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I've got a European medieval-themed world and my focus is everyday life in a small village (population of 300~500 people) in the mountains. I'm trying to stay away from action, adventure, violence, etc. as much as possible, so I want this village to be a remote, quiet place. However, I still want it to see at least some traffic, be it travelers or merchants or whatever, so that the village has significant economic activity. I don't know enough about medieval economics or everyday life to give some concrete numbers, like how many merchants passing per week, but I'm aiming for something high enough to make the village have some significant interaction, yet not too high to make it some economic hub. I'm certain it's possible but wasn't able to come up with a good reason or find a real-life examples myself, so I'd like to seek advice from Stack Exchange.

It wouldn't be due to some resources or anything of strategic value because that would get the attention of political and military parties, making my earlier point about remote and quiet moot. There are no powerful religious groups like the church because the people of this world mostly interact with old/wise and powerful animals and call them gods, so no pilgrimage. Tourism and vacation is also difficult because the standard of living isn't high enough for people to have that much free time.

Assume nothing magical or supernatural. Those things are difficult to deal with without knowing the full explanation of how they work in my world. And my world doesn't have a lot of supernatural things going on and people haven't started studying the magical laws of nature anyway. That being said, if you have suggestions involving something magical that can explain the situation and also provide some interesting ideas about the events that can happen in or around the village, that would be great.

I'm not expecting anyone to solve my problem by directly giving a definite answer. But if anyone knows a lot about how traffic in real-life secluded village worked and explained some factors that can affect it, as well as giving some suggestions that could work in a fantasy setting, I'd be happy to hear about them and hopefully I can figure out a combination or get another idea.

If you need me to provide more details, or explain about the lore etc, do let me know.

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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps you should rethink that title - secluded and high traffic are contradictory. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Dec 27 '17 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ One point I did not notice in the answers, but that you need to remember. For it to be secluded, people passing thru do not generally stop. That means that there are significantly better places to stop on either side of the village on the route and the distance between them is less than one days travel. These places would be pretty important to the villagers. I am guessing one of them would be the town villagers visit to sell and buy things, get services, or visit special events. Maybe they would go different direction for different things. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Dec 27 '17 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Alternately, if instead of people passing thru but not usually stopping (random visitors), you want a more seasonal solution where the village is secluded for most of the year but visitors come there once or twice a year then merchants or pilgrims might work for you. Travel was not safe in the middle ages so people would travel in larger groups which would then gather at a specific place in a specific time and then proceed on a set (presumably safe) route. In your case church organized pilgrimage groups might not exist, so maybe a trading company uses the route once a year? $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Dec 27 '17 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that there's a see-saw affect that might come into play with your story. Small, secluded town has some reason for modest-to-high traffic, which creates business opportunities, which brings people to town, which means more resources are needed to support the town, which means more farmers and more merchants, which starts everything all over again. If your story covers too much time (one generation or more), then it's unrealistic for your town to remain secluded. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 27 '17 at 16:13
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    $\begingroup$ As an expansion of @VilleNiemi's solution, consider e.g. the Medieval Scarborough Fair, a trades extravaganza of a scale which was mind-boggling back then: Huge numbers of people travelled even as far as from the Byzantine Empire to partake in a 45-day event in an age when most people didn't even ever leave their village. A village on the road to Scarborough would be well-visited by fair regulars. $\endgroup$ – errantlinguist Dec 27 '17 at 20:16

26 Answers 26

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Consider a mountain pass.

In short, you need a small village located on a major road.

Possibly, your village is located near (on the only road leading to) a mountain pass. You mentioned the mountainous location, so it fits geographically, and such location will result in quite a bit of traffic (merchants, travellers) passing through. At the same time, the rough terrain will restrict the settlement from becoming a busy town.

