Day 2 started a little later because the museums don’t open until 10am. We had a relaxing breakfast and headed out to pick up another local guide and arrived at the Vasa Museum.
The Vasa Museum provides a comprehensive history about the Vasa warship from the 17th Century. The ship was launched in 1627. It is 69 metres long and stands over 50 metres tall, weighing over 1200 tonnes. In 1628, the Admiral ordered the ship to sail ahead, despite warnings from the captain supervising the construction. Little did he know that it would be its first and last voyage. It was also the shortest voyage in history – sailing no more than 1300 metres – it sank to the seabed within minutes, 32 metres below. Years later, divers found the wreck in astonishing condition, with decks intact and the foremast still standing.
On 24 April 1961, the Vasa is salvaged and lifted after 333 years in the deep. Teams of conservators, carpenters and other technicians work together to preserve the ship. It is a tremendous challenge to reconstruct and preserve the ship. When the waterlogged wood dries out, and the moisture in it evaporates, it shrinks and cracks. Polyethylene glycol, PEG is needed to be used to replace the water. It would still take many years for the wood to dry in this way to avoid cracking and for the ship to stablise completely. The Vasa Museum was finally built in 1990 by Swedish architects. Astonishingly, over 98% of the original structure had survived and does not look like a wreck at all now. Since it was salvaged in 1961, the Vasa Museum has received well over 40 million visitors, making it one the top 10 world’s best museums to visit on TripAdvisor.
The museum that houses the ship and artifacts is dimly lit because the ship cannot be exposed to sunlight, making it an extremely popular spot for pickpockets to make their rounds. They would pay entrance fees to go inside to find unsuspecting tourists as targets. One member from our group got his wallet stolen while he was taking photos. It is best to keep all bags in the front at all times and to keep a hand on it. Several announcements were made to remind visitors to keep their valuables safe and be alert of pickpockets floating around.
The museum is very big too and has six floors. There is so much to see so you need a few hours to explore and look at everything. It is worthwhile to watch the short film that explains the history and process of salvaging and preserving the Vasa ship in the auditorium. They play it in both Swedish and English with subtitles. I wanted to spend it little more time in the gift shop but I didn’t really plan my time around very well. We only had 1.5 hours to walk around there.
After lunch, we arrived in Skansen – the world’s oldest and only open-air museum with wild animals. At Skansen, you can learn all about Sweden’s history and understand how the Swedes used to live, their customs and traditions, how they worked, various celebrations and everyday life. There are many fun and exciting activities held at Skansen, such as singing and dancing and concerts in the summer, and Christmas markets and concerts in the winter. There is a Children’s Zoo featuring domestic animals, farm animals, as well as wild and exotic animals.
We saw an early 20th Century school, Väla School (Väla skola). It is an example of how schools were built in the Swedish countryside. The building contains a schoolroom as well as housing for the teacher’s family. In 1842, the parliament passed a law requiring school attendance of all children in all parts of Sweden. No homeschooling is allowed either. However, teachers’ salaries were quite low. Teachers often housed beehives in their gardens and sold honey as an additional source of income. They would easily be earning more money from selling honey than from teaching. The garden provided the family with vegetables and it was also used as a educational tool for children to learn how to grow vegetables. Children were taught scripture, reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic. Bible knowledge was considered to be especially important.
I was very surprised to hear that teachers’ salaries were so low. Teaching is not a very popular profession in Sweden and there is very big shortage of teachers right now. Almost 50% of existing teachers are not professionally qualified as teachers either. But it is quite amazing that education – from kindergarten to university level – is completely free, though it comes at a cost of extremely high taxes.
Our group of 27 stopped outside the Väla School for quite a long time and even took a large group photos together when a ‘teacher’ walked by. A family with two kids came up as well and one of the principals in our group picked up the little boy and played with him. The parents were so sweet and friendly as well. The kids wanted to take photos with us as well and we gathered outside the school for a shot. It was so lovely to see parents spending time with their kids too. We also the cutest little baby girl holding her dad’s hand, chasing geese. She was pointing at the geese and laughing so innocently and joyfully. It was so sweet and cute!
We also saw a man and a woman chipping away at a long log, which would become a new blade for one of the windmills. We stopped and chatted with the pair for a little bit. They were extremely friendly and didn’t mind us taking their axe and having a go on the log!
We walked a bit farther in and arrived just in time to see a big peacock fanning out its feathers! It was so beautiful! It kept turning round and round, proudly showing everyone around how beautiful it was. It was the first time I had ever seen a peacock fan out its feathers all the way out like that! We also saw chickens, sheep, cows, reindeer and goats. Many families laid on the green grass for a picnic and it reminded me a little of Australia. I don’t think I have ever sat on the grass in Hong Kong.
Skansen also hosts one of Stockholm’s largest Midsummer celebrations. When we came across the maypole, we learned about the Midsummer Festival, the tradition of wreath-making and dancing around the maypole. An important tradition among the younger folks, especially for the single ones, is to pick seven different species of flowers and lay them under their pillows on 23 June, Midsummer Eve, so that the love of their life would appear to them in a dream, according to the legend.
There are so many buildings, cottages, farmsteads all around Skansen, and we only saw a few of them. I would love to visit this place again and spend more time exploring on my own. You could spend a whole day there! It really makes you feel like you have travelled back in time as you walk around Skansen, seeing people in period clothing! I was extremely sad to leave this place.
(See my Instagram for videos and more photos. Link in the navigation bar.)
Next on our itinerary was the Metro Experience. We got on at Gamla Stan station and only rode one stop to T-Centralen to Stockholm City. We admired the impressive artworks inside the stations. The Stockholm Metro is described as one gigantic art gallery, with more than 90 of the 110 stations featuring artworks created by 150 artists. Artworks range from sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations to inscriptions and reliefs from the 1950s to 2000s. Each station has different designs and art pieces. For the price of a metro ticket, you can see a wide range of impressive artworks by talented artists in Sweden! I would love to just spend one day riding the metro and making a stop at every station just to look at the art!
End of Part 3
Back to Sweden (Part 2)
Continue to Swedent (Part 4)