The Vasa Museum on Djurgården

Djurgården is an island to the east of Gamla Stan, and it is home to a host of museums, including the Nordic Museum, the Viking Museum, the Spirits Museum and, of course, the ABBA museum. While we walked by these venues, our destination was the Vasa Museum, the most visited maritime museum in the world, and the the most visited museum in all of Scandinavia.


Djurgarden FerryABBA MuseumTo get to Djurgården, we took a ferry from the mainland (photo to the left). The island is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and it is host to numerous museums. Upon exiting the ship and heading toward the main street, the first museum we came across is probably the most famous of the lot, the ABBA museum, shown in the photo to the right. After Tracy and Morag posed for a photo in the cutouts of ABBA, we headed in the direction of the Vasa Museum, passing both the Museum of Spirits and the Viking Museum on the way. As difficult as it was to pass up a shrine devoted to alcohol consumption and a museum devoted to men who wore horns on their helmets, we Museum of Spiritspressed on, cognizant Viking Museumof our limited time and determined to make the most of our visit to the maritime museum. The Museum of Spirits is shown in the photo to the left, while the exterior of the Viking museum is shown in the photo to the right.








The Vasa Museum:
Vasa Sinking
Just Sit right back and you'll hear the tale
the tale of a fateful trip
That started from this Baltic port
aboard this unstable ship.....



When one thinks of maritime museums, we think of floating museums such the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) in Boston or the Flor de la Mar in Melaka, Malaysia, historic ships that have been retired after an illustrious career. This was not the case with the Vasa, a Swedish warship which sailed approximately 1300 meters on its maiden voyage before sinking in Stockholm harbor on August 10, 1628.

The Sinking of the Vasa:
Vasa at Tre KronorThe Vasa was built to be the mightiest warship in the Baltic. It featured two decks of cannons, at the insistence of King Gustav Adolf, and the extra weight high up in the sterncastle made it very unstable, something that was confirmed in dockside trials before the ship's inaugural voyage. The ship took on its cannons at a mooring just below the Tre Kronor Castle. (illustration to the left) As it passed the castle under a light breeze, the cannon ports were opened to fire a salute, and they remained open as the ship passed into more open water and stiffer breezes. Despite hoisting only 4 of its 10 sails, the wind proved too much, as the Vasa initially listed to port and then righted itself, only to be buffeted to port again. This time the opened gun ports were submerged and water began to pour into the ship. The Vasa sank quickly, just 1300 meters from where it was launched. It is estimated that 30 people lost their lives, a relatively light mortality rate, as the boat was close to shore and survivors could be quickly rescued. The Vasa slipped beneath the water and remained there for 332 years.

The Vasa Museum
:
Raising VasaThe story of the Vasa Museum really began in 1956 when Anders Franzen and Per Edvin Falting located the wreckage of the Vasa. Five years later the ship was retrieved from the water to great international fanfare, and the painstaking work of preserving the ship began, an effort  that would take over seventeen years. In 1981 a competition for the design of museum to house the ship was undertaken, and the commission went to Swedish architects Goren Mannson and Marianne Dahlback. The Vasa was transferred from its previous location in the Vasa shipyard to the museum, which was inaugurated by King Karl Gustav XVI on June 15, 1990. The museum is much more than simply the tale of a fated ship and a king's hubris. It is a comprehensive look at the world that gave to birth the Vasa. Naturally, all aspects of the ship's life are presented--its' creation, demise, and restoration. But the permanent exhibits go beyond this tale to paint a picture of the political and social situation of Sweden and its role in 17th century Europe, with a focus on the daily life of commoners and, in particular, women. All told, the museum paints a comprehensive portrait of Sweden at during this time period.
The contents of the Vasa museum may be seen by taking the virtual tour below.

Virtual Tour of the Vasa Museum

Be sure to click the audio icon on the upper right. To view a full screen version, click here

Nordic MuseumDjurgarden HarborFollowing our trip to the Vasa Museum, we passed the Nordic Museum (photo to the left) on our way to lunch overlooking the river that separates Djurgården from the mainland. While at lunch Tracy left two nearby tables of Indonesian women gobsmacked by conversing with them in Bahasa, their native tongue. A view of our vantage point on the river is shown in the photo to the right. The Nordic Museum is visible behind the restaurant. Our thanks to guide and superhost Morag for taking us on this excursion.


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