You might want this pass to be internal (i.e. in a heartland of the country), and away from any borders, and thus without much political/military value, and otherwise unremarkable.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the suggestion, an internal mountain pass would definitely set up the environment I'm trying to achieve. $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 27 '17 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ You could also set it up before the mountain pass, a sort of base camp before crossing the mountain; the only export is a safe place to sleep before making a difficult crossing making it a sort of pass-through city. $\endgroup$ – Anoplexian - Reinstate Monica Dec 27 '17 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ A mountain pass is an excellent suggestion, the mountainous terrain, poor soil, and weak climate would naturally limit the size of the town by reducing how many people it can feed (particularly over winter). You could have a lot of travelers passing through during the summer then when winter comes the entire village is isolated and living on stored supplies until the spring thaw. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 27 '17 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ Good and obvious suggestion but violates the requirement of strategic insignificance! $\endgroup$ – Ludi Dec 28 '17 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Ludi Not all passes are strategically significant. It may be right in the middle of a country; sure, that could theoretically change at some point, but if doesn't happen to over the course of the story, then... it's never strategically important. Alternatively, there could be two passes -- one which is significantly easier to cross and located closer to where the army is typically kept; this pass could be more difficult and useful only to merchants who live near it. $\endgroup$ – Nic Hartley Dec 28 '17 at 22:29
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The village is on Camino Santiago

For centuries in Catholic Medieval Europe, Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of St. James the Great (one of the 12 Apostles), was one of the prime pilgrimage destinations of Europe. Because of its location in Galicia, there were only a limited number of ways to get there. Traditionally, the penitent would walk to Santiago on foot to earn absolution from some sin or other.

The various paths to Santiago, known as the Way of Saint James all generally converged on a few passes through the Pyrenees.

enter image description here

A town in one of these passes would meet your requirements. For example, Ostabat-Asne in France is on the map above and was the meeting place of major pilgrimage routes from all over central and northern France. However, even today has only about 200 people.

You don't have to be the destination of a pilgrimage route, you just have to be on the Way.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer, I'll definitely look into this place. $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 27 '17 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ It's special how your map randomly throws Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg together while keeping other countries separate. $\endgroup$ – Arperum Dec 28 '17 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ @aperum It rather looks like all countries of a size of the Netherlands or less have been truncated. $\endgroup$ – Stian Yttervik Dec 28 '17 at 12:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Arperum You can see on the map the name "Benelux", which means basically "Belgium + Netherland + Luxembourg". $\endgroup$ – Babika Babaka Dec 28 '17 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ @BabikaBabaka I know, I live there. The Benelux is a construct that predates the EU. As Stian said, I didn't notice that Slovenia is also completely turned into Austria for some crazy reason. This map is weird. $\endgroup$ – Arperum Dec 28 '17 at 16:04
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Hot springs.

The romans kinda invented the idea of the vacation so having something like a hot spring will draw wealthy travelers, even the medieval people recognized the benefits of a hot soak on aches and pains. the mountain setting is perfect for such a spring.

If the site is blessed at anypoint or connected to a historical figure it will draw even more as a pilgrimage site. This is where Sir/Saint _____ rested before/after his famous ______.

of course a steady flow of money will draw merchants.

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    $\begingroup$ This is also a good idea. Hot springs are nice, it would be a great to place a village around one. Not to mention the ideas it would generate. Thanks for the suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 27 '17 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind going on vacation could be frowned upon during certain parts of the medieval period, but taking a pilgrimage to a minor holy site that also just so happens to be holliday spot would be perfectly acceptable. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 27 '17 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Iroh I also thought about hot spring in the first place, but it doesn't match one of your requirements : "Tourism and vacation is also difficult because the standard of living isn't high enough for people to have that much free time." Though, it's your world so you can change this requirement, or you could mix it with Laetus' idea. It would make sense since hot spring are often found near mountains, and it could add some value (rest before a hard step like going through the mountain) $\endgroup$ – Rolexel Dec 28 '17 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ pilgrimages on the other hand were fairly common, even for farmers, and of course the groups that could afford a vacation tended to bring a lot of wealth with them. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 28 '17 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexandreAudin People would not necessarily visit the hot springs for vacation only. Travellers and merchants, etc could stay for a few days and make use of the springs and continue on their way. $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 28 '17 at 23:55
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There are only few ways such a village would see some traffic

  • has some kind of attraction - a natural wonder or burial site of a prominent religious figure was a good one. Moderation is key here.

