You know, intellectually, that the United States is a relatively young country, but you don’t realize quite how young until you visit one of the newer countries of Europe — Sweden — and realize the vast difference in age. The famously peace-loving modern Sweden is a sharp contrast to the land that produced Vikings a thousand years ago. Even more recently, Gustavus Adolphus, the “Lion of the North,” almost single-handedly preserved Protestantism with his brilliant generalship during the Thirty Years War.
By accident, we visited just a couple years after a new museum opened in Stockholm, the Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum). This massive museum was purpose built to house just one object, the royal ship Vasa. Launched in 1628, it capsized and sank the same day. Over three centuries later, it was found by an amateur marine archeologist and, after an effort spanning thirty years, the wreck was raised, prepared, and placed on display in the Vasamuseet.
West of Stockholm and away from the Baltic is Gripsholm, another reminder of Sweden’s more militant past. Built around 1380, the castle sits on a small peninsula in Lake Mälaren, and today houses the National Portrait Gallery. But during its long history it has served as a fortification, a refuge, a prison and a palace.
Sweden is both young and old, and also big and small. While Americans tend to think of Europe as very crowded, if you placed Sweden in the United States, it would stretch from North Dakota to mid Texas, yet in all that vast space, only nine million people call Sweden home. More photos from Sweden and even more photos from Gripsholm, Sweden.