August 25, 2016
There really is nothing quite like spending an afternoon on a really beautiful island with a really big ship! I can say this from experience because this is how I spent the latter half of my first full day in Stockholm, on the island of Djurgården viewing the Vasa.
As I explained in my previous post, earlier that morning, I had made my way to the water on Gamla Stan (Stockholm’s Old Town) and hopped a water tour around the harbor. Djurgården was my final destination that day, but I was awestruck by the beauty of the city from the water getting there!
As you approach the island, playful Gröna Lund (translation: ‘Green Grove’) greets you on Djurgården’s seaward side. Besides being Sweden’s oldest amusement park, which opened in 1883, the island is home to more than meets the eye. What it lacks in size, it is only about 3.5 km long, it generously makes up for in beauty and appeal. There are cafes, museums, a zoo and the free outdoor theater Parkteatern Galarparken (Park Theater), which has offered hundreds of theatre performances, concerts and dance shows since the 1940s. Plus, so much more!
Djurgården, which translates to ‘animal garden’, is a favorite amongst Stockholmare (Stockholmers) and turister (tourists) alike, and not just for the aforementioned attractions. It has been royal land since the fifteenth century, and its magnificent green spaces, paths, lakes and gardens reflect this time of yore. In fact, Stockholm itself only became the official capital of the Swedish empire in 1634.
On the green oasis of Djurgården you can visit Swedish Royal Palaces, gaze at the unique Oljekvarnen (oil mill), one of only five mills of its kind still in existence, or rest in the shadow of Prince Eugen’s oak tree. Considered to be Stockholm’s largest oak, it is located on Prince Eugen’s gorgeous estate, Waldermarsudde, which is now a popular museum. You can have a picnic under a flowering apple tree in the beautiful gardens at Rosendals Trädgård as well, or take a lovely stroll along Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel’s Kärleksstig (Path of Love), a wedding gift to the couple in 2010 by The World Wildlife Foundation. There is also Skansen, Stockholm’s zoo and the world’s first open-air museum, which was founded in 1891.
I would have loved to stay on Djurgårdenall day, but my time was short and I had a dinner reservation I simply could not miss. So I chose to visit two of the more popular attractions: the Vasamuseet and ABBA: The Museum. I thought this was a superb idea since I could quench my thirst for intriguing Stockholm history, as well as, awesome Swedish pop music!
First up was the Vasamuseet, a remarkable museum that is home to a 17th century Swedish warship, which sank seven minutes into its maiden voyage in 1628. It lay at the bottom of Stockholms ström (Stockholm stream) for 333 years until its recovery in 1961.
Walking into this building, which was built around the ship, and witnessing the sheer size of its magnificence was truly unbelievable. At the time of her launch, Vasa was 69 meters long and more than 50 meters tall from the keel to the top of the main mast. It weighed over 1200 tons, was outfitted with ten sails, 64 cannons, 120 tons of ballast and hundreds of ornate sculptures and adornments. It is truly a sight.
As the story goes, in the mid-17th century Gustav II Adolf (“The Lion of the North”) is succeeding in building Sweden into one of the most feared powers in Europe. In 1625, he contracts Dutch master shipwright Henrik Hybertsson and business partner, Arendt de Groote to build four new ships. One of them is to be the most powerful warship in the Baltic, if not the world. However, this Swedish tale is not one with a storybook ending.
During construction, supervising captain, Söfring Hansson, raises concerns about the ship. However, he is ordered to continue with the launch. Months later, as thousands of Stockholm citizens and several foreign ambassadors watch, the Vasa sails thirteen hundred meters into her maiden voyage, then leans and sinks into the water. It is there she settles into her murky grave.
The Royal Council dreadfully writes to the king, an inquest into the tragedy is launched, and each party holds strong to his conviction of truth. In the end, designer Hybertsson is ultimately blamed, a perfect scapegoat considering he was long dead, having died of an illness during construction of the Vasa.
There is far more to hear of this story, and my explanation in no way does it justice. Head over to the Vasamuseet website here, which is organized wonderfully, and learn much more about this astounding moment in history!
Join me next week as I sing along to “Dancing Queen” and conclude my afternoon at The ABBA Museum, as well as, enjoy a phenomenal dinner seaside and airborne! The view will be magnificent (see below), so don’t miss it!