  • produces some kind of desirable craft good - in the medieval period it wasn't uncommon for members of a particular trade to collocate and form communities dedicated to the production of certain craft items. Like in Germany there were settlements dedicated to Christmas decorative items.

  • Modest agricultural production near a major economy - If they can produce surplus food within transportation range of a city they see some traffic. Depending on the uniqueness and production capacity can increase/decrease that traffic.

Those methods attract modest traffic, however there are other means that attract far more attention:

  • Production of a strategic resource - mining
  • Strategic Craft - there were blacksmithing communities both in Europe and China
  • Located on a Trade Route - being a rest stop on the only road between 2 major economies (like a mountain pass) sees a lot of traffic.
  • A Major attraction - having a man made wonder like the colossus or incredibly unique natural wonder or important religious site would bring tons of traffic.
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  • $\begingroup$ There are other ways. You may have two major hubs >2 days apart, with useless (mountainous?) terrain between. Between them there would be a tiny town mostly to support the inn, to support the merchants that would be passing through. It's attraction is the fact that it's the only inn. $\endgroup$ – Mooing Duck Dec 28 '17 at 3:16
  • $\begingroup$ This is one of the best answers, because many others are built around mountain passes and such, which explicitly violate the requirement of strategic insignificance. My region in Greece achieved what is sought here, while being reasonably sequestered. The key was stealing the techniques of silk production from China during the Byzantine period — that, at least, is the traditional story! $\endgroup$ – Ludi Dec 28 '17 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ Saw this question and came to give basically this answer. $\endgroup$ – Aviose Dec 28 '17 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ The chief problem with economic attraction factors in a low-tech economy is that the economic activities need workers, so major economic activities need many workers. Trade route stops are a good answer because it implies the travelers don't come to the village because of the village itself. $\endgroup$ – MSalters Dec 29 '17 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ The problem with trade route stops is that becomes too much activity, though that depends on the trading partners involved. $\endgroup$ – anon Dec 29 '17 at 14:24
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They live at the a convenient watering place between two towns, just before you start entering the pass: enter image description here

I think this fits your requirements:

  1. Nothing Magic
  2. Nothing strategic (compared to the nearby pass)
  3. Nothing Religious
  4. Near (or possibly slightly in) mountains

You can vary the traffic by varying the desirability of getting from A to B. If they are both big towns, you'd get lots of trade. If they're both small towns, you'd get very little.

If town A goes to war with town B, town A's army goes past your villiage and attacks the garrison at the pass. If town B goes to war with town A they go past your town and lay siege.

The time between towns is significant. One day will get you from one town to the other, but your town is a nice spot for lunch and a break from journeying. It has a watering spot so you can grab a drink - but you could have done that at many places. But everyone stops here because it's a convenient distance from everywhere, and is either just before or just after the mountains.


This town is based on Springs Junction in New Zealand. Springs junction has:

  1. A petrol station (a horse-watering-stream)
  2. A cafe (a taven)
  3. A couple farms (a couple farms)

It's four hours from Christchurch and Nelson, so your car's on just over half a tank of gas when you go past. It's a nice place to stop for a leg-stretch and a snack. It's located nearby the Lewis Pass.


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    $\begingroup$ Ah! The Elrond's Last Homely House answer. $\endgroup$ – Pieter Geerkens Dec 29 '17 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ Springs Junction is also a crossroads with roads going north, west, and east. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Dec 31 '17 at 22:37
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Recurring shipwrecks.

There are some places where weather and shore conditions make for the risk of shipwrecks. Buxton NC can be an example. Cape Hatteras is dangerous. No ships want to stop here but a lot come by and wrecks were common. A community was there to man the lighthouse and also help wrecked sailors / facilitate salvage operations.

https://www.outerbanks.com/buxton.html

In history books, however, Buxton is probably most famous for being at the center of the treacherous Diamond Shoals. Because of the town's position, located at the veritable "turning point" of Hatteras Island, a number of sandy shoals jet off the point, shifting daily if not hourly with new wave patterns and currents... These conditions led to the shipwreck and destruction of literally hundreds of passing ships since the 1500s. With sand bars that could change in an instant, and a shallow coastline that was barely visible from sea, hundreds of ships fell victim to the Diamond Shoals.

