and a yellow rosebush.

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