Saturday, September 22, 2007

Armémuseum and Historiska Museet, Stockholm

I've just spent three days in Stockholm, which is one of my favourite cities in Europe, if not the favourite. One hundred museums, excellent restaurants, attractive buildings, heart-stopping blondes and water and boats everywhere. Perfection. And, of course, everyone speaks English. Not just good English but often accentless, idiomatic English.

Although I had a busy couple of days: two presentations and chairing a workshop, I did manage to get some time on Friday to visit a couple of museums I hadn't been to before. The number one museum is, of course, the Vasa museum: an experience that is just gob-smackingly staggering but I went there on my last trip so, having picked up some Musketeer Miniatures Great Northern War figures at Colours, I decided to check out the Army Museum.

The museum is on three floors. The third floor goes from the Vikings through to the beginning of World War 1. This is a lot to cover especially given the fact that the Vikings, Thirty Years War and Great Northern War would deserve a floor each. In truth, the early periods are only represented by a few items each.

The museum mixes original artefacts in display cases with (brilliantly done) scenic tableaux using reconstructed uniforms and equipment, like this Thirty Years War encampment.

They also had a model of a "small army of the 30 Years War": 5,800 30mm figures! This is just a small section; the whole display was about 40 feet across!

There was also this small section of a pike block using Action Man sized figures. Click on the picture, the detail is superb.

I was looking forward to the GNW stuff and they had a stunning life sized representation of three Swedish cavalry charging. Just got to wait for Musketeer to get their cavalry out! I'll post more about this when I get some figures finished.

The second floor covered the period from 1914 to the present day and was a little less mainstream in content (the Swedes, sensibly, haven't fought anyone for years) but there were some more great tableaux and a series of rooms full of weapons of the Swedish Army from 1600 to 1860. From this I spotted a little detail which I incorporated into the musket of my first GNW figure!

On the ground floor was an artillery display with lots of colourful Swedish cannon plus some more modern weapons.

A short walk away from the Army Museum was the Historical Museum. I only had time to look at the Viking and prehistoric sections but there was a lot more to see.

The Viking collection was extensive with military items such as spear heads, swords and shield bosses as well as some of the famous rune stones depicting Viking warriors and their ships.

My favourite item was a model of the Viking town of Birka. One day I will build a model of a Viking settlement!

The earlier stuff was interesting too, with some 7th century helmets from Vendel and some fine Bronze Age swords: from the same period as my Foundry Bronze Age warriors!

Entry for both museums was very reasonable: SeK40 (£3.00) for the Army Museum and SeK50 (3.75) for the Historic Museum. The Army Museum display captions are all in Swedish but there is a reasonably good summary of the museum in English freely available. The Viking section of the Historical Museum was labelled in both Swedish and English but the prehistoric section was in Swedish only. Even the Swedish I could get a sense of, English has a lot of Norse in it after all, or maybe it was my 12.5% Swedish genetic material!

I walked back through the Royal Palace where the guardsmen wear a nineteenth century style uniform. The spiked kask was introduced into the Swedish army in 1845 and was modelled on the Prussian uniform. Ironic really, considering much of Prussian military doctrine was modelled on the Swedish approach from centuries earlier!

All in all a very good day and a rare opportunity for me to get out and see the city I am visiting.

Finally, I must thank my Swedish friend, Anna, for loan of her PC in a crisis, a guided tour of the Old Town, dinners in interesting restaurants and much else (her delightful companionship not least). Also, I thoroughly recommend the Grand Hotel as a splendid place to stay. Writing up my notes whilst watching the boats and drinking Pol Roger was very pleasant!

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