With a busy commerce shipping lane off shore, one or two wrecks a year (and subsequent visitors hoping to salvage some cargo) would provide the visitors you are looking for. The thing about this is that there is some action: shipwrecks. But nothing of economic value or strategic value. In your city, almost no-one who goes there is happy about the circumstances that get them there.

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a small village (population of 300~500) in the mountains. I'm trying to stay away from action, adventure, violence etc as much as possible, so I want this village to be somewhat secluded (not too much). However I still want it to see at least some traffic.

Mountains are by definition secluded. If the village is on the path leading to a mountain pass, it will experience some traffic. The amount of the traffic depends on the importance of the mountain pass.

To give you some real world example, consider the Alps passes leading from Austria to Italy: the lowest the pass, the easier it will be and therefore the higher volume of traffic it will attract. Conversely, the higher its altitude, the less attractive it will be, if the people are interested in an easy journey.

If instead the people traveling through the pass are more interested in a "quiet" pass (like smugglers) the relative weight of these kind of travelers will be higher.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ah, your insight regarding the difficulty of the mountain passes is a nice factor. I did consider placing the village next to a mountain pass, but it totally eluded me that there probably would be multiple passes, limiting the stragetic importance of the village. $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 27 '17 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ If there are two or more passes and the pass that this village lies next to is a longer but easier&safer pass compared to other passes that are faster but riskier in terms of terrain and/or other dangers, will this be a reasonable explanation for the village being favored by peaceful traffickers? $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 27 '17 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Iroh, in Middle age times, where risks are all around, you always gladly avoid avoidable risks. If the pass is easier it will be favored. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Dec 27 '17 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I was actually comparing to armies. I supposed that armies may be interested in reaching the destination faster (unless they're simply relocating and not really in a hurry) and they would be able to fend off small raiding parties&stuff, therefore they may not be interested in a slower&safer route. Because if this is correct, it would be a good explanation for the village having little strategic value. Would this be a reasonable assumption? $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 27 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Iroh An army will, indeed, travel along the easier path. However, if the "easy" pass has an army or fortress fortifying it, then it will no longer be the easier path. If another pass is simply a bit longer or out-of-the-way, then the army will pick that over the fortified pass, requiring the secondary pass to also be fortified. A geographically restrictive pass (narrow canyon, or lengthy rope bridge) would not work for an army, but small groups of travelers or merchant mule trains could make use of it. A small village along this path could see traffic without also increasing in size. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Dec 28 '17 at 15:04
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It could be set on a path that is much more dangerous than the main trading route, but faster in good weather. If at a high enough elevation, winter storms would isolate it completely, keeping standing population low. During warm seasons the more brave or desperate travelers come through, keeping commerce moving. They may hunt/trap furs during the winter isolation that are harder to acquire. This would motivate traders, but limited supply would prevent the town from growing as a result.

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A well-known artist, craftsman, oracle, healer, sage or wizard lives there - this would attract apprentices, travelers, merchants as well as nobles, all trying to benefit from the resident's skills. Note that they don't necessarily need to be the real thing, but could be a fake, or they could have been mistaken as the real thing.

Apprentices would be a given, and travelers would be coming to meet the person, get advice/help, or just see the village because of this resident. Merchants would seek to acquire goods, possibly even completely unrelated ones, as they would fetch higher prices or be otherwise more desirable than normal - compare "rum from a British town" vs "rum from the hometown of the Beatles". None of them would want to stay longer, as the village is removed.

Nobles - they would be trying to curry favor from this special individual, as their skills/talents would be very desirable. As with the others, they likely wouldn't want to stay very long due to the removed location - and occupying the village would surely anger the individual, potentially then risking a war with another noble or nation (or several).

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All you need is for your city to be half between two cities, and the 2 cities far enough apart most people would stay there overnight vs doing it all in 1 day.

A few bars, hotels, lodging, and etc. Each of those business needs supplies and town folks to make them. Carpenter, blacksmith, and large stables.

