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6:07pm on Saturday, 5th May, 2007:

Places I'd Like to Visit #5


Continuing the occasional series...


Tempted though I was to say Karazhan (mage and paladin both attuned and no sign of a group yet), I'm going be patient with that a while longer. My reasons for wanting to visit Visby are, though, due to a computer game.

The game in question is The Patrician III, one of my favourite three to which I come back to time and time again (the other two are Darklands and Baldur's Gate). The Patrician III is a trading game set in the time of the Hanseatic League. You build ships, you transport goods, you construct farms and factories, you explore new areas, and (if you like) you build cities. I love that game!

The Hanseatic League was an affiliation of trading guilds (hansa) that maintained a monopoly in the Baltic Sea and a strong presence in the North Sea over the course of about 400 years starting in the 1200s. Prior to the formation of the League, trade in the region was dominated by Gotland, an island in the Baltic; with the establishment of Lübeck, the balance began to shift. New cities were founded by German merchants operating out of Lübeck, and all used Lübeck Law (which provided for the self-governance of free cities). The monopolistic ambitions of the League gradually edged out the free-trading system operated by Gotland (which had been invited to become a founder member, but declined), and led to a large growth in the economy of the region.

Visby is the capital and chief trading city of Gotland.

The Patrician III uses a map of 24 (initially) cities from Bruges in the west to Novgorod in the east. One of those cities is Visby. The game is basically an upgrade to The Patrician II, which was a total rewrite of and improvement on The Patrician. I'll talk about The Patrician itself here some day, but the thing is, the first time I played it I had to choose a starting town and, not knowing which was better at what, I went with a totally random one. That random town was Visby. From that point onwards, I had a special interest in the place, which grew as I found out more about it.

It turns out that Visby is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Scandinavia, which makes it worth a visit for that reason alone. What particularly attracts me to it, though, is that what is preserved includes a bunch of churches burned down at the behest of German merchants in 1525. Those remains have, er, remained remains ever since. In other words, the inhabitants of Visby have carefully maintained a set of ruins in a ruined state for over 500 years, determining not to rebuild them or build over them at any time during that period. Now that's something you don't often see!

Given that the population of Visby is something like 22,000, it isn't exactly a major tourist spot — it can't support vast numbers of visitors. Apparently, it has some festival week in August during which everyone dresses up in medieval garb, which is quite twee but I don't know that it brings in hordes of tourists leading to the availability of large numbers of hotel rooms when they've gone. As a result, it's unlikely I'll get to go to Visby on a package tour. There is a faint chance I could get there as an academic, though. Visby has a university, and they have some good games people there. Occasionally, they hold conferences. One of these days, I may get to go to one.

I reckon my chances are about 20%, which isn't great but hey, it's not zero, either.

Referenced by Visby Vignette.

Referenced by Away!.

Referenced by Places I'm not all that Fussed about Visiting #11.

Referenced by Museum.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).