(800) 523-5842

 


– DEAL$
& SPECIAL OFFERS

 

HOT TRAVEL BARGAINS!

 

GET BARGAIN ALERTS

 

IN$TANT DI$COUNT$

 

GET A FREE PROPOSAL!

 

GET A FREE CATALOG

 

-2017-
DESTINATIONS

MANY PRICES STILL WELL
BELOW 8 YEARS AGO!

 

BRITAIN &

IRELAND

 

SCOTLAND
DARE TO COMPARE!

2017 PRICES

IRELAND

DARE TO COMPARE!

CALL 4 2017 PRICES

LONDON

DARE TO COMPARE!

2017 PRICES

ENGLAND
'THE LIONHEART'

2017 PRICES

WALES
'THE PENDRAGON'

2017 PRICES


 
 

PARIS

'LA BELLE'

 

2017 PRICES
DARE TO COMPARE!

PARIS + LONDON

 

 

NEW!

SWI+ZERLAND

6 special regions

2017 PRICES
DARE TO COMPARE!


 

 YOUR DREAM TRIP!  

CUSTOM-MADE

 EUROPE 

FRANCE

GERMANY

ITALY

NETHERLANDS

SPAIN

SWITZERLAND

 

 

bermuda

A PRETTY PLACE PLUS

2017 PRICES
LOWER PRICES AGAIN!


 

HOT!

ICELAND

2017 PRICES

COMBINED

ITINERARIES

 

 

SCANDINAVIA

THE GREAT NORTH

2017 PRICES
WOW! UP TO 14.54% BELOW 2009 LEVELS!

NORWAY

 

SWEDEN

 

DENMARK

 

COMBINED

ITINERARIES

 

 

NEW

ZEALAND

ROAD TRIP!

2017 PRICES
 WOW! UP TO 9.64% BELOW 2009 LEVELS!

NORTH ISLAND

 

SOUTH ISLAND

 

 
CURRENTLY
FEATURED @
HOMEATFIRST.COM
 

EDITOR'S BLOG

 

ADVENTURE

 

PEOPLE

 

GOLF COURSE

 

LODGING

 

EVENTS CALENDAR

 

 
HOME AT FIRST
 

CONTACT INFO

USA & CANADA
(800) 523-5842

WORLDWIDE
+1 610 543 4348

info@homeatfirst.com
 


-
HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

STOCKHOLM
-

 

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN JUNE, 2009.                                MOST RECENT UPDATE: 2015

 

SWEDEN'S VISIONARY WARRIOR KING
          Once upon a time there was a great warrior king whose bold vision led his

 

impoverished nation out of the backwaters of medieval

Gustavus Adolphus "The Great": King of Sweden and architect of the Swedish Empire. PD-Art.
Gustavus Adolphus "The  Great",
King of Sweden and architect
of the Swedish Empire.

Europe to forge a modern empire. Following the Christless Cross of Protestantism and leading a professional army well-versed in the use of the latest military technology, the 31-year-old king felt invincible invading little Livonia, knowing his incursion would pour gasoline on the fires of war raging across the continent. The king had nothing to lose but his life: gloriously for his country and creed.
          King since a teenager, Gustavus Adolphus had known little else but the glories of war. His minor country, Sweden, was only now awakening from its long continuous slumber extending from the last Ice Age. The Vikings — the king’s ancestors — once were the scourge of Europe, but they were not so much a coordinated imperial force as they were loose, illiterate, tribes seeking new horizons in warmer, friendlier climes. The Vikings reached the height of their influence across Europe and into the western fringes of Asia and even the Atlantic into coastal North America some six hundred years earlier.

 

 

 

EUROPE DIVIDED BY RELIGIOUS ALLIANCE PREPARES FOR WAR

          Times in Sweden were different in the late Middle Ages — as they were across Europe. Over two centuries the Renaissance spread new ideas of government, religion, art, printing, science, warfare, and commerce north and west from its initial rise in north-central Italy. Luther’s Protestant Reformation reinforced the secular notions of individualism and materialism hinted at by the economic rise of the most progressive of the Italian city-states. A distinctive new class — the middle class — of shopkeepers, craftsmen, printers, bankers, and traders began appearing across Northern Europe, perhaps first in the semi-independent commercial port towns of the Hanseatic League. From such humble beginnings the common interest of such associations led to visions of nationhood and empire. Powerful families arose, claiming nobility, and amalgamating city states, duchies, and minor principalities that shared common language, religion, commercial goals, and defensive imperatives into new kingdoms. In Britain, Henry VIII merged England plus Scotland plus Wales into a unified force, a de facto nation united against Roman Catholicism, united against the Holy Roman Empire, united against the commercial competition of Spain and France. In north Germany, powerful regional states emerged in Westphalia and Prussia, as well as along the Baltic under the leadership of noble families who saw Protestantism as the means to free their regions from the dominance of the Holy Roman Empire.