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Another possible solution is a remote village near the border of two countries with people that know their way around the mountains and are specialised in contraband. Possibly even with the complacency of/bribing local authorities.

Such village would have a steady influx of merchants, possibly thieves, opportunity seekers and rogue warriors.

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It could be on the route to an old pass, that's now closed due to a landslide or earthquake; people now prefer the other pass a mile away (either new because of the earthquake, or it was inferior before because reasons).

A few people might have old maps, and the odd one or two might take a detour out of curiosity. Most will stay on the main route.

Main street isn't main street any more ...

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As others mentioned, have the village near a pass. This gives it the traffic you're looking for.

My spin on it is to make it really high up in the mountains and it being the only pass for many tens or +100 miles. That means people Have to use it.

Putting it high up means there aren't going to be many people that want to stick around (due to the bad weather, bad soil, land/mud/snow slides), but are willing to stay for the high prices they can charge people for food, water, and shelter.

Next, make it a military off limits kind of thing. It has great military position, being on the only mountain pass for blah miles, but there is a treaty that makes it completely illegal to occupy the pass. Any military leader (officer, king, ruler, etc.) will be thrown out of their position for sending troops there for any other purpose than using it.

Plus, the villagers supremely hate soldiers, so any that stay more than 1-2 days "mysteriously" disappear in the night.

The village should be near, but not right at the pass (maybe 1/4 mile away). It's close enough to make the pass very accessible, but not close enough to house an occupying army. This removes some of the positional advantage for a military, since they would need to be right at the pass to make it really secure. Since they would camp out there, they could have mass desertions as well as making it easier for ambushes.

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  • $\begingroup$ For an example of the "military off limits" kind of thing, check out the Korean Demilitarized Zone. There are a few civilian farms that are permitted to operate there (and obviously need to have commerce in and out) but the ability of either military to engage in major operations is seriously limited (a few soldiers with rifles, yes, legions of tanks, no). $\endgroup$ – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Dec 27 '17 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertColumbia, I was going to reference the Korean DMZ, but that implies the presence of troops. What I was trying to suggest was the total absence of troops. So, instead of an uneasy "truce" that's tensely enforced, it would be an area with a total lack of military involvement. That doesn't mean it isn't policed by local law enforcement, but police are not the military. $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Dec 27 '17 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ If villagers made soldiers mysteriously disappear it wouldn't be long before the local authorities made the entire village disappear in an entirely obvious and non-subtle way. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 27 '17 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @TimB, there are a lot of ways the soldiers could have disappeared in a cold, windy, snowy climate. All you have to do is make a reasonable excuse and have everyone stick to it. Anyone you can't count on following the story ends up the same way or is simply not let in on the real reasons. You can even have some of the bodies show up in the area in reasonable situations, like froze to death, fallen off a ledge, eaten by local predators, etc. $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Dec 27 '17 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @computercarguy well, in a real situation the villagers could only do this once. Having whole parties of troops disappear would lead to burning the village to the ground without seeking modern type of evidence of guilt. Presumption of innocence was not active during Middle Ages in Europe - on tge contrary - accused was presumed guilty unless he could establish his innocence. $\endgroup$ – Gnudiff Dec 27 '17 at 23:51
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It could have an important religious shrine or object that members of that religion come to to venerate. Suppose that if the pilgrim performs a ritual at the shrine that some disease or medical condition is cured. You'd have a steady stream of people with that condition or disease showing up to get the cure.

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    $\begingroup$ A spring that is reputed to have healing effects, or some kind of boon granted to those who drink the water. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Dec 27 '17 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ The OP said no pilgrimage site, though. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 28 '17 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ While the OP did say no pilgrimage that was said in the context of an organised religion pilgrimage site. A spring reputed to cure a certain illness is a bit different so I'm going to say that this is an answer. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Dec 29 '17 at 22:00
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What could make a secluded village also have reasonably high traffic?

