Visby

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Visby, Gotland

Visby's medieval architecture is so well-preserved that it has earned a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The city flourished thanks to the Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading guilds that monopolized the Baltic Sea. Visby never joined the Hanseatic League itself, though, preferring to maintain its own monopoly and collect taxes and fees instead. In fact, the large remaining cathedral in town was originally funded by German traders.

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Park in Visby
The island of Gotland, where Visby is located, is surrounded by a shallow (1 meter/3 feet deep) shelf and a precipitous drop about 50 to 500 meters/yards from shore. What's remarkable about this shelf is that it's made of coral, because Gotland started out at the equator about 400 million years ago, and it's moving northward still, at a rate of about fifteen centimeters/six inches a year.
Defensive walls
The town walls were first built in the 12th century and bolstered quite a bit after a 1288 civil war between Visby and the people of the countryside. There are more than forty towers. It's common to see walls around a town. It's common to see fortifications facing the sea. But these walls are strongest facing inland, and that isn't common. But you never know when the farmers will attack again.
Stortorget
Visby's charm is enhanced by the many ruined churches that are sprinkled about. On the main square, the church of Saint Karin is in ruins. It was founded by Franciscans in 1233 and enlarged in the 14th century.
Cathedral
St. Mary's cathedral was consecrated in 1255, and it's still in use today. We had the pleasure of attending a concert of a cappella music. This music was historically religious, and the reverberation of voices in the cathedral was quite moving.
Saffranspannkaka
This saffron pancake is a local specialty. It isn't a pancake at all; it's a sort of baked rice and almond cake. Gotland was once an important post in the spice trade, and in those days, as now, saffron was a delicacy. This cake was a fine way for the locals to show off their wealth. It's served with whipped cream and a jam made from the berry of an indigenous bush from the island. Oh, and it's delicious.