‘To be or not to be…that is the question!’
I boomed across the Oresund strait with powerful gusto as I stared at the outline of the land of Scania that marked the border of Sweden. From this northern shore of Denmark and it’s North Zealand coast, its boulders on the shore where the waves were lapping rather strongly against. I stood on atop of one and felt as manly as I could, channelling one of the most famous plays ever to have been produced by William Shakespeare.
I’ll tell you why, but I just had to do something first.
Something as equally manly.
I turned around and nodded my head at my new travel buddy who stood patiently below the boulders, slightly bored, holding my camera at the ready.
I sat down on the boulder, laid my legs to one side, felt the rough surface of the boulder at my fingertips pressed against it, and thrusted out my chest, chin up in the air. With a glance back behind me to see the rough seas of the Oresund Strait behind me, I nodded again.
Alex flickered on the camera and took a few snaps.
‘All sorted, now let’s get this picture done out of the way!’
The scene was set. Here I was going to channel another story by another famous writer. Something that will truly test my manhood. I was going to be a key character in a famous Hans Christian Anderson story…
‘Part of THAT WORLD!’
I sang majestically, possibly startling a few tourists hovering nearby.
Yes, readers, I was channelling Ariel, the Little Mermaid made famous by a Danish writer!
And it worked too!
So what was I really doing in Helsingor other than being a beautiful mermaid goddess? Perhaps you can check out the video below:
A Visit to Helsingor
Known in English as ‘Elsinore,’ Helsingor is a city in North Eastern Denmark that’s only a mere 40 minutes train ride from Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital city.The most popular attraction, and really what Helsingor is famous for, is its castle, Kronberg, where William Shakespeare’s tragedy play, Hamlet, is set. Also, it’s one of the bases of a popular ferry route that connects Helsingor with Helsingborg in Sweden. Yes, Sweden can be seen from the shores across the Oresund Strait.
But Kronborg is the main reason why I visited today.
Only open for select days of the week, the Kronborg slot definitely is a must see visit. Steeped in history, the town dates back to the 13th century and was founded in 1420s by the Danish King, Eric of Pomerania, who established the ‘Sound Dues’ which meant all foreign ships passing through the Oresund Strait had to pay a toll, which then made up two thirds of Denmark’s state income. Pretty lucrative, eh? Unfortunately for the Danish crown, this was abolished in 1857 with the ‘Copenhagen Convention’, where all naval nations agreed to pay a one time fee to pass through into the Baltic Sea.
As I read up on this in my Lonely Planet guide on the train to Helsingor, it came to my pleasant surprise to see that Kronberg was exactly how I pictured it would be. Completely in Renaissance style, Kronberg definitely showed why it has been awarded as an UNESCO Word Heritage Site in 2000.
As I walked up closer to it from the station through a series of paths swirling through fortified gates and moats, it was easy to appreciate King Christian IV’s influence who rebuilt the castle after a devastating fire in 1629 that destroyed much of the castle. However, his satisfaction upon completion was short-lived a mere 30 years later when the castle was besieged by the Swedes who took many of its valuable art and cultural possessions as war booty. Those pesky Scandinavians can’t just get along, right?
Seeing that we arrived earlier before the opening time, Alex and I took a wander on the shore that Kronberg stood ever so proudly on. But it didn’t look like a royal residence. No wonder, in 1785, the castle was stripped of its royal status and converted into an army barracks. When we went inside further, a lot of the walls was whitewashed, ridding the eclectic tastes of previous Kings and Queens and even used the stately ballroom as a store! Luckily for us, the army left in 1923 and since then it has been open to the public, which is why we are here today.
But what about drama? I sure love dark history. I was told by a gushing Danish guide while I waited outside of a soap opera style affair surrounding Queen Caroline Mathilde who had a secret lover, Johan Friedrich Struensee, in 1772. Her husband, remarked as the insane King Christian VII, found out about the affair and arrested Johan while placing his naughty Queen under house arrest at Kronberg Castle. She was convicted and went through a traumatising divorce before being banished by the King to live out her days in Celle in Northern Germany. She died from an epidemic and never saw her children again. Poor cow.
A Special Event at Kronberg
2016 marks a special year for Kronberg in Helsingor. It marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and Kronberg is marking this occasion by celebrating his play, Hamlet, with theatrical displays and festivities in the stunning halls of the castle.
