On the way back through from Finland, I realised I had about 5 hours to kill in Stockholm, perfect to cram in another of the 100+ museums! Unfortunately my 5 hours were from 6:30am, and no museum was open before 10am, so it turned out I really had to whip through my chosen museum quickly to make by 11:15 train.
The Vasa Museum is one of the top rated museums in Stockholm and I absolutely understood why. The Vasa was a ship that was constructed on the King’s orders, meant to be a thing of beauty, a bastion of intimidation and ultimate show of power. It certainly achieved that purpose, but form won out over function and it sunk almost as soon as it set off on its maiden voyage in 1628. While the Swedes learned their lesson about letting the artists design the ship instead of the engineers, the ship itself was missing until the 1950s, despite being so close to the harbour when it sunk.
Once it was located, it was discovered that it was completely intact (something about the water in the Baltics preserving the ship as opposed to eroding it). After some serious planning, a very careful removal effort was initiated to float the ship to the surface in one piece. Afterwards, scientists painstakingly treated the wood with chemicals then let it dry, over and over for 9 years to preserve it, and built the Vasa museum around it to display the ship. Considering they didn’t have the kind of computer technology available that we do today, they also did an amazing job of finding traces of paint and materials in all of the artistic features to create replicas in near original colours. Almost all of the objects on board were also preserved.
The Vasa is a magnificent ship, and the museum itself full of all kinds of extras including videos, displays of what Stockholm was like in the 1600s, replicas of the insides of ships at the time, and a lot of information on everything from how the Vasa was originally made, to the inquest after it sank to determine who was at fault.
I found it quite amusing that when the inquest begun to implicate senior management’s decision making as the key cause for the failure of the ship (I.e. the King, the Bishop and the head of the Navy) it was all mysteriously dropped and the paperwork disappeared almost as fast as the ship itself.
There was also a fascinating replica of the iron ‘tank’ that was used to try to recover all the valuables on board at the time, as well as a visible lab on the ground floor where work is ongoing to preserve the ship/its items and historians are continually piecing the story together. It was certainly worth every cent and I really wished I had more time there!