Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Scandinavia 2017 - Durgarden and the Vasa Museum


Chicago has it's lakefront, New York has it's Central Park, Stockholm has Durgarden, a sometimes serene, sometime frenetic urban oasis with something to entertain almost anyone. As the light rain continued we explored the lush parkland. We climbed a small hill and looked out over an old cemetery, we walked past the, we were informed later by a crew member on the waterbus, extremely expensive amusement park. It's concessions were not yet open for the season but from the water we saw several of it's rides operating later in the day. We passed the ABBA Museum, trying to suppress our laughter as we didn't want to insult the locals and headed to the Vasa Museum.

The Vasa Museum

In 1628, for reasons that have never been completely determined, a grand new warship, which the King of Sweden had taken great pride in, was launched, and after traveling only 1400 yards, promptly capsized and sank to the bottom of the waters which surround Stockholm. It took at least 30 people down with it. Due to the coldness of the water and the low saline content, which kept water dwelling worms at bay, the ship remained largely intact. It sat in the water for over 300 years before being raised and preserved.

A museum was constructed to house the ship and tell, not only it's story but some of the maritime history of Sweden at the time of the ship's construction. I had looked forward to visiting it since we had first decided to embark on this trip. I was not disappointed. The massive vessel sits in the middle of the building designed for it. Displays about it's history surround it on several floors allowing you to view the ship from different levels and vantage points. Although you cannot enter the interior of the ship there is a section where portions of it are recreated so you can get the feeling of what sailing in that era was like. It was a hard life full of the constant danger of not only battles at sea but also disease and sometimes horrific injuries (think peg leg pirates). Some of the artifacts retrieved are remarkable. Clothing, personal effects and kitchenware, even the tattered remains of a full sail, described as having the consistency of a spiderweb when discovered in a heap in one of the holds, is displayed under a protective glass cover. One can imagine it filling with wind, pulling the ship through the water. The ship itself is described as one of largest museum artifacts in the world. A small scale model shows how it appeared when it first launched, it's intricate carvings brightly painted. Some of the colors were created by crushing semi precious stones such as azurite and malachite.

The ship requires ongoing conservation. Conservators can be viewed behind a glass screen as they measure and analyze pieces of wood which lie in piles in the lab. Other technicians working on computers can be seen inside the hold through the open cannon ports. There was a man on a hydraulic lift working on the exterior of the ship. It is a fascinating, exciting and very special museum. It is always a joy when something eagerly anticipated not only lives up to your expectations but exceeds them.

The rain had dissipated as we left the museum. We made our way through the verdant park to catch the waterbus enroute to the next part of our adventure.

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