Nothing, because -- by definition -- your two points are diametrically opposed from one another.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secluded

1 : **screened or hidden from view** : sequestered

    a secluded valley

2 : living in seclusion : **solitary**

    secluded monks

Now... if you wanted a REMOTE village with reasonably high traffic, then a siting it on an important, but high, mountain pass or making it a pilgrimage are perfect ideas.

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    $\begingroup$ Noted, I will make sure not to use the expression secluded. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Iroh Dec 28 '17 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '17 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH sure it does. "Nothing" is a perfectly valid answer to the question. If you don't believe me, go ask english.SE. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Dec 28 '17 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ Had the question been asking about what adjective would appropiately describe the village, yours would have been a valid answer. It didn't. Your answer is facetious at best, callow at worst, which is why it was flagged as a low-quality answer. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '17 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ "Reality-check" and "grammar-check" are not the same thing. Part of the process at all SE sites is educating people in good manners. This should have been a comment asking for clarification. "No, because you used the wrong adjective" is simply juvenile. $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 28 '17 at 20:48
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I live in europe and have lived in a lot of small, some remote, villages in four countries. One thing that brings more traffic is markets. In some villages the markets were small, in others large. Remote towns stand a very good chance of having a large weekly or biweekly market where all the farmers, herders, craftsmen around that town will come to sell their things and all the people outside of the remote town in the surrounding areas will come into the village on those days, otherwise buyers are forced to take a lng trip to a city to shop. The situation hasn't changed much in some areas of europe for centuries.

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Major Edit

Harvesting Long Lived Flowers

There are some plants and animals with funny life cycles, some based on prime numbers. If there was a flower that bloomed every 19 years, and that flower that was the only source of a coveted dye (for instance) and only grew in the remote location (maybe because it's also the only place where bees that can pollinate these flowers live), then maybe this would work.

During the interludes, between harvests of this flower the village would be isolated, but during the year of harvest, there would be a trade boom.

For comparison, see the life cycles of cicadas (13 and 17 year life cycles) and of bamboo (up to a 130 year life cycle, depending on the species).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodical_cicadas#Lifecycle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo#Mass_flowering

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  • $\begingroup$ The question says "assume nothing magical or supernatural". Can you think of another way to get the effect you're describing? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Dec 28 '17 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ There are some plants and animals with funny life cycles, based on prime numbers. If there was a flower that bloomed every 19 years that was the only source of a coveted dye and only grew in the remote location (maybe because it's also the only place where bees that can pollinate these flowers live), then maybe this would work. $\endgroup$ – David Elm Dec 30 '17 at 9:34
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A secluded village may well have its own micro-culture and customs. Maybe even a microclimate.

Those things could mean that the village produces something unique that people will travel to in order to get (merchandise or some celebration or architecture?) or it exports something.

Whisky, wine, art…

You can control for much in demand that is and so control how much traffic you want your village to have as well as what sort of traffic.

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It could be a tourist destination for youths, like a fun river-rafting place. It could be similar to Vang Vieng, Laos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8quMliXCIV4

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Fur trade might be a decent explanation. There's certainly a demand for fur in any pre-industrial economy. Hunting season can very well be defined as late autumn, as you want to harvest the warm winter furs, but not in winter itself. (Up in the mountains where you hunt, it's really too cold in winter)

Now the village is small, so there's only a limited amount of clothes production in the village itself. Quite some furs are shipped out before the winter, but not all. Some of the villages spend the winter time producing clothes, and that's why some trade continues.

As there's a reasonable amount of traders coming in, the village doesn't need to produce much food, and besides, there's some meat from the hunt. This explains why farming is a small-scale summer activity; not much need to stockpile.

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Maybe the remote village hosts an annual fair where merchants come to the village and people from the village and its neighbourhood trade goods they produce for other goods they cannot manufacture themselves. This will produce some traffic at a certain date in the year.

There may be regular visits of the ruler of the territory to the village, and the ruler as the supreme judge holds a court in that village. The village may have a palace buildt just for that purpose.

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It's the local venue for stag and hen parties. Of course you wouldn't want to live there ...

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Everyone is mentioning specific locations, but instead, I will give a formula, which may be of more benefit, and is roughly in line with what occurred during the dark ages, and it is one of supportable resources and time.

