Day Seventy

It’s off to see the home of the melancholy Dane today.  Much “To be or not to be.  That is the question”. Studied in school, it’s quite fascinating to be here, and equally fascinating how the mind can recall a text not revisited in decades.

Kronborg Slot is impressively imposing on entrance.  Massive bolt reinforced doors open into a square cobblestoned courtyard, the castle built around it, towers at each corner, one once home to messenger pigeons.  

Kronborg was built in red brick in the early 15th century by Eric of Pomerania; its current sandstone finish was a renovation executed in 1580.  In case you’re wondering, Pomerania was a combination of what we now know as Poland and Germany, and yes, it’s where Pomeranians come from!  I guess it goes some way to explaining their popularity here, that and their sweet little foxy faces and fancy fluffy tails.  Pom poms.  Love them! 

Our first tour is of the tapestry rooms, what must be hundreds of thousands hours of stitching of wall sized tapestries covering a whole wing, depicting Danish kings and  their various achievements.

We then tour the King and Queen’s apartments, living relatively separate lives, theirs was an apparent love match, going on to produce seven children.  The King, in need of an heir, was arranged to marry her sister, but when the family came for the meeting, he fell for Sophie who was only 14 at the time.  Awkward family dinners from that point on, I’m guessing.  I particularly love the ladies gallery, so built that the Queen and her ladies in waiting could take their exercise without damaging their shoes, a dilemma I’m familiar with.  Proving once and for all to Chris, that this is not a modern dilemma.

We also see the ballroom, once the largest in northern Europe, its floor is a marble checkerboard.  It’s now decorated with 17th century chandeliers and paintings from Rosenborg Slot.  Also particularly lovely is the chapel with its intricately carved and painted woodwork and the King’s chamber with its painted ceiling.  Lovely.

 On display in one wing is a photographic presentation of Hamlet productions at the castle and on film over the decades. Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier are my favourite Hamlets by far.  

Olivier’s is probably the finer performance over all, but I don’t think anyone out performs Burton on stage; he was a classic Shakespearian stage actor. That voice, a unique, testosterone fuelled gift.  I’m pretty sure he could make an ovary pop with it alone. Vivien Leigh is pictured next to Olivier, her 1937 role as Ophelia was the one she left to play Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, another favourite. Having a little fan girl moment.

Kronborg still hosts Hamlet each August when it and other Shakespearian plays are performed on site.  Additionally, as a treat for the 250,000 tourists that stream through the castle each year, throughout the day, actors  perform key scenes from the play in salient rooms.  We don’t come across them, but see them in costume. There are many school groups here today and I suspect they’re timing performances for them.

Our last stop is the catchments, two floors underground where the bulk of the work, the business of running the castle was done.  Dark, cold and damp, it was clearly good to be King, vs a serf.  A sleeping statue of a Viking chief sits here, Holger Danske.  Legend has it that should Denmark ever be in peril, he will wake to come to her defense.

I can’t resist a red feather quill from the gift shop in our way out, Chris most amused.  When he started school, ink pots and nibs were still in use, not feather quills though, he assures me.

Afterwards, we walk into Helsingor for a brief tour.  It’s pretty busy with a yacht filled harbour, many shops, restaurants and cafes.  I guess all those castle tourists have to eat somewhere.  Chris weeps in relief to see wine shops everywhere.  I jest, of course.

Later in the marina, we see a series of boats in dry dock, being scraped of barnacles.  Once the men are finished, the jackdaws are in like a flash, picking over a free seafood supper.  Very clever, these birds.

A storm and light show ends the day, the castle looking resplendent against a black sky.  In between photo shoots, I’m making deconstructed seak sandwichs for dinner.  Denmark sees the return of serious bread and I have portobello mushrooms, Danish bacon and other treats on standby.  Some things are best home made.