A Travellerspoint blog

Sweden

Under Sail in Sweden

semi-overcast 13 °C

In the past two weeks we've sailed the fjords of Norway, cruised along the coast from Stavanger to Bergen, visited the thousand year old longships of the vikings and the historic vessels of Heyerdhal and Amundsen in Oslo. We've lived aboard an old Baltic cruise ship and explored the 400 year old wreck of King Adolphus's magnificent warship, the 'Vasa', in Stockholm. And now, the nautical nature of our trip to Scandinavia continues with a visit to a windjammer...
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This is a painting of the four masted barque the 'Viking'. Built in Copenhagan in 1906 she was the largest sailing ship ever constructed in Scandinavia and she has a fascinating history. One day in July 1909, while carrying a full cargo of wheat from Australia to Europe she reached a speed of 15.5 knots (nearly 30 kilometers an hour) under full sail. 'Viking' had an auxiliary engine for manouvering in harbour and this is the ship's telegraph...
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The 'Viking' is a four masted square-rigger carrying course sails, royals, gallants, top gallants and topsails. Along with staysails, jibs and mizzens the ship had 31 sails when under full canvas and was an awesome sight with all sails set. The top of the foremast is a dizzying 182 feet above the main deck and seamen had to climb there everytime the topsails had to be furled or unfurled...
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On 25 February 1917, during the first World War, she was sighted and boarded by a German commerce raider. The 'Viking' was sailing under a neutral Danish flag and was allowed to proceed. However, a few weeks later the Germans adopted a policy of sinking all foreign vessels and 'Viking' had had a lucky escape. This is the 'Viking' today...
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In 1929 the 'Viking' was registered under the Finnish flag and made many voyages around the world. The ship's holds today are conference rooms and guest cabins but in her working years these cavernous spaces held upwards of four thousand tons of Australian grain bound for Europe...
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She took part in many of the Great Grain Races from Victoria, Australia, to Falmouth, England, and won the race in 1948. She continued working until 1950 when the Swedish government purchased her to save her from the breaker's yard. She is now permanently moored in Gothenburg harbour as a historic hotel. This is the dining room...
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It is intriguing to note that although the days of the windjammers were numbered since the introduction of ocean going steamships in the 1840s, the 'Viking' was still sailing when we were born. This is a seaman's cabin from the days of sail...
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And this is our cabin for the next three days...
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Yes – we are staying aboard this majestic old ship in Gothenburg. Unfortunately we cannot sail anywhere because a suspension bridge built in the late 1960s has effectively locked the ship in, since the masts are taller than the bridge. It is unlikely she ever will sail the open seas again but we feel honoured to have had the privilege of staying aboard.

Posted by Hawkson 08:20 Archived in Sweden Comments (4)

The Splendour of Stockholm

semi-overcast 12 °C

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The grandeur of Stockholm is inescapable as we gaze across the cityscape from the deck of our ship – the Rygerfjord. However, the view won't change much over the next few days because we are not going anywhere. We are staying aboard one of the hotel ships permanently docked in Stockholm harbour. These smaller, older, Baltic cruisers have been converted to provide comfortable accommodation in the very heart of the city and everyone has a great sea view...
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Stockholm sprawls over fourteen islands and has masses of scenic waterfronts lined with historic buildings including the parliament and the somewhat austere royal palace that was rebuilt starting in 1697 following a major fire. However, the interior of the palace is anything but austere...
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The palace has nearly 1,500 rooms and many of the state rooms and royal apartments are as sumptuously decorated and furnished as those at Versailles. The Great Hall was modelled on the Hall of Mirrors in Louis XIV's flambouyant palace and can comfortably seat 170 for dinner...
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The Swedes have long been peace-loving people to a fault, (it is even an offence to shout at your own child in Sweden). However, that has not always been the case. The Kingdom of Sweden was a great regional power between 1600 and 1800; ruling Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and even parts of Russia, Norway and Northern Germany. In order to keep control of such a large domain the Swedish king, Gustavus Adolphus, needed a powerful navy and in 1628 his battleship, the Vasa, was launched in Stockholm. This is a model...
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The Vasa was magnificent; the biggest and best armed ship ever built in its day. It took the timber from a thousand mature oaks and its decks were lined with 64 heavy bronze canons. It would have been a formidable foe for any enemy. But, how do we know this? Because, on August 10th 1628, decked out in bunting with thousands of onlookers and dignitaries cheering from the Stockholm quayside, the massive 1200 ton Vasa set sail on her maiden voyage. She sailed exactly 1,300 yards before she turned turtle and sank. In one of the most complex salvage operations ever undertaken, the almost intact wreck was raised from the seabed in 1961. It was so robustly constructed that when it was pumped clear of mud and water after more than 300 years of submersion it floated without assistance. Now fully restored, the Vasa is an awe-inspiring sight, (although difficult to portray in photos because of the enormous size)....
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Here's a view of the main deck from above...
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The wood was almost perfectly preserved in the mud and some of the rigging and sails survived underwater, as did the carpenter's chest complete with all his tools. Unfortunately the carpenter, along with just twenty nine others, died when the ship sank. An enquiry found that the ship was top-heavy due to the king wanting double the number of guns ever put on a ship before, so no one was punished for the disaster.

Stockholm has a wealth of history and interesting architecture, but we couldn't leave without visiting the museum dedicated to Sweden's best known export – Abba.. Who knew that Sheila was one of the founding members?...
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Another well known export is the open sandwich, smorgesbrod, so we had to try some - delicious!...
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Our few days in Stockholm are coming to end. Next stop the southwestern city of Gothenburg where we hope to meet up with a very grand old lady of the sea.

Posted by Hawkson 11:03 Archived in Sweden Comments (4)

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