The Vasa

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Stockholm loves a museum. Walking around the central suburbs of the city, it seems like you can’t go more than a block without passing a stately building housing a museet of some kind. There is even a free tourist map detailing Stockholm’s museums that lists no less than 84 options such as the Postal Museum, the Toy Museum, Museum of Spirits, The Tobacco and Match Museum and something called Tom Tits Experiment (I kid you not!).

While we both appreciate a good museum we are not huge museum-goers, and after visiting a number of them in Helsinki, Tallinn and Oslo we had little desire at the end of this part of our journey to see another one. Just like temple fatigue can set in while travelling around Asia, museum mortis is certainly a risk in Europe (and don’t get me started about churches). However several people recommended the Vasa Museum as a Stockholm highlight and it sounded very interesting, so we checked it out today. I can testify that it’s well worth the hype, and now ranks as one of the best museum experiences I’ve ever had.

The dry facts of the Vasa are impressive enough, but when you first walk into the cavernous museum space and see the ship towering above you it’s quite breathtaking. Commissioned in 1625 as one of four new warships for the Swedish fleet – then at war with Poland and others – it was launched in 1628. But its maiden voyage lasted for just 20 minutes before the ship tipped over in a breeze and started taking water through its gun ports, which caused it to sink into the mud of Stockholm’s harbour. There it lay for 333 years until it was finally raised again and revealed to be in a remarkable state of preservation.

The Vasa Museum was purpose-built on the garden island of Djurgarden just a short stroll from the city centre, and its modern and sometimes interactive displays give a real sense of what life must have been like on board. We arrived just in time for one of the three daily English-language guided tours which in a rather entertaining way told the story of the ship, and also placed it in its historical context. We thought we would only be there for a fairly short time, but before we knew it three hours had passed and it was time to leave.

Taking 400 people about 2.5 years to build, the Vasa is 69 metres long and bloody tall when viewed from the keel – it’s simply enormous to behold. The level of detail is astonishing, even more so as it was built in a rush to have it added to the Swedish fleet as soon as possible so it could fight in the war against Poland. As someone with a passing interest in technology, the scale of this ship is magnificent when you consider it was designed and built almost four centuries ago. It’s state of preservation is phenomenal which allows a real appreciation of the craftsmanship involved. The Vasa’s sinking was due to a design flaw in that it was too narrow for its height, which meant the centre of gravity was too high for good stability. Its sister ship, Apple, was very similar but just one metre wider which made all the difference; it was in service for more than 30 years and became the most successful warship in the Swedish Navy of the time.

From a sea of museum choices, giving the Vasa a shot was one of the best things we could have done on our last full day in Stockholm. We’re ready to move on in our journey now, and Malaysia beckons loudly, but this was a highlight well worth remembering.

Categories: Scandinavia, Stockholm, Sweden, travel | Leave a comment

Millennium city

I just got off the phone to my Mum and Dad and Mum said she was disappointed that we haven’t posted for a while so I have stopped slothing around watching very bad music videos on MTV to make a post.

We had a great last night in Oslo. After finishing our bottle of Shiraz we were keen for some company so we strolled across the park from where we were staying to the Park Theatre Bar. It was a funky little establishment and we were lucky to score a table. Even luckier as it turned out that we had two spare seats opposite us which ended up a real bonus as throughout the night we met a series of really interesting peeps who asked if they could sit with us. The first two were a Norwegian guy and German girl who had met in Thailand on a holiday and were meeting up again for the first time in Oslo. We really hit it off. They invited us to join them at a house party they were going to and we felt quite disappointed that we had to say no, ’cause we thought it would be prudent not to get involved in late night drinking when we had to leave for Sweden the next day. There was a brief interlude of three other Norwegian guys but as they were one seat down, they eventually moved on. The end of our night was then spent with an Aussie expat who has been living and working in Norway for ten years and his German colleague. They were geologists from Statoil and we thoroughly enjoyed their entertaining and intelligent conversation.

We arrived in Stockholm via train from Oslo and stayed at the Sheraton for the night as it was right near the station and we weren’t in the mood for traipsing around town like pack horses to find a bed to crash in. I think old Hermes might have had a hand in that decision, as it just so happened that the Sheraton is where Harriet Vanger stayed when she came to Stockholm. For those not familiar with Harriet, she is a character in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

It also just so happens that the Sheraton has a booklet that provides a walking guide (mostly through Sodermalm) of all the key places that are mentioned in the books. Damien and I are fans of Larsson and so this appealed immensely. Damien has just finished reading, ‘Stieg and Me’ by Eva Gabrielsson, that my parents gave us for Christmas. I am in the final stages of the last book in the trilogy. I think it is a testament to how great his books are that I have had to share this third one with both my Mum and Damien as we all have wanted to read it at the same time! I handed it over to Mum when she went on a cruise around NZ but retrieved it so I could finish it in Scandanavia. She has since got her hands on another copy so she can finish it, but now I am having to share it with Damien as he has started reading it again when I have put it down! Anyway, I will finish it today for sure 🙂

We started our walking trip with a tasty feed of sushi at Jappi Sushi & Wok. I was very pleased with this outcome as I have been eyeing off Sushi joints in Norway but they were too expensive there, so it was great to indulge in Sweden! Jappi is on Drottingatan which is the Pitt Street mall of Stockholm…though much prettier in my opinion. We then walked through the Old Town, Gamla Stan which I am looking forward to exploring in greater detail today.

The Millenium walk kicked off in Slussen and then we strolled past the building where Milton Security was located in the book. Next stop was Lisbeth Salander’s very expensive apartment on Fiskargatan 9. Apparently the apartment is 350 square meters and has 21 rooms! I took a picture of ‘her’ view of Stockholm from the front of the apartments. We went past a number of other locations from the books and finished up outside Bellmansgatan 1 which is the home address of Mikael Blomvist in the book. It was late afternoon then so my picture is not the best, but at least you can get a feel for what it looks like. We completed our Millenium tour with a coffee at Kaffebar on Hornsgatan, which is frequented by Blomvist and Berger in the books. Apparently this was in reality Stieg Larsson’s favourite coffee shop.

We did consider Stieg-ing it right up and going out to see the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that night but it was on really late and we didn’t relish a 15-20 min walk home after midnight in -4 degrees so we took the soft option and stayed indoors!

Damien is currently reading the last book as I type and he just had to stop me to read a paragraph that details where Blomvist drove through a section of Soder and parked his car outside the Bishop Arms near Bellmansgatan 1…he was stoked as he could picture it! Yes indeed!

Categories: food, Norway, Oslo, Scandinavia, Sodermalm, Stieg Larsson, Stockholm, Sweden, travel | Tags: | 6 Comments

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