We stepped out of the Tourism Office near Stockholm Central with several brochures in hand. The gentleman across the counter insisted that we visit the Vasa Museum for the grand and gigantic Titanic like shipwreck. I was in two minds,very tempted to give all museums a miss and just sit around the water front or simply walk from bridge to bridge with the September air on my face. Well, on second thoughts we boarded a bus to Djurgarden since we did not want to return from Stockholm without the memory of something supposedly spectacular.
The gigantic ship at the entrance of the museum presented a story of tragedy and grand workmanship intended to be ahead of its times. Unfortunately, the designers grossly overlooked crucial aspects. “Vasa” was built over a period of nearly 3 years between 1625 and 1628 by Henrik Hybertsson and his brother under the patronage of King Gustav II Adolf. 17th century was a turn around time in sea warfare as sinking the enemy ship became passe and actually boarding the ship and capturing it or using cannons on it to fire across the line became the order of the day. The Warship “Vasa” was built for hand to hand combat as well as had a heavy cannon installed for sea warfare. It was designed such that more than 300 kg could be fired from one side making it the most talked about and fearsome war machine. This huge ship nearly 50m high and 70m long with a breadth of 12m sank within moments of setting sail on 10th of August 1628 for being top heavy with low ballast. The complete crew of 450 men including 300 soldiers perished along with the ship in Stockholm Harbour after sailing for barely 1300 metres.
After several attempts over 3 centuries “Vasa” was finally lifted from the sea bed 333 years later in 1961 and 30 years of refurbishing later it was placed in a museum bearing its name. Over the years, it has attracted several tourists some voluntary and some clueless ones like me but left everyone absolutely impressed with the displays. We walked around the ship observing keenly from all corners and strangely so the centuries old intricate sculptures on the body of the ship left me completely in awe of King Gustav II Adolf’s vision of being on the world map with warfare and workmanship. The views from the first floor give a peek into the deck of the ship.
The entire museum has very low lighting to keep with the theme of the museum and while you pass by each exhibit, you are bound to get goosebumps specially with the pictures that show some of the personal articles that were found on board. The miniature samples created to show the interiors appear very realistic. Somethings have to be seen from the heart and not get bothered with the low light or the camera that does not seem to capture what you actually see. Just before stepping out, I stopped in front of this painting with many unknown, unnamed faces who were lost in the tragedy !! As my eyes scanned through and my camera got into focus I heard a voice in my head “Why am I here ? Am I a soul from that picture or am I a soul who is out to experience this world in its myriad forms?” We had traversed nearly 4 centuries in 2 hours and as I came back to 21st century, modern Stockholm was awash in the afternoon sun a few steps ahead.
Vasa Museum is a must see in Stockholm and is open all days from 10am to 5pm. More information on guided tours, exhibitions etc in http://www.vasamuseet.se