WHEN WE booked this cruise (back in late 2021), the marquee stop was most certainly St. Petersburg, Russia. No matter your politics or your world history gestalt, it is understandable that St. Petersburg is a sought-after destination. In splendid contrast to an otherwise perceived, repressive, cold, mostly poor, while geographically vast country, St. Petersburg is Russia’s bright light, presented to the world as an enlightened and modern “utopia-worthy” city. Its namesake (both he and the city were named after St. Peter, the apostle), Romanov Czar Peter (“Peter the Great”) may have been the primary responsible Russian leader for bringing Russia into its own as a modern, “westernized,” world power. Serving as Russia’s capitol city for 200 years, it also became Russia’s cultural and naval center. Under the Czarship of Peter, the Russian Navy was built. Peter was a student of “western” civilization and studied their military, architecture, and even fashion trends. St. Petersburg was designed and built largely in the classical and neoclassical styles and became the showcase of the Baltic. After the 1917 Bolshevic Revolution, the capitol was moved to Moscow. In 1924, the Soviet Government renamed the city Leningrad (it was briefly Petrograd previously). In 1991 the citizens, by citywide referendum, returned the name back to St. Petersburg. In terms of its culture, architecture, layout and history, it appears to be a wonderland for visitors. But alas, not these visitors. 😦
AS TENSIONS increased between Russia and the Ukraine, and consequently, the rest of the world, whether we would still go to St. Petersburg came into question. Nations and travel-related companies other than our cruise line announced that they would no longer travel to St. Petersburg. As war broke out, Celebrity joined the long line of (ultimately unanimous) travel purveyors to eliminate St. Petersburg from their stops. While it was partly due to the safety of passengers, and certainly due to deteriorating relations between Russian and virtually everyone else, I hope it was partly philosophical. There is no good reason in the world to spend money on Russia’s economy today! If they had somehow preserved the opportunity to visit St. Petersburg in spite of the war, we would certainly have cancelled our cruise. A sad state of affairs for the citizens of St. Petersburg and of Russia.
BUT CELEBRITY now had to adjust. Their response to the problem was twofold. First, they changed the Stockholm port to an overnight (that didn’t work out – for entirely unrelated reasons – more on that in the Stockholm post). They then added a previously unscheduled stop: Visby. Visby is a smallish city on the Swedish island of Gotland, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Its location made it at one time a strategic trading spot, one of the most important Baltic Sea ports of the Hanseatic League. Today, it holds strategic military importance, as well as a robust tourist business. With a population of nearly 24,000, the city of Visby accounts for nearly half of the entire Gotland population. Outside of Visby, what remains is all rural.
THE CENTER of Visby is an old, medieval, walled town. It is one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe. These days, Visby caters primarily to tourism and in recently years a fair proportion of those tourists come from cruise ships. Particularly because Visby was a late addition to the ports, once again we had no tours scheduled. We did learn however, from Mike and Elaine, about a walking tour that convened in the center of the old city. We made the rather long walk from the ship to the Tourist Information Center (TI) where we found our guide. The tour was a couple hours long and was quite interesting. Mostly though, I saw Visby as a last-minute add-on, with some rather nice photo ops in the mix for me.
ASIDE FROM history, the city was well kept, and had many picturesque old buildings, cobblestone streets, and other fixtures you might have expected to be part of daily life in an old medieval city. And, as expected in any old European city, there were churches. The central Christian church – interestingly, immediately adjacent to the Jewish quarter – was large and rather spectacular.
FTER THE tour, we walked around a bit more, and headed back to the ship. Not the most memorable, port we have been to, Visby was still nice. And the weather was sunny (if a bit hot). All in all, we were cruising, traveling, and seeing new places. That seems to check the boxes. Next stop, the much more anticipated Tallinn Estonia.
2 thoughts on “Visby (Gotland) Sweden”
Great colors here in the buildings. Thanks for posting