This was our first visit to Finland where life seems to be all about the sauna. They estimate there is one sauna in Finland for every two people. Most homes and apartments have one. There is even a ferris wheel in downtown Helsinki where two of the cars are saunas!This is a monument to Finland’s number one composer, Jean Sibelius.The Church in the Rock is one of the most popular sites in Finland. The church was constructed by blasting a hole in solid granite. The roof is a coil made from a thirteen mile strip of copper.The Cathedral in the historic area of Helsinki.
The final stop on our cruise was Stockholm, which we both loved. The city is filled with beautiful, old buildings. Because Sweden remained neutral in the World Wars, the buildings are mostly original.The old town from the water front.The queen of Sweden celebrated her birthday on Friday, and people are beginning to line up in front of the Royal Palace for the parade in her honor.One of the many squares in the old town.
The Vasa was a powerful warship ordered to be built by the Swedish king both to assist in expanding his territory and to impress the home folk. It was one of the largest ships at sea when it was built nearly four hundred years ago. It had rows of cannons located on two levels. Unusual for the time, all the cannons were built uniformly so any cannonball could fit in any cannon. The ship was lavishly decorated with more than five hundred sculptures scattered around the ship.
The Vasa had its grand launching in Stockholm in 1628 with all the cannons deployed to impress the people watching from the shore. The two levels of canons and the sleek narrow design made the ship very top heavy. The ship sank forty minutes into its maiden voyage. A gust of wind caught the sails and caused the ship to lean to the portside. The clearance between the water level and the bottom of the holes for the lower row of cannons was only four feet. Water started to fill the ship through these holes. Because of the tilt, the crew was unable to pull the heavy cannons back and close the covers. The ship sank in fifteen minutes killing 30 of the 150 member crew. The death rate was low because it was close to shore and the water was shallow so the masts were above water so survivors could hold onto the rigging until they were rescued.
The ship sat there forgotten until it was raised in 1961. Preservation of the Vasa required keeping the wood continuously wet with polyethylene glycol for years. In 1990, it was moved to a large museum where it is one of the must see sights in Stockholm. The ship was well preserved in the bottom of the Baltic so 98% of the wood we see today is original. The preservation is ongoing with rusty iron bolts being replaced with stainless steel.The lion bow of the ship.It was hard to get a good overall view of the ship. The lighting was quite dim. I presume this is to protect the ship.This shows the two rows of openings for the cannons with the hatches open as they were when it sank.This is the top of the elaborate stern of the ship.
We are now in our apartment in L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence. It wasn’t easy getting here, but more about that in the next blog.