That is Hamlet LIVE.
Starting on the 1st June, the characters of Hamlet will draw crowds through the castle putting on performances and showcasing the fate of its titular character. Although, I visited in March therefore couldn’t experience this, a friend of mine went on my recommendation and was pleased to be exploring the castle’s dark corridors with Hamlet’s best friend, Horatio, and watching the drama unfold. His favourite moments had to be the deadly duels and the crafty poisonings!
Damn, I wish I gone then!
Finally, the red doors opened and we filed through, one of the first on this early morning to breathe into the deep musty atmosphere that hummed with electric anticipation.
The Courtyard soon greeted us, a majestic sight to be held as the ornate exterior walls, hiding treasures within the castle, sparkled with what I could call ‘come hither’ look. It’s rather romantic.
Talking of romance, it’s probably because of King Frederick II. No, I didn’t fall in love with him and his swirly moustache, but I definitely fell in love with the Kronborg Ballroom, a completely unexpected surprise.
King Frederick II, 1559-1588, married his young wife Queen Sophie in 1579 and they were completely in love. Even to a point, that it is reputed to be one of the happiest royal marriages ever! Spawning seven children, the couple were joined to the hip and what greater Valentine’s Day present than giving his Queen her very own Ballroom, a gift of love.
He wanted to give her the very best and made sure that the ballroom was one of the finest in Europe. With a length of a startling 60 metres, he would seat his Queen under a gorgeous canopy of purple silk with woven gold and silver threads at one end looking upon walls covered with histroic tapestries, seven large brass chandeliers, a wood panelled ceiling and an utterly mesmerising marble floor. Talk about being subtle!
I simply gasped when I entered into the Ballroom. It was just…MASSIVE! As I walked skipped down the hall, I said with a booming voice to Alex that I want to get married here. Several tourists chuckled as they went by but Alex simply ignored me and went to read even more intently at the portrait descriptions on the walls.
Do you think I should get married here? Of course, I’ll dress up in Renaissance style and have a Queen’s crown on my head only to befit royal status.
Danish History on a Loom
One of the best features to see in Kronborg is the Kronborg Tapestries.
Basically royal propaganda, King Frederick the second in 1581 commissioned a series of 43 woven tapestries that depicts the royal history of 101 Danish monarchs and legendary kings over 1,000 years steeped in mythology. So, why did he do this? During his wars with Sweden;s King Erik XIV, our man Fred found out that his rival actually had a series of tapestries that depicted his family history too. Freddie simply had to do one better.
To this day, only 15 of the 43 has survived of which seven can be found at Kronborg. But there’s a really interesting exhibition that brought together all of the surviving tapestries and also the gorgeous canopy woven in gold and silver being showcased in one of the many rooms in the castle. There’s plenty of information supporting the tapestries and it’s a great way to get a quick overview of Danish history too.
Finding a sleeping giant in the Casemates
Within the winding and dark passageways of the Casemates under the castle lies a mythical giant hero. Holger Danske is a national Danish hero who was a tall Viking warrior and a son of one of the early Danish kings. His story is etched into every Danish child’s minds of Holgor the Dane who sleeps in the Casemates of Kronborg Castle until the day Denmark is under real threat. He will wake up, take on human form and defend the country.
So, it was rather an imposing statue that greeted us (and startled us) when we rounded a corner with our phone torches on. Quietly brooding, we took the cue to tiptoe around the statue and letting this sleeping giant lie.
But a great experience within the cold and damp Casemates.
Overall, Kronborg is a fantastic day out to visit for a few hours. It’s just a quick and easy 40 minutes on the train from Copenhagen. Before you jump on the train check the opening hours first before you go:
June – September 2016 – Daily 10am – 5.30pm
October 2016 – Daily 11am – 4pm
November and December 2016 – Tuesday – Sunday – 11am – 4pm
January 2017 – March 2017 – Tuesday – Sunday – 11am – 4pm
April 2017 – May 2017 – Daily – 11am – 4pm
You can find out more here: Kronborg Castle Opening Hours
- Child under 4 – FREE
- Child under 17 – 45 Krone
- Adult – 140 Krone
- Copenhagen Card – FREE
- Address: Kronborg 2C, 3000 Helsingör
- Website: www.kronborg.dk
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: +45 4921 3078