Aquavit, Vaxholm and the Vasa

I got out into Stockholm for some more sightseeing. I went down to one of the two main boat embarkation points and caught a boat for an island called Vaxholm. This is out in the archipelago of Stockholm, where there are many islands. As soon as the boat left the dock, it started pouring down rain. So much for those photography plans! My shoes were soaking within minutes and the equipment would have been too if I had tried to do much with it. Of course, the rain covers were back at the hotel. It was cold rain too, the first on my journey so far.

Fortunately, by the time we reached Vaxholm, a lot of the rain had stopped. I ducked into a shop for a little while to see if they had a jacket I could afford or wanted to buy (no on both counts), and by the time I’d looked around, the rain was mostly gone. I wandered around the pretty little island town, had some lunch, and after a couple of hours I caught a boat back to Stockholm – the scenes on the way back were really lovely.

From there, I went to the Vasa museum. It is a museum built as a dry-dock specially made for preserving a ship from the 1600s. Those of you who’ve been to Stockholm probably know about it, because it’s quite famous. This was the largest warship built by Sweden to date, at that time, with two decks of cannons. It was very high, and very narrow, and the huge mass of cannon at the top caused it to sink less than a few kilometers from its launching point. For many years, they tried to salvage it, and in fact they were able to salvage the cannons even back then using a diving bell, but nothing else. Finally, after it had been mostly forgotten for 300 years, in the 1950s another man went looking for it. He found it, and asked the Swedish crown if they would help to salvage it with him. They worked together, and with the military, and many carpenters and shipwrights and preservationists they got this ship and all her artifacts up from the deep. After some years in another dry-dock, the Vasa was eventually brought here, to her new permanent home, and put on display. The entire ship has been completely saturated with polyurethane to replace the water lost in the wood. It took several years to accomplish. Some new wood and old shipwright methodology was required to make her whole again, but not that much, and they left the new stuff clean and polished so you could tell what was old and what was new. They also managed to get another three cannons back, and many articles of crew clothing, ship’s kitchen goods, and even food in bentwood boxes. Because the ship sank slowly, most of the crew were able to escape to safety. They estimate about 30 people died out of over 200 on board (the ship would have had over 400 if they had kept on to their next port). Many of those bodies were found during the salvage and were studied and cataloged. They have free tours in several languages, and lots of wonderful exhibits that recreate what it might have been like on ship (so you can go “onboard” without actually being on the ship). They have done some pigment research and found that the ship was gloriously painted, and they have a small replica of what that would have looked like. It’s a thoroughly educational experience. One of the best things about the museum is that the railings and walls are for the most part of concrete and wide enough to rest a camera upon. This meant that I could take good pictures of the ship – no one walking by would jar the concrete and I could lean on the wall to protect my camera. It’s very dark in there, and exposures were sometimes as long as 15-30 seconds.

After that, my three-day Stockholm pass was up (it finished at 5:00). I could not take the hop-on/hop-off boat back without a $12 fee, so I walked. And walked and walked. Then I got to the metro station and paid $4 for only two stops of transport! Because of the $75 card that included the metro, museums and boats, I’d had no idea how much the metro was. I shouldn’t be surprised, I know, but I was anyway. I treated myself to a good supper and a shot of freezing cold Aquavit. It’s a lot like vodka. Since it’s the national drink, I thought I’d try it.

However, I have over-done. I walked too far, did not drink enough, and the next morning I found myself sick. Again. It feels like the same thing I had in Zanzibar. I don’t want to eat or drink and I was up all night in the bathroom. This morning, instead of getting a train to Oslo, I went to the Sjukhus (hospital). Then I wondered why they had a hospital if they were only going to tell you that you appear healthy by all tests and should just “ride it out” even if it’s about seven days. Gees. These people are singularly unsympathetic. It is unusual that you have to prove to a doctor that you are sick. The doctor did decide to run some tests to see if I have a parasite or an intestinal bacteria, but those will remain unknown for a week. I’ll have to call from Amsterdam, but that’s okay. I refused to leave the hospital without anti-nausea meds. I got back to the hotel, took the meds, and am now going to rest. All the remaining trains were sold out. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

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3 Responses to Aquavit, Vaxholm and the Vasa

  1. Meggi Raeder says:

    I hope you will recover speedily!!
    Meggi

  2. Joe H. says:

    Trying to convince the doctor you’re sick is bad … Because in my case I think they were trying to get rid of me,and told me to do things that made everything worse.

    At least you’ll be on to another place that might believe you for diagnosis #3.

  3. d says:

    After this trip, I think you should find work in travel and photography.
    Maybe you could start a private tour company with all that you have learned
    and experienced!

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