Vasa and Skansen

For our second full day in Stockholm, I turned the itinerary planning over to my love and she came up with two things I wouldn’t have if left to my own devices.  At the end of the day, I was very grateful for her insistence on seeing the Vasa Museum and Skansen.

We started the day with a short streetcar ride to Djurgården to time our arrival for the opening of the Vasa Museum.  A few minutes after entering, I was so very glad this was included in our plans.  The museum houses Vasa, a Swedish warship built in the early 1600s.  Before getting into the fascinating story of the ship, here she is:

Warship VasaPretty cool eh?  Vasa was commissioned by Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus who was apparently an impatient and difficult man.  He spent a fortune on the ship and in his chain of command, he had no one who would give him bad news.  Although there were ample signs that the ship might be trouble, it got built with a significant design flaw – it lacked sufficient ballast.   Less than 2km into its maiden voyage in 1628, the ship sank in the harbour of Stockholm.  It was seen as an embarrassment at the time in Sweden, and aside from rescuing its valuable cannons, the ship sat on the bottom of the harbour…. until 1961!  Because of the water temperature and the lack of salt in the water, the ship was generally well preserved.

In the museum today, the ship sits in its entirety.  The parts that are not original or that haven’t yet been found are easily spotted as they’re in a lighter wood so your eye can pick up what is original easily.  It’s opulence and intricate woodwork are very impressive as you circle the vessel and see it from multiple angles:

VasaHere’s the very beautiful stern of the ship:

VasaThe Vasa Museum tells the full story of the ship, from its design and construction issues, through its salvaging operations, through to the ongoing efforts in repairs and classification of items that continue to be found.  Here’s a look at the museum from the highest vantage point at the rear of the ship:

VasaI really can’t recommend the museum enough.  It tells a great story and does so exceptionally well.  Even if you go just to walk around and gawk at the Vasa herself, it’s time well spent.

A very quick streetcar ride away was Skansen.  We spent the afternoon in this interpretive park showing the history and way of life in Sweden.   We had a beautiful afternoon to explore the park:

Inside SkansenBeing animal lovers, our first stop was to visit the zoo.   We got up close to some sleeping bacon:

Mmmm... Swedish baconFour black bears:

BearsAnd what I was most excited to see…. reindeer (I do admit to feeling some guilt of being excited to visit reindeer, then to proceed to eat reindeer for the first time minutes later):

ReindeerAnother neat feature of the park were exhibits showing the way of life of the Saami, the indigenous people of the very far Swedish north.  Here’s a Saami hut:

Saami hutAnd a quick visit inside:

Inside a Saami hutThe Vasa Museum and Skansen were both great ways to spend some time learning about two very different aspects of Sweden’s history.  The trip to and from Djurgården to visit these attractions was an added plus – it’s a beautiful part of Stockholm, and one we’d see from a different viewpoint on the water later in the same day.  More on that to come.

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