17th-Century Swedes Were Only Inches Tall
While I considered myself at least somewhat educated about European history, my ignorance was revealed during a visit to the Vasa Museum. Frankly, I had no idea how tiny people were as recently as the 17th century. Unless I’m mistaken, they measured half-a-foot high, tops.
Vasa was meant to be the pride of the Swedish fleet, designed with no expense spared, from ornately decorated carvings to 64 massive cannons. Fatally top heavy, it sank minutes into its maiden voyage, in front of thousands of Stockholmers who watched from the shore. Down it went, 105 feet to the bottom of the harbor, where it lay undisturbed for centuries, until it was raised in 1961.
It has been painstakingly restored ever since, and is housed in a beautiful museum on Djurgården. Let’s take a look at it.
It looks as good as new, doesn’t it? Bravo, Swedish marine archeologists. The cannons, while appearing like something hobbyists use to fire caps today, must have been fearsome-looking indeed. Remember, the vessels they were meant to engage would have been just as small back then.
I know what you are thinking. What’s that ugly thing behind Vasa? I didn’t pay close attention—we were in a hurry to get to the ABBA Museum down the street—but I’m guessing it is the Swedes attempt to show us what the size of the ship would be like today, given how much taller we’ve become, thanks to inventions like protein shakes and Lunchables.
It seems like they’ve run out of money to finish the big model, despite charging ticket prices of $15 and up.
After visiting, I began to question whether I had gotten it wrong. Was it possible the smaller ship was the model? And that the larger one was the actual Vasa? Reassuringly, in Denmark and Germany I found further proof that people of long ago were much smaller in stature.
I still recommend you pop in to see Vasa (on your way to celebrate Sweden’s more successful export ABBA) despite the museum’s misguided attempt to show us how big the ill-fated warship would be in today’s modern world.
It was nice to discover just how small folks were, in the not-so-distant past. Like they say, travel is broadening.