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Kronborg

Started: 2017-09-15 18:23:48

Submitted: 2017-09-16 16:55:25

Visibility: World-readable

17th August 2017: In which the intrepid narrator visits Hamlet's Castle

When I made plans to visit Copenhagen at the tail end of our trip to Scandinavia, high on my list of places to visit was Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site popularly known as Hamlet's Castle (never mind that that the castle was built a few hundred years after the play was set).

Danish flag flying at Kronborg
Danish flag flying at Kronborg

We took the metro to Nørreport, found the platform for the next regional train to Helsingør, and waited on the platform with a bunch of other tourists. The station we boarded at was underground in the middle of the city, one stop from the city's main train station. As we traveled north we quickly emerged above ground into the suburbs north of the city. I caught occasional glimpses of streets and parks and houses and grocery stores through the trees that grew next to the train tracks. Further north the track brought the train closer to the water and I saw the vast blue expanse of the Øresund Straight, and caught a glimpse of Sweden on the other side of the water.

Kiesa and Calvin on the Regionaltog to Helsingor
Kiesa and Calvin on the Regionaltog to Helsingor

The trip took about 45 minutes from Copenhagen to Helsingør. We disembarked at the line's terminal station and walked past the waterfront, with a terminal for the massive ferry connecting Denmark to Sweden across the narrowest portion of the Øresund Straight, until we caught a glimpse of the castle at the very end of Denmark. I stopped to photograph a brightly-chromed statue ("Han", according to the map I consulted later) while Kiesa stuck her head into the nearby public library and amused herself looking at the summer reading program posters in Danish.

Julian with a scale model of Kronborg
Julian with a scale model of Kronborg

We made our way to the castle, paid for admission, and walked through the outer gate into a throng of tourists in the inner courtyard. Actors wandered through the grounds playing out scenes from Hamlet. The castle had gone through several major iterations through history; it was first built as the primary royal residence, the seat of Danish government, and the fortress from which the monarch could impose a toll on shipping through the sound. (This toll made Denmark unpopular with its neighbors, but did prove to be lucrative, until an international consortium of countries convinced Denmark to accept an up-front cash payment in exchange for stopping the toll.)

Jaeger with Kronborg
Jaeger with Kronborg

We walked through the royal apartments, which had been partially restored to their appearance from early in the castle's history. One floor was renaissance (from when the castle was first built), and one floor was baroque, from when the castle was substantially renovated after a devastating fire. (Some of the apartments were substantially bare, however; a Swedish invasion removed the best pieces of furniture; the ravages of hundreds of years removed the rest.)

Main hall at Kronborg
Main hall at Kronborg

We walked through the Great Hall, complete with massive paintings hanging from the wall, and a throne on an elevated pedestal in the middle of the room, but otherwise bare of furniture, then headed downstairs to the gift shop and a small exhibit putting the history of the castle in context with Danish and world history.

Spire at Kronborg
Spire at Kronborg

We headed out of the castle and ate lunch sitting on the fortifications overlooking the castle and the straight. I watched the ferry shuttle back and forth between Sweden and Denmark, and other commercial shipping sailing through the straight, the best connection between the Baltic Sea and the rest of the world.

Looking out the window of Kronborg at the Øresund Straight
Looking out the window of Kronborg at the Øresund Straight

We returned to the castle and walked on a winding tour through the casemates fortifying the outer walls of the castle, built under the distinctive features of the star fort enclosing the castle. (I couldn't help but wonder about the juxtaposition of the tall-walled castle inside a somewhat-more-modern star fort; in any serious artillery exchange with early modern artillery the inner keep would have been pulverized.) The casemates protected the fort's artillery batteries -- and the soldiers operating the batteries -- from enemy fire and were intended to house the garrison during a lengthy siege. Our tour took us through damp, dimly-lit rooms with vaulted masonry ceilings with the occasional marker indicating the route we should follow.

Inner courtyard at Kronborg
Inner courtyard at Kronborg

We emerged from the casemates in the space between the inner keep and the outer walls and headed back inside the keep to look at another series of rooms on the second floor filled with paintings and some furniture from the castle's history. Calvin and Julian got stuck in the kids' room building with Legos, so Kiesa stayed to watch them while I looked through the rooms, then I stayed and built a Mughal-inspired pavilion while Kiesa looked through the rooms.

Calvin and Julian build with Legos at Kronborg
Calvin and Julian build with Legos at Kronborg

We swung by the chapel on the ground level (I was amused by the bilingual sign warning tourists from stepping outside of the path that said "Alarm" in both Danish and English, using the same spelling for both languages) and climbed the steps to the square tower in the corner of the keep for a commanding view of the castle, the grounds, the straight, and Sweden beyond.

Tower at Kronborg and the Øresund Straight
Tower at Kronborg and the Øresund Straight

The tower was clearly truncated; it had originally held a taller tower that met its demise at some point in the castle's history and had not been rebuilt. It looked weird from the outside, but the large square top provided a great platform from which to observe the surroundings.

Tower at Kronborg, the Øresund Straight, and a tanker
Tower at Kronborg, the Øresund Straight, and a tanker

We left the keep to look at the cannons on the outer fortifications, facing the straight, as if to fire on ships that failed to pay the sound dues; and the fortifications protecting the main entrance to the keep.

Cannons at Kronborg overlooking the Øresund Straight
Cannons at Kronborg overlooking the Øresund Straight

We stopped by a coffee shop in one of the outer fortifications for a snack, then walked in a circuit around the castle, on the grassy sliver of land between the castle and the suspiciously-tide-and-wave-free Øresund Straight.

I had thought that we might be able to stop by the Maritime Museum of Denmark, but by the time we left the castle it was late afternoon. We caught the train back to Copenhagen and spent most of the train ride figuring out where to eat for supper. We decided to go to Urten, a vegan restaurant in the Latin Quarter (named because of Copenhagen University; near the Round Tower, not far from the Lego Store). The food was good, and our kids managed to find something they would eat as well.

After dinner, we took the metro back to our Airbnb and made plans for our last full day in Copenhagen the next day.

you spend enough time with [Gem] and you'll get so stoned you'll want
to do something REALLY stupid like...
(drum roll)
...marry her
- Neelix, to Jaeger, 04 September 2001