Scandinavia 2019 Travel Blog – June 29
By Kim Andersen
The VASA Ship Museum is Sweden’s #1 tourist attraction. The ship in indeed a marvel: full size, 98% original. With two canon decks for 72 canons it would have been the most fearsome weapon on the planet in 1628 when it on the 10th of August left its Old Town Stockholm dock for its first sail downstream towards the Baltic. It was to join the war theater by Poland fulfilling the king of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus’ ambitions of world dominance. Except, fortunately for the Poles and for the state account balances of contemporary Sweden, it went down with mice and men and their families on board celebrating the impending reich, as a gentle breeze on the hot summer day caught the sails and exposed its bad design. Too narrow, too tall, too many canons. It leaned 7%, enough to let the water enter through the open canon ports not yet closed following the imperial 64 canon-salute to the hurras of everybody on shore (a tight budget had left them 8 canons short).
Not good. Bad situation. Who’s to blame? A lengthy trial ensued but the Dutch master builders were the worlds best but perhaps not familiar with a two gun deck design which Gustavus Adolphus had insisted upon late in the design process. The craftsmen building the warship couldn’t be had better, so, the outcome was that no one was to blame. It sat at the bottom of the freshwater stream for 333 years before it was rediscovered and salvaged to the credit of the Swedes. Splendid accompanying exhibitions explores all aspects of life in the 1600s. The students loved it.
The afternoon we visited Historiska Museet, the Historical Museum, whose gold room in the vaults displays a stunning collection of gold and silver treasures since before, during and after the Viking Age discovered in the ground throughout Sweden. Apart from an excellent section on the Middle Ages the museum sports hands-on learning from games to rope pulling and general Viking living.