Sunday, May 07, 2006

Friday 5/5: Stockholm

The main focus of Friday was the Vasamuseet. The Vasa was a warship built by the Swedes under the orders of King Gustavus Adolphus - the ship was to be the largest warship in the world, and a symbol of the might of the Swedish throne. Unfortunately for the King, the 64 cannon spread over two gun decks, combined with the sheer size of the ship, meant that the Vasa was practically unsailable. A few minutes into her maiden voyage, she tipped, filled with water and sank to the bottom of Stockholm Harbour. In the 1950s, the wreck of the Vasa was located and after five years of preparation, the ship was raised in 1961 and towed into dry dock where the next thirty years were spent salvaging, cataloguing and preserving the ship and everything inside it.

The preserved Vasa*

To prove to the world how powerful and prestigious his kingdom was, Gustavus (who must have been a slightly insecure king) had the boat adorned with dozens of statues and other decoration.

After analysing thirty of these statues, the archaeologists realised that the Vasa had been a ridiculously garish ship.

The museum was brilliantly stocked, with the ship (obviously) as well as a range of displays on the artefacts found on board, the skeletons (and reconstructed lives) of the twenty or so bodies found in the wreck and a computer game where you could design your own version of the Vasa. I put even more guns on mine than Gustavus, so it sank even more efficiently.

We continued on our walking tour, firstly through Djurgarden (the park containing the Vasamuseet) and then back across the bridge and through a few of the trendier streets of the city. By about 4:30pm we were faced with a dilemma: we'd located a good dinner spot, but it was still really early and we were both pretty exhausted. The solution: gorge ourselved on 'dinner' at 5pm and hope that it sustained us until the next morning. Thankfully, the dinner place in question was a fantastic all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet with 6 warm meals, a bewildering array of salads, fruit, delicious cheeses, coffee, rice-pudding, apple pie and four different flavours of ice-cream. In our bloated post-dinner states, we caught the tube back to the hostel and passed out.

*Because the Vasa has to be kept at strict levels of light and moisture, the museum wasn't well suited to our amateur photography skills, so I've stolen this one image from somebody else.


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