:: Aeroseum aviation museum (near Säve airport), Gothenburg/Göteborg, Sweden ::
New museum, old military underground base. Near Säve/Saeve airport.
Each of us presses the button labeled "In" outside the doors to log us in, the number on the counter screen increases from 17 to 39, indicating the count of people in the facility. A signal is sounded to boost up the motors opening the doors.
"They built this to withstand a nuclear blast hitting the Säve airport (which used to have a military airfield) just 500 meters away," a person translates our guide. Eret and I did not call in advance to order an English tour as requested on their website. Luckily for us, there are a few friendly volunteers that help the Aeroseum group out and can both translate and answer our questions without disturbing the rest of the group.
We have already descended some 10 meters below ground level into a mass of granite without even getting to the entrance itself. We're at a tri-intersection. Two to give any blastwave a pass-through tunnel to dissipate the energy. The third path carved into the stone behind the doors to lead us further underground.
A second signal and the 180 tons of almost a meter thick blastdoors slide open effortlessly. A streak of overhead lights guides our gaze down to the deeper end of the facility that must lie behind the downwards sloping curve. The foreground has several large jet aircraft, giving a real sense of how the base would have operated. On the left wall is a world map depicting a timeline with the highlights of the Cold War, a product of which the current museum underground shelters are.
Our group strolls into the museum. In this museum, everything that is presented and is not behind a wire, can be looked at, photographed, touched and even climbed into. One of the things that the most eager visitors discover first is that the cabins of some of the aircraft are surprisingly small despite the 10+ meter lengths of the aircraft.
On the side of the tunnel is a door with bare stone and a photo gallery of the building and blasting of the base. The base has two underground shelters built in two phases in 1942 and 1955 with a combined area of 30.000 m2. The sheer amount of the rock carried out is amazing. That said, it is not the biggest facility of its kind in Sweden by far.
Further down the shaft are several helicopters, treaded and wheeled vehicles, generators and another set of doors leading to much larger areas. This is where the exhibition really begins. Planes from the early eras of aviation, hang gliders, helicopters, private aircraft to military jet ejection seats, jet planes, engines, missles and "aerial torpedoes" (ancestors to modern cruise missles).
One military airplane we soon walk past, is a Saab aircraft. A volunteer along with the group used to be a navigator on the very same model. He had over 2000 flights with some of these to the once highly secret base where we were now and which had been declassified only some twenty years ago.
The guide who obviously knows his stuff and the friendly helpers of the museum guide us through the many aerial vehicle contraptions, allowing for ample time to look at them closely. Before long, an hour and half - over half of the tour duration - has passed and it's time for coffee, refreshments and snacks.
When the tour resumes, the restoration efforts are highlighted.
Right next to the planes we watch are people hard at work restoring, composing the frame of a wooden wing, placing the sections in place. We don't disturb them, but we do look at something very similar. A cross section of a wing. The section shown to us is very light. It's built upon a wooden frame like the models I used to build when I was much younger in a model plane club. The tour guide explains how the frame gets first covered with fabric, then surfaced with various substances until you have a readymade wing, able to support a substantial plane.
After also looking at some of the service tunnels, the control room and the radio room (with another volunteer filling us in on some of the details that came up with questions), we get to another array of planes and jet engines. The final 30 minutes is filled with getting acquainted with them first hand, through the tour guide's view and asking any remaining questions.
All in all, two and half hours well spent. As we leave the facility, pressing the "Ut" button, the counter decreases again. It's completely dark now outside. I set my camera on a tripod for a long exposure and take a final shot of the museum, capturing the intersection and passage into the underground shelter.
For more from my trip to the Aeroseum, look at the photo gallery from the day.
Some further information also from the Aeroseum website.
Aeroseum is near Gothenburg City Airport Saeve AB station. It's ~20 minutes by bus nr 35 from Gothenburg central stop 'Hjalmar Brantingsplatsen' to stop 'Granhäll', followed by a 5 minute walk.
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