Castles in (Old) Zealand

Trip Start Apr 03, 2007
Trip End Jun 16, 2007

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"To be, or not to be..."  Not sure where Hamlet was supposed to be at the time of his famous soliloquy, but much of the play was set in a castle in Denmark called Elsinore.  The Bard of Avon based the location upon a real castle in a town named Helsingor, less than an hour north of Copenhagen by train.  Today, I toured that castle (the actual name of the castle is Kronborg Slot), and another (actually more impressive) castle to the northwest of Copenhagen called Frederiksborg Slot.
After breakfast (a similar fare to yesterday's), I caught the bus to the S-train, and the S-train to Copenhagen-H (central station).  I wanted to find out if there is a night train to Koln (Cologne) Germany tomorrow.  I was in luck, so I booked a couchette.  I'll check out the cathedral on Thursday morning, and then catch a train to Amsterdam in the afternoon.  Still need to book at a hostel there, but there are several good ones to choose from.
I got back on the S-train and rode it northwest to a nice town named Hillerod.  The castle of Frederiksborg Slot is the main site in town, but it also has its share of shops and restaurants along the main avenue leading to the castle.  There's also a really nice lake/moat around the castle.  The castle itself is done in the Dutch Renaissance style, and is quite impressive both inside and out.  Most of the inside is open to the public, and set up as a museum.  I wandered through room after room after room, all with very high ceilings, decorations, period furniture, tapestries, and paintings (consisting primarily of portraits of somewhat sober-looking people).  I guess it was the Danish equivalent of the National Portrait Gallery in London, with portraits of many of the Danish royalty going back several centuries.  A few of the rooms really stuck out, like the coronation chapel and the grand hall.  Both had immensely ornate ceilings with paintings and tapestries on all sides.  After walking through the whole place (it took a long time, and I wasn't stopping too often), I walked outside to admire the gardens.  Behind the castle, the gardeners were at work (must be a full time job for several of them) keeping up the Baroque gardens with shaped hedges, shrubs, and fountains.
After stopping off for lunch (kebabs at a little place in Hillerod), I caught a local train from there to Helsingor.  This one went across more rural sections of north Zealand, with a lot of farms and green fields.  The last part of the journey runs right along the edge of the Sund, with blue waters between us and Sweden on the other side.  After seeing the impressive Frederiksborg Slot, the castle in Helsingor just wasn't quite as appealing.  Of course, it served a much different purpose.  Kronborg Slot was actually a glorified toll house, placed at a very strategic point on the Oresund (passage between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea).  For over 400 years, any ship which passed through had to pay a toll or else face the wrath of the cannons behind the walls.  As I mentioned, the castle building itself was not all that impressive, but the location was great.  There were great views of the Sund and Sweden on the far side.  Today was partly cloudy and quite windy, so it was cooler than the last few days, but still pleasant.  Oh, yeah, I actually found a restroom in the castle entrance that you didn't have to pay to use (seems like almost all public restrooms in Europe are pay-to-use - I got used to always carrying around a 5 kr coin just in case).
Strolling back through the town of Helsingor, I found a nice pedestrian-only shopping street.  I actually preferred that one to the Stroget in Copenhagen.  It was more laid back and the shops had a more local feel than the "outdoor mall" feel of the Stroget.  I found a great little Conditerei (bakery shop), where I stopped off and bought some Danish pastries.  Sure enough, they were like the Danish's we get back home, only way better.  The consistency was similar to a French croissant, with a buttery fruity filling and frosting on the sides.  And very fresh.  I sat outside in a little café and enjoyed my pastries as people strolled by.  "This is the Denmark I'll remember", I thought.
I saw the news about the shooting at Virginia Tech when I logged onto the Internet last night.  Today, on the trains, I saw that it was on the front page of every newspaper (most newspapers it was the entire front page), and it was on placards advertising the news as well.  Now I can bet that if something like that had happened here in Denmark (purely hypothetical, since it almost certainly wouldn't), it would have been covered on the 3rd or 4th page in the US papers, and mentioned in passing as a 30 second story on the 6:00 news.  It's amazing how so much of the world revolves around what happens in the US, while the US hardly pays attention to the rest of the world at all.
That's about it for today.  It's laundry time again, so I'm getting it all ready for heading out tomorrow, which will be my last day in Denmark.  I still have a couple more things to see before I head out on that night train for Germany and then the Netherlands.
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