          In the Catholic south the Holy Roman Empire and

 

the Austrian dynasty of the Hapsburgs arose before the Reformation and consolidated its power from Hungary to Spain in opposition to the new Protestant threat from the north sweeping across Germany, Holland, Poland, Britain, and Scandinavia. Hapsburg princes in Spain, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, and in parts of France and Holland and the modern day Czech Republic led an aggressive Counter Reformation, allied with Catholic nobility from some German states including Hesse, Bavaria, Saxony, and the Palatinate. The pressures of the Reformation vs. the Counter Reformation led to the Thirty Years War which consumed much of Europe from 1618-48.
          In the north, the Vasa dynasty had consolidated Sweden as an independent — if impoverished — kingdom about 100 years before the start of the Thirty Years War. Sweden became a staunch bastion of Lutheranism with close ties to Poland and the Baltic states. Two generations after Gustav Vasa created the Kingdom of Sweden and adopted Lutheranism as the state religious, his namesake Gustavus Adolphus became King of Sweden at age 17.

War consumed Europe during the first half of the 17th century. The Swedish Empire emerged from the tragedy of the Thirty Years War. Photo © Home At First.
War consumed Europe during
the first half of the 17th
century. The Swedish Empire
 emerged from the tragedy of
 the Thirty Years War.

Photo © Home At First

          Already a seasoned warrior in wars his father

fought with Poland and Denmark, Gustavus Adolphus showed great aptitude for military leadership. He saw in the troubled times of Europe an opportunity for Sweden to gain influence, power, and commercial wealth. In 1625, at the age of 31, he seized the opportunity by leading his well-trained Swedish army on an expedition into north Germany, Poland, and the Baltic States. Gustavus Adolphus had evolved from brash teenager into Gustav Adolph the Great, founder of the Swedish Empire. He became a great general, credited as the developer of modern warfare, and served as a model for future military greats from Napoleon Bonaparte to George Patton. He also centralized Sweden’s government, coordinating internal and external affairs from Stockholm. As a near dictatorial king, Gustavus Adolphus held the final word on Sweden’s policies domestic and international.

 

SWEDEN'S EMERGING EMPIRE REQUIRES A MODERN NAVY


Map of 17th century Sweden's Baltic Empire
Photo © Home At First

          Gustav Adolph the Great’s military campaigns built Sweden’s power and influence, and enlarged its treasury, too. Stockholm became the center of northern Europe, and the Baltic Sea became a Swedish lake. Sweden’s far-reaching empire was built on military power and on commercial enterprise, and both its power and enterprise were dependent upon Sweden’s historical prowess as shipbuilders and sailors. At a time when empires depended upon strong navies, Sweden joined Spain, France, Britain, and the Netherlands as a major naval power. And, like Spain, France, Britain, and the Netherlands, Sweden established a large, modern merchant fleet to connect and supply its far flung empire.
          Building Sweden’s modern navy was a huge challenge for Gustav’s would-be empire. Baltic Sea battles during the 1620s had decimated Sweden’s older, lighter navy. Gustav Adolph had to act immediately to refit the Swedish Navy. And he seized the opportunity to upgrade the navy to world

 

class marine status. Britain, France, and

Spain had been building sea-going giants for a century. Sweden’s ambitious king wanted to outfit his navy with battleships featuring the latest technology in double-decked heavy cannon platforms that could dominate the Baltic with fierce, constant broadside firepower. He called for the construction of five new flagships of the realm, to be built in Stockholm’s shipyards under the direction of master shipbuilders imported from Holland. The first of these super ships would be the Vasa, to be gloriously decorated and armed to the teeth with two decks of the heaviest cannon available. Named after the king’s royal family, Vasa would be the pride of the nation like Henry VIII’s great warship Mary Rose had become the pride of Tudor England a century earlier. One of the largest wooden ships ever built, the Vasa was ¾ the length of a football field, and weighed 1,300 tons, and carried 64 guns, including 48 heavyweight 24lb cannons. (The Vasa was virtually identical in length, width, and tonnage of the last great wooden ship, Isambard Kingdom Brunels Great Western, launched in Britain 210 years after the Vasa’s maiden voyage.)

