I couldn’t leave Stockholm without posting about Vasa. Vasa is an old Swedish warship and the star of the Vasa Museet here in Stockholm. A friend of mine in Malmö told me again and again that I had to go to Vasa, so I promised I would. His other main piece of life advice was to watch Sideways, the film with Paul Giamatti, so I watched it the same day. I’m glad I did both!
Vasa was built in 1628, and Vasa sank in 1628. Sadly at the time, but happily for the museum, Vasa set sail in 1628 for a mere 20 minutes before promptly sinking just off the harbor (in view of all the townspeople that had waved goodbye to the ship). Sitting in the water for 333 years before it was lifted in 1961, Vasa was nearly perfectly preserved. Though the colors had worn off, the wood was still strong and the ship had never seen the horrors of war.
A beautiful and cannon-filled ship, Vasa was supposed to strike fear into the hearts of Sweden’s enemies. It is covered with religious and political imagery, including Roman Emperors to suggest that the Swedish king was somehow related. The king at the time, Gustavus Adolphus, commissioned Vasa and was partially responsible for its demise, as he insisted on adding a second gun deck (with very heavy cannons!) late in the ship’s construction.
As I said in a recent post, I think that museums that have one main focus (something more specific than a region or a time period) are the best, and Vasa Museet is no exception. It was great to hear all the little details about the ship – how it was built, who worked on it, the errors leading to its instability, the crew that sailed with it that day, the dramatic inquest afterwards, and more. I feel like I retained much more from that museum than I did from the Medieval Museum, for example, or the currency museum. Those topics are just too big and broad to delve into over the course of an afternoon.
Another cool part of the museum was the complete replica of the upper gun deck. Even though people can’t go into the real deal anymore, it was great to see the deck as it used to be and walk by some cannons.
I’m glad I saw the Vasa Museet and the movie Sideways – I do recommend both. There’s still so much more for me to write about Sweden. There are more museums, many more cinnamon buns, more trips to IKEA (via the very-Swedish free IKEA bus), and, of course, more project meetings (including a conference!). But these memories, notes, photos, and recordings will have to wait, as I think about packing and online check-in and various other flight preparations.
Tomorrow will be a full day of travel, and I won’t arrive in Doha until early Friday morning. So, wish me luck! And a big thanks to Sweden for being the nicest, most welcoming first Watson country I could ever imagine. I already know I have to come back.