Stockholm Part 2: The Vasa and Beyond

And we are off with the second day in Stockholm waking up early to take one of the ferries to the museum island (Durjgarden). We decided to only take a One-Way ticket and walk back.

The ride takes about 15 minutes of pure pleasure while we navigated the channels on this beautiful day.

Our first museum stop was the ABBA museum.  The Swedish pop group, formed in Stockholm in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Did you know that the group’s name derives from the first letter in each of the first names of its members? saay whaaaat??

The first exhibit is a guitar collection from the best guitarists in history, they have one from Slash, Santana, Hendrix, Van Halen, etc…

This is their original studio where they recorded most of their records.

The museum is full of interactive exhibits, in this one, Sarah danced and sang with the ABBA hologram. Pretty funny to watch.

ABBA are estimated to have sold 380 to over 500 million records, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They are also the best-selling band from continental Europe and from outside the English-speaking world.

The next museum we visited was the Vasa museum.  The museum displays the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, the 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628.

The ship was built on the orders of the King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus as part of the military expansion he initiated in a war with Poland-Lithuania (1621–1629). It was constructed at the navy yard in Stockholm under a contract with private entrepreneurs in 1626–1627 and armed primarily with bronze cannon cast in Stockholm specifically for the ship.

Richly decorated as a symbol of the king’s ambitions for Sweden and himself, upon completion she was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world.

However, Vasa was dangerously unstable and top-heavy with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Despite this lack of stability she was ordered to sea and foundered only a few minutes after encountering a wind stronger than a breeze.

The Vasa is roughly sixty-nine meters long and is ornately detailed with hundreds of wooden carved sculptures, making it a notably enormous artistic treasure.

During the 1961 recovery, thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least 15 people were found in and around the Vasa’s hull by marine archaeologists. Among the many items found were clothing, weapons, cannons, tools, coins, cutlery, food, drink and six of the ten sails.  On the photo below, the number 5 item is the first piece of wood from the Vasa that was taken to validate that the ship has been found.

Divers spent two years digging six tunnels under the ship for steel cable slings, which were taken to a pair of lifting pontoons at the surface. The work under the ship was extremely dangerous, requiring the divers to cut tunnels through the clay with high-pressure water jets and suck up the resulting slurry with a dredge, all while working in total darkness with hundreds of tons of mud-filled ship overhead. Despite the dangerous conditions, more than 1,300 dives were made in the salvage operation without any serious accidents.

Each time the pontoons were pumped full, the cables tightened and the pontoons were pumped out, the ship was brought a metre closer to the surface. In a series of 18 lifts in August and September 1959, the ship was moved from depth of 32 metres (105 ft) to 16 metres (52 ft) in the more sheltered area of Kastellholmsviken, where divers could work more safely to prepare for the final lift.

This is the smallest of the sails on display. The sails were made mostly of hemp and partly of flax. At the gift shop, I actually bought a piece of paper that was made from another one of these sails that was in such bad condition that could not be displayed. Now they sell these as souvenirs to help pay for the restoration!

Becasue they don’t let you walk inside the ship (for good reason), they have a reconstructed identical cannon deck where you can see how it looked. I taught Sarah the art of maritime warfare. This is us practicing our cannon skills….

The museum has other amazing exhibits, from weapons, maritime war strategy, history of shipbuilding and many others. I could have spent here 3 days but Sarah was eager to explore the “cute” city.

Guns were expensive and had a much longer lifespan than any warship. Guns with a lifetime of over a century were not unheard of, while most warships would be used for only 15 to 20 years. In Sweden and many other European countries, a ship would normally not ‘own’ its guns, but would be issued armament from the armory for every campaign season.

Good to know….

The lab where they restore and research the ship is open for everyone to see. I would have loved to be able to talk to one of the scientist, but they were not working at that time.

They have an amazing model of the shipyard of that time in Sweden. They show different stages of construction.

30 people perished with the ship, according to reports. This guy was one of those unlucky ones.  At least he died smiling.

After that amazing visit to one of the best museums I have ever visited in my life, it was time to walk back to the city.

We walked along the Stockholm marina (Strandvagen) full of fancy old sailboats.  Completed just in time for the Stockholm World’s Fair 1897, it quickly became known as one of the most prestigious addresses in town.

All waterfront buildings have fancy restaurants as well where a dress code is enforced, so we were not going to be able to eat there due to our shleps  (not that we could afford it anyways).

We kept walking where we found the Östermalms Saluhall, which is a gourmet indoor farmers market. Everything was so fresh and looked delicious!

We found a cute place to eat something. We shared some delicious tuna and yummy bread which made Sarah happy.

So fresh and delicious, Also very expensive.

Next stop was the National Library.

The architecture was beautiful and everybody was so quiet and respectful, our breathing was the loudest noise…

The city is sometimes referred to as ‘Venice of the North’, thanks to its beautiful buildings and exquisite architecture, abundant open water and numerous parks.  The total absence of heavy industry makes Stockholm one of the world’s cleanest metropolises.

Of course, we had to visit (and shop) at an H&M because it is originally from Sweden. Did you know H&M stands for Hennes & Mauritz?

We tried some Swedish candy, it was pretty bad. Sweden needs better candy.  And Swedish fish were no where to be found, it must be an American thing?

We continued our walk along Drottninggatan, a major pedestrian street full of designer stores and cute restaurants.

We sat down at a Tapas bar to enjoy some patatas bravas, garlic mushrooms and steak skewers.

It is the first trip we used a Lonely Planet city guide and we loved it (instead of a country guide). A small book with all the information you need. Just don’t trust the restaurant selection.

More walking.

Swedes have the longest life expectancy in Europe. Also, they are the most beautiful people we have seen… and we have been to many places around the world.

There are 57 bridges connecting all the islands in Stockholm.

We finally went back to the hotel to rest, but don’t be fooled, at this time of the year it does not get dark until around 11 pm!! (During the second half of June it barely ever gets dark in Stockholm during some weeks due to the midnight sun.)

Bonus photo of the day: Fashion in Sweden is very important. Every single person here dresses like if they are part of a Hugo Boss catalog. You will not see any local with sweatpants or shorts, forget about t-shirts.

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