 

THE VASA'S MAIDEN VOYAGE
          In the summer of 1628 after two years of rushed construction that featured several major design changes, the great ship prepared to launch. Alas, the Vasa was doomed. Shallow of draft and broad of beam, the richly decorated and mightily armed Vasa carried too many heavy cannon on its upper deck and too many castles and other high-mounted structures. On its maiden voyage on August 10, among of an armada of well-wishers and foreign dignitaries, the precariously top-heavy Vasa pitched radically in response to warm zephyrs it encountered en route across the otherwise calm Stockholm harbor. Plowing the harbor with its cannon ports open to impress the crowd and fire salutes, the Vasa pitched over far enough to scoop the briny Baltic through its lower gun deck ports. Enough water sloshed into the great ship to cause it to list heavily. When the tons of ballast loaded in the ships belly to lower its center of gravity shifted as the ship listed, Vasa took on more

Model of the Vasa showing the ship's elaborate ornamentation and two rows of heavy cannons projecting from broadside port holes. Photo © Home At First.
Model of the Vasa showing the ship's  elaborate
 ornamentation and two rows of heavy cannons
 projecting from broadside port holes.

Photo © Home At First

and more water, then suddenly sunk in water
about 100 feet deep, shallow enough for the flags atop its masts to wave above the waves. Although the catastrophe took place less than 500 feet offshore, between 30-50 crew and passengers were trapped and drowned inside the ship.

 

Model of the Vasa showing the ship's fatal listing to port on her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor. Photo Home At First.
Model of the Vasa showing the ship's fatal listing
to port on her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbor

Photo © Home At First

REPERCUSSIONS
          Gustav Adolph the Great was away at war. When the news of the Vasa calamity reached him, he was livid. Insisting the cause of the disaster must have been “imprudence and negligence,” the king ordered an immediate inquiry to find those responsible. The inquest convened in September, but could not fix blame. The crew had been alert and sober, and no evidence could be found that they failed to perform their jobs properly. The Vasa’s designers and builders all certified they had followed the directions and plans approved by the king himself. The ship’s loss meant a huge loss to Sweden’s treasury and more. It meant the Swedish Navy

 

would  have to rely on its few, weak, 

outdated warships for months longer during the height of Gustavus Adolphus’s Baltic campaign.

 

SWEDEN'S CAVALRY & INFANTRY TO THE RESCUE

          The king caught a break. He had wanted the great cannons and munitions raised from the sunken Vasa. But the technology did not then exist to salvage heavy weights from the murky harbor bottom. His fleet, decimated by the tiny Polish-Lithuanian combined navy (nine ships) off Danzig in 1627, would be of little help to him until it could be rebuilt. But in 1628 and 1629 the war turned inland, and the navies played only minor roles. And Gustavus Adolphus, developer of mixing infantry, cavalry, and artillery in fast, coordinated movements, proved to be the master of modern warfare on land, personally led his Swedish forces to victory over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth led by his Catholic cousin Sigismund

King Gustavus II Adolphus visits Stockholm's shipyard in January 1628 to consult with the shipbuilders about the construction of the king's great warship, the Vasa. (Figures from the life-sized diorama from Stockholm's Vasa Museum.) Photo © Home At First.
King Gustavus II Adolphus visits Stockholm's shipyard in
January 1628 to consult with the shipbuilders about the
construction of the king's great warship, the Vasa.
(Life-sized diorama from Stockholm's Vasa Museum.)

Photo © Home At First

III Vasa, King of Poland. By 1630
Sweden controlled most of the Baltic, and began growing wealthy from its taxation on foreign commerce. The Swedish Empire was a new reality. Soon, bolstered by the consolidation of the small Polish-Lithuanian navy and the addition of the four new (and slightly altered) Vasa-class super ships, the Baltic had become a Swedish lake policed by the Swedish Navy.

 

SWEDEN GAINS AN EMPIRE BUT LOSES ITS KING...      

Stockholm's Riddarholmen Church is the final rest of King Gustav II Adolf (the Great) and Swedish monarchs from the 13th century to the 20th century. The church adjoins Stockholm's Royal Palace on a small island by Gamla Stan, the old city of Stockholm. A few hundred yards across the harbor is the Vasa Museum, resting place of the king's great ship. Photo copyright Home At First.
Stockholm's Riddarholmen Church is
the final rest of King Gustav II Adolf
(the Great) and Swedish monarchs
from the 13th century to the 20th cen-
tury. The church adjoins Stockholm's 
Royal Palace on a small island by
Gamla Stan, the old city of Stockholm.
Photo © Home At First

