6 Mar,2020 By Jagabond
Sweden is the largest of the Scandinavian countries, and the capital Stockholm is its crown jewel. With the city stretching out over fourteen islands, it looks like no other metropolis in Europe. What’s there to do in Stockholm? A lot, but there are two museums you can’t miss. They ironically contrast each other. One celebrates a band whose legacy lasted decades, and the other honors a ship that sunk within minutes.
The story of European music outside of Britain isn’t a long one. Large western countries like Germany and France have produced surprisingly little, and the eastern countries have even less success. Sweden by comparison is a hotbed of popular music. Though some point to ‘The Final Countdown‘ as an epic 80’s anthem, or ‘Listen to your Heart‘ as the best video ever shot at a castle, I love ABBA. I think millions of ‘Mamma Mia!’ fans around the world would agree.
The ABBA museum is an interactive experience where you learn the history of this famed band and their storied rise. The band is named after their founders: Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny, and Anna-Frid. Early on, Bjorn and Benny were in their own groups with much worse names…Hootenanny Singers and Hep Stars. The museum advertises their origins with this weird exhibit.
Luckily all four found each other. Their breakout performance on Eurovision in 1974 began ABBA’s legacy.
Visit the museum and you might speak with one of the band members. When the red phone rings, that means ABBA is calling. No joke, they do call, and this is definitely a unique thing I’ve never seen at any other museum.
The museum also has an interactive section where you can sing your favorite ABBA song, and the recording is posted online for you to download. If my version of ‘Dancing Queen’ was an audition, the band would’ve given me a loud ‘hell no’ in Swedish. That said, if you ever imagined yourself in a pop group, then sing away and keep the fantasy going.
Those over the age of forty might remember album covers. Hans Arnold designed the creepy yet cool cover for ABBA’s greatest hits record, and the ‘Arrival’ album featured a photo of a helicopter that now resides in the museum.
Many exhibits showcase the fashion of ABBA, which was a trademark of the band. With all the crazy dress in the 70s it was hard to stand out, but ABBA managed to develop a style that was all their own.
What’s the best thing about the ABBA museum? You realize how much you like the band and spend an hour in your hotel on YouTube, finding your favorite song. Mine is ‘name of the game.’
With the internet age, epic fails have become a thing. Whether it’s an old guy wiping out at a skate park or a cat whiffing on a leap between couches, we like to watch. I almost think we need a B.I. designation for ‘Before Internet’ like we have with B.C.
In the 17th century, Stockholm had an epic fail that resulted in the sinking of a warship…after only a few minutes at sea. The Vasa was to be the top warship for the Swedes, as the King at that time had a ‘peace requires war’ platform. He ordered that ships be built, and the shipbuilders got to work.
It wasn’t enemy fire, but poor design that led the Vasa to its fate. That said, the Vasa was equipped for battle if necessary.
So what happened that day? On August 10th, 1628, the Vasa set sail. Within twenty minutes, wind blew the ship over and that was it. What was once one of the ‘most spectacular’ warships ever built was no more. Engineering and weight issues were likely to blame. This episode happened in front of a horrified public. It sank and was discovered centuries later in a very preserved state, and the ship is fully on display in the museum.
Don’t you love those old school military uniforms? Sweden has one of the more attractive designs. This 17th century Swedish soldier likely resided on a ship like the Vasa.
These colorful sculptures show what the Vasa might have looked like. The centuries in the water took away all the paint, so the ship appears to be a mass of dark brown. In reality, colors common to Swedish culture adorned the ship.
I just covered these two museums, but there are many other things to see in Stockholm. I list below some of my favorite travel bloggers and their opinions on what to do in Stockholm. Happy travels!