Monthly Archives: October 1997

Stockholm and the Vasa

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.

Photo of narrow street in Gamla Stan (Old Town) Stockholm, Sweden.

One of the narrow streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town) in Stockholm, within walking distance of the Royal Palace.

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.

Photo of Gripsholm Castle, a brick medieval fortress on the shores of Lake Mälaren.

Gripsholm Castle, a medieval fortress roughly 60 kilometers west of Stockholm, Sweden.

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.

A brief visit to the Netherlands

The Netherlands are, famously, a small country, which can come in handy if you have a long layover. On a trip to Sweden, a couple spare hours, plus a train station right at the airport, practically invited a side trip to Amsterdam.

Photo of Dutch change of address poster on a mailbox in downtown Amsterdam.

“New address?” this sign asks in Dutch. Possibly the best change of address poster I’ve ever seen.

Amsterdam Airport Schipol (Luchthaven Schipol) is interesting for more than quick trips to Amsterdam. Most of the airport is roughly ten feet below sea level. The site of the airport was once called Haarlemmermeer polder (Haarlemmer Lake), a shallow lake made infamous for the number of ships that ran aground in the area. The closest English translation of “Schiphol,” is, in fact, “Ship Grave.”

Land is so precious in the Netherlands that the area between the runways is actively farmed, and farm equipment is equipped with lights (so the equipment can be seen) and radios (so the operators can get clearance from the tower before crossing runways). More photos from the Netherlands.