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The Great Vasa Ship went Down Like a Bowling Ball

Stockholm, Sweden

When we returned to Stockholm from our overnight train trip, we had to stay in a different hotel, because the first one was booked solid. This time we stayed at the Harbor, which was great, because the next things to see were there. We headed over to the left, crossed a bridge, then headed to the right to get to one of the neatest museums in the world, the Vasa ship museum. It was 333 years in the making. We thought we'd spend a few hours there, and take in other parts of the city, but that didn't happen. We got there when it opened. In fact, we were first in the waiting line of a pile of people at the door, and stayed until just before it closed. It was definately worth a whole day.
Here's the bizarre story. Sweden was at war with Poland in the 1620's, and the king of Sweden had commissioned the greatest warship in the world. This was not just any great warship. It was beautiful. It sat very tall in the water (do you see where this is going?), and was absolutely crammed with heavy cannons. To top it all off, the king wanted it to be a marvel of bright, decorative beauty, so it was encrusted with statues and covered with colorful paintings. It was more ornate than a carnival carousel, apparently.
They did one thing called the heel test, to see how seaworthy the ship was. For this test, a group of men would stand on the top deck and run from one side to the other to see that the ship would not tip over. For the Vasa, when they tried this, the ship leaned dangerously to one side, and they had to stop immediately. After that, they decided it was ready (see anything wrong with this plan?) and with great fanfare headed out of the harbor with it. What happened next was no surprise. One little gust of wind pushed the ship over a bit, and water began to fill the gun holes. Soon the entire ship sank to the bottom with its cannons, statues, artwork, and about 30 unfortunate souls. Some 333 years later, someone located the ship, and managed to bring it to the surface. It was the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world for a time, but it was glued back together. A special museum was built, and visitors get to see the real thing as well as the artifacts discovered within it and the skeletons of the people who went down with it. It is an incredible tribute to human ingenuity and insanity at the same time. We loved it!

permalink written by  Heather Bryce on November 19, 2007 from Stockholm, Sweden
from the travel blog: Sweden First Class
tagged VasaMuseum and Warship

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