I was going to call this post “Bucolic” as several of my friends reading this will get that reference from a game of charades played years ago where “Hamlet” was the word and our friend Bill used ‘bucolic’ as the clue! I wasn’t actually at that game, though, so opted instead for the Sarah Palin reference 🙂
Shakespeare fashioned Hamlet’s Elsinore castle after Kronborg castle in Helsingør and Leslie and I went to visit it on Saturday. Rumor has it that Shakespeare never actually saw the castle, just knew of it somehow.
The train trip takes about 40 minutes from Copenhagen and is a pleasant ride. The town of Helsingør itself is really quite nice, too, and bigger than I expected.
Speaking of big, the castle is humungous! When we exited the train station there was about half a minute of, “So, which way do you think we need to go?” when we looked right and ‘pow!’ there it is in all its glory perched up on a lovely landmass of green at the edge of the sea.
There are no (or next to no) trees on the grounds which makes for a very dramatic setting. There is also a wonderful moat surrounding the castle (I love a good moat!), and yes, a pair of swans!
Before heading over to the castel, Leslie and I decided to wander the town a bit and then sat down in the main square for a beer and a frankfurter. In one way this was perhaps a mistake as by the time we got over to the castle it was actually too close to closing time for us to take the tour.
I say ‘perhaps’ as the overwhelming size and perspective of the castle is what’s worth seeing. From what we could gather, there wasn’t really all that much inside the castle other than some tapestries, a massive statue of “Ogier the Dane” (which is really the only thing we both actually would have liked to see) and an empty ballroom.
The castle’s original use was as a fortress. There is a long, contentious history between Denmark and Sweden that was particularly rough during the 17th century. Of course, like any countries who battled, land was a prize, but in the case of these two countries also fought for control of this narrow strip of water, just 4 kilometers wide, as it leads to the Baltic Sea. The fortress was built to the 1400’s by the Danish King Eric of Pomerania and dues were charged on any ships entering or leaving the Baltic Sea.
Later in its life, the fortress also served as a prison. It burnt down, was rebuilt, and expanded and is now a very imposing place! It never seems to have been a castle in the way most of us think of castles where Kings and Queens dawdled their days away throwing parties, hunting, and playing croquet on manicured lawns, etc.