          The Thirty Years War raged across Europe, with the Roman Catholic forces apparently winning most of the battle against its Protestant foes. With newfound power, wealth, and confidence Sweden’s Gustav Adolph the Great, the upstart king from the north, now determined to take on the powerful Holy Roman Empire — Europe’s largest “nation”. Sweden’s army introduced the forces of the Protestant states of Germany (including Prussia) to the new tactics of modern warfare it had used to win in the Baltic. The tide turned. By the end of the Thirty Years War—in 1648 — the Holy Roman Empire had been reduced to irrelevancy, a third of its population dead, and Sweden emerged as a great European power and the protector of Protestantism. But for Sweden victory, riches, and empire came at a cost: King Gustav Adolph the Great, “Lion of the North”, the ambitious king who created the Swedish Empire was killed leading his celebrated cavalry in the Battle of Lützen in eastern Germany.
          The body of King Gustavus Adolphus was interred in Stockholm’s historic Riddarholmen Church near Sweden’s Royal Palace. Swedes have never forgotten the king who led Sweden into its

 

golden age.

 

...AND THEN REDISCOVERS THE KING'S GREAT WARSHIP
          But Sweden largely forgot the wreck of the Vasa. For about 325 years, that is. In the 1950s the old wreck was located and a recovery planned. In 1961 the Vasa’s skeletal remains plus many artifacts of the great ship emerged from Stockholm harbor. Since that time a sustained effort to stabilize and preserve the Vasa has challenged archeologists and conservators as have few projects anywhere. Now housed in a modern, purpose-built museum on the island of Djurgården, the massive hulk of the Vasa rests only a few hundred yards north where she had foundered almost 400 years ago. The tomb of King Gustav Adolph the Great lies a few hundred yards to the west.

          Opened in 1990, Stockholm’s

 

 Vasa Museum has become the most popular museum in Scandinavia, averaging more than a million visitors annually for its first 19 years of operation. (The population of Stockholm is about 815,000.) Visitors come to see the remarkably complete Vasa, the world’s only preserved 17th century warship. Beyond the vast, hulking ship that dominates the open space of four floors of the museum in its constant 65°F, 55% humidity and dim, blue-black lighting, visitors discover a number of ancillary exhibitions: some detailing the problems of salvaging and preserving the Vasa, others telling the story of

The hulk of the Vasa on display while undergoing preservation, study, and restoration inside the great indoor, climate-controlled space of the Vasa Museum. Photo © Home At First.
The hulk of the Vasa on display while undergoing preser-
vation, study, and restoration inside the great indoor,
climate-controlled space of the Vasa Museum.

Photo © Home At First

the ship’s construction and maiden
voyage, and others devoted to contemporary life in 17th century Sweden — a nation on the verge of its golden age. What is really preserved at the Vasa Museum is a key historic moment frozen in time: Western Civilization captured just as it was emerging from the cocoon of the Middle Ages and entering a modern age of nationalism, technology, and empire. To visit the Vasa Museum is to ride the world’s largest wooden sailing time machine back to 1628. The ride is thrilling, precarious, even dangerous. But the ride is an enlightening adventure, just like the remarkable reign of King Gustavus II Adolphus Vasa.


 

THE

VASA
MUSEUM

IF YOU GO:

OPEN: 8:30AM-6PM June-August; 10AM-5PM Sep-May. Closed December 23-25 and January 1.

SPECIAL EXTENDED HOURS Wednesday evenings 5-8PM September 1 through May.

ADMISSION: 130SEK/adult; 100SEK/students with ID; free to kids under 19. Free admission with the Stockholm Pass option for HOME AT FIRST guests.

LOCATION: SE corner of Djurgården island, Stockholm, Sweden. Djurgården is part of Stockholm’s National City Park, and is also the location of Skansen, Sweden's open-air natural history museum, and Gröna Lund amusement park.

GETTING THERE from Stockholm’s city center is accomplished:

By Ferry Boat (pictured below): ten minutes from Slussen wharf on southeast corner of Gamla Stan (Stockholm's Old City island).

By Tram (Trolley): Eastbound trams along Strandvägen.

By Car: leave the car; take public transport or walk.

By Bus: take bus 47 or 69 from Central Station.

On Foot: walk in about 30 minutes from Central Station or Gamla Stan.

DJURGÅRDEN FERRY GETS UNDERWAY FROM SLUSSEN WHARF FOR THE VASA MUSEUM
Photo © Home At First

 

LEARN ABOUT HOME AT FIRST TRAVEL TO:
 STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN, AND SCANDINAVIA

Visiting the Vasa Museum is an adventure easily reached
from
HOME AT FIRST’s lodgings in STOCKHOLM & UPPSALA.

This day trip is one of dozens of activities suggested in
HOME AT FIRST’s exclusive "STOCKHOLM ACTIVITY GUIDE
Provided to
HOME AT FIRST guests to SCANDINAVIA.

YOUR DREAM TRIP BEGINS BY CONTACTING
HOME AT FIRST