One day in Stockholm we took the ferry to the island of Djurgården to visit the Vasa Museum, one of Stockholm's most popular attractions. 'Vasa' refers to the Swedish warship that sank just 1300m into its maiden voyage in 1628 and was recovered nearly 250 years later in 1961, having been preserved by icy waters that were low in salinity. Ordered by the King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, the ship was ostentatiously decorated and when completed was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. All of this just made its journey to the bottom of the sea a few minutes after setting sail even more embarrassing; the ship was dangerously unstable due to an imbalance of weight in the hull - that's basic! - and all it took was a breeze to topple it. It happened in view of a crowd of thousands. But the King was too impatient and his men were too timid to suggest postponing the voyage and so it ended in tragedy. About 30 people died. During an inquest all parties blamed each other and the formal answer given when the court asked why the ship sank was 'only God knows'. (God has thus far declined to get involved.)
So this is a little tour of what we saw on the way to the Vasa, beginning with the walk down to the ferry port.
The sign for the defibrillator elicited a smile: the word in Swedish reads as 'heartstarter'.
Djurgården is an island of fun, with a relatively small amusement park, Gröna Lund, of 30 rides.
It's my assertion that you'd have to be kind of mental to go on the Eclipse, a swing ride that stands at just under 122 metres tall (above, left, and below). Amongst other thrill-givers there's a tilting drop tower that sends you plummeting from 80 metres (above, right).
This is probably more my pace. It looks like a children's ride, and that would be about right.
Colourful shoes are a common sight around Stockholm. I picked up a rather neon shade of yellow trainers myself.
A streetcar station on the island.
I couldn't help but think how the breeze that was blowing these tulips over was enough to sink the Vasa.
A garden on the way into the Vasa.
I was intrigued by this blue slatted wall which just seemed so Stockholm.
It's not often you see a cannon getting a hole drilled into it! I'm guessing this is a replica of the bronze cannons that were found on the Vasa. Though it does look old, doesn't it? Maybe it's an original getting cleaned.
The Vasa Museum. And here is the absolutely massive vessel it houses; it takes seven stories to view the ship in its entirety:
It's so huge that you just can't capture all of it in one shot, and you have to see it in person to get a sense of the scale.
Detail from a scale model of the ship, painted in what are believed to be the original colours. As was the custom with warships at the time, Vasa was decorated with sculptures intended to glorify the authority, wisdom and martial prowess of the monarch and also to taunt and intimidate the enemy. Many of the figures are in Dutch grotesque style, depicting fantastic and frightening creatures, including mermaids, wild men, sea monsters and tritons. (I was relieved to find there was a rationale for the creepy beauty of the figures. They were meant to freak you out.)
During a twelve-year period more than one thousand pigment samples have been collected from the Vasa, with twenty kinds of paint being identified. The pigments are made primarily from plants and minerals, though synthetic paints such as lead-white and red lead have also been used.
The raising of the Vasa and all of the challenges that came with it make for a fascinating story; you can read more about it at the Vasa Museet site.