Between any two major areas of habitation (burgeoning cities for example) that have trade or another need of travel, there will be areas that operate as rest-stops (like modern day gas stations), or layovers. Originally, they would have been camp-stops, and become more permanent over time.

The key thing (for your example) is the inability for the settlements to be more attractive to settlers, and this is a factor of local resource which should be limited either by the environment or other factors (such as surrounding landowners competing with each other over and preventing any significant utilisation of the area by a third party).

The second key thing is time. Over enough time, any permanent location is likely to spread simply by birth numbers, or immigration due to economic possibility, therefore for your scenario, enough time should not have happened for this to occur significantly, or this could be a combination of the two.

One of the ways in which the time factor can be limited, was when an alternative transportation route between the two habitation areas was found/discovered/created which made the journey easier or more economical (for instance in Germany many overland hamlets and villages succumbed or stagnated to the introduction of riverboats for good transportation), but for a period of time afterwards, those who could not afford or full utilise the newer methods would still use the old routes.

Alternatively, your location could be on the best and quickest route, but suffers from terrible exposure and must endure a terrible winter, when people travel using another route.

The above fits many historical settlements, particularly in Europe (less so for the Nomadic peoples of the Middle-East, or the monguls, etc. - where an oasis, or watering point is a better choice. - again this limits the number of people who can live there, but it will allow for good footfall from travellers).

In most of the scenarios above, trade is likely to become an important part of the settlements economy, but will be supported by homestead farming, or limited herd grazing etc.

Hope that helps!

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It just needs to be the biggest village in the area. I've seen this in modern times. Even a small village of 500 could have a lot of traffic from smaller surrounding villages. Within 20 miles you might have 15 villages all in different directions. Each of them might have a population of around 50. (15 villages * 50ppl each = 750 ppl). Within 50 miles you may have another 1000 people all in smaller villages than this one. For all these villages the closest alternative village of the same size or larger than this one might be 100 miles away. So this small village of 500 people supports a market of the 500 people that live there plus 1750+ people for which this is the largest village in the area. They all come here to get supplies and then head back home. It's secluded in the sense that it is mostly known only to the people in the surrounding area but still has lots of people coming and going.

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Most of the other answers mention a mountain pass, but this is not necessarily the only possibility:

  • A ford. Look at the number of times -ford is in place names. If the ford is easy to cross, then much of the traffic would pass through. Sometimes the ford may not be easily passible -- several days after a heavy rain, spring runoff if it's a snowy climate. This gives reason for people to stop some of hte time.

  • A ferry. See above.

  • A fuel stop for wood fired steamboats. Boat stops, loads 10 cords and moves on. See Twain's "Life on the Mississippi" Lots of plantations would do this, and while few were 300 people, some were close.

  • A persistent myth that the El Dorado was near by. This was the last place for outfitting. Since there were no gold trains coming out, it made for a small surge of propspectors each spring, and a smaller surge coming out each fall.

  • Last water on a desert route. Travelers would want to top up their water, and likely wait an evening and start in the pre-dawn dark and cool.

  • Meteorlogical conditions that foster extreme fogs. Village is on a hill above the fogs.

  • Village is a gateway that is open on a regular, but not long basis: E.g. it's open for two hours when the full moon is at zenith. The amount of opening and desireabiity of the other side determines the number of travellers.

  • The village has a reputation for have unsavory night creatures. (Vampires, werewolves, Igors...) People stop at the town before or after, but never in the town.

  • Village is not on the main path, but lies a mile off it -- like many small towns bypassed by today's internet. There is a river of traffic a mile away, but only a trickle comes through town.

  • The path beyond uses a causeway that is only crossable at low tide.

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The village could've indeed been secluded until a sudden and one-time event sparked a stream of traffic? Census, crusade or any other conflict, a disorganized retreat, an exodus. A rather unrelated but specific idea: You could look into the Klondike Gold Rush, maybe there's some nuggets.

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  • $\begingroup$ A census! 2 or 3 bureaucrats, and violence is specifically excluded. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jan 3 '18 at 23:47

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