A reminder of the old days

Interesting facts, scenic landscapes and dramatic architecture. Joanna Tsai writes that Kronberg, the Castle of Hamlet, is a must when you have guests.

If you have guests visiting you in Skåne or in Eastern Denmark, you should take them on a day trip to Kronberg, the castle where Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” is set.

Kronberg is located in the small Danish city of Helsingor and is surprisingly easy to get to from Lund. There is a 25 minute train ride North to Helsingborg where you then board a huge ferry boat that deposites you in Helsingor for only 30 kr (one way).  You can see Helsingor from Helsingborg so the short boat ride should not induce seasickness in even the most weak landlubber!

Even though we went on a Sunday, there were many ferries and open cafes on both sides of the straight. The ferry conveniently drops you off near Helsingor’s center, so you can explore the city on a winding one hour walk to the castle, situated at the end of a short stretch of land on the sea. From the ocean side it doesn’t look impressive, but that’s because it was built as a fort castle that levied taxes off of passing merchants and protected the straight from pirates.

Before this trip I had thought Hamlet was set in Scotland, but apparently it is actually set in Denmark. It’s about an ambitious and murdering prince and his psychological decline.

I had always imagined the castle to be on a rocky outcropping in the Scottish Highlands and perhaps in older days Helsingor was a bit more elegantly barren.

The castle is gorgeous with sumptuous furnishings, has the original 16th Century (or 14th???) church and original underground barracks for the soldiers. The full ticket is worth it, especially the one of the castle and the barracks, which were more cave-like as supported by the fact that bats live there!

Our tour guide told us that that in the old days, if soldiers saw a young man doing something bad in the nearby village, they could conscript him into military service by threatening to tell the local police. Life was a little easier if you volunteered, as you got three meals a day. This must’ve been a last resort for some men, though, as meals only consisted of bread and dry, salted fish.

The king lived significantly better, and even built a special corridor for his very young bride to enter the huge ballroom without going outside.

Oh, it gets better: since he was afraid she would get bored on the two minute walk, he placed musicians in every window in the hallway.

A second close was the story that guests attending lavish twenty-course banquets would throw up into a special bowl held by a footman to make room for the later courses. What a waste when people could be starving 2k away…

It takes about three hours to see the entire castle, which allows you a nice lunch in Helsingor (we found an English-style pub that was open that had a delicious and generous 80kr daily lunch special) and a promenade around Helsingborg.

You can also buy cheaper alcohol on the ferry, and my friend with a sister studying there said students frequently pre-game on it while the ferry goes back and forth. Quite a good idea- the view is better than most apartments, you don’t have to clean up after yourself, there is a small cafeteria onboard if you get puckish, and there is more than one bathroom nearby.

Hopefully my parents will appreciate all the interesting facts, dramatic architecture, and scenic views when I force them to go this Spring when they visit Sweden.

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