Our second weekend in Denmark, we headed out on our first real “day trip.” This is no small feat when toting along a 23-pound-overtired-and-emotional-toddler. Abby needs her sleep, and the one downfall of our great sleep routine at home is that she requires us to be in a home for it to work! But aside from no real napping during our trip, Abby had a great day.
This also marked the start of Tim’s vacation, so we looked forward to a week of guided-tours across Denmark.
Our destination this particular day was Kronborg Castle in Helsingør (about 45 minutes from Tim’s apartment in Copenhagen). This castle has been made famous as the prototype for William Shakespeare’s Elsinore Castle in Hamlet – you know the play with “Something is rotten in state of Denmark” à la high school English class. Actors the likes of Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, and Jude Law have visited this location to play Hamlet in various productions over the years.
In 2000 it was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is located a mere 4 km from neighboring Sweden. The castle was built in the 1420’s, but after weathering the typical bouts of fire (seemingly universal among all aged castles), has changed significantly over the years. Given it’s proximity to Sweden, the castle was also routinely pillaged by the neighboring Swedes, so their modern-day affinity for each other belies a checkered past. Positioning was also strategic to collect taxes from merchants entering and leaving the country; there is a fascinating history surrounding the implementation of taxes by Danish royalty and some of the valuable wares that were collected through the years.
Interestingly, until recently, the castle was used as military barracks, and the great hall (the most impressive room in the castle) in particular was used to house soldiers.
When we arrived, Tim kindly offered to entertain Abby while we took a tour of the castle. This was well-advised; there were a number of narrow and dark stairways to navigate which would have been nightmarish with Abby in tow.
We started in the casemates. A dark, dungeon-like area used to house both prisoners and soldiers; these were also strategically designed for defense of the castle, something routinely faced being so close to the Swedes. There was, in most areas, a total lack of external light, and the conditions must have been horrific. We explored a solitary confinement section which could be made smaller and smaller until prisoners could not properly sit or stand in their allotted space. We also viewed the small hallway-like section where soldiers could spend up to 8 hours a day marching back and forth. Glimpses of huge vats to hold rations of fish and beer (the liquid of choice for soldiers; less susceptible to microbes than water) were also possible.
There is also a large statue of a national legend and “hero” – Holger Danske who is purported to protect Denmark. While sleeping now, he will wake if needed in future battles…or so says legend!
We had a few minutes to stroll around the courtyard before exploring the rest of the castle.
Most of the castle is “underwhelming” compared to other spots we would visit during our stay in Denmark. There were no elaborate staterooms, and things were more functional than stylish. The exception would be the Great Hall, where feasts used to continue for weeks on end.
A view of Sweden from the castle.
About an hour-and-a-half after our tour started, we were able to reunite with Abby and (a relieved?) Tim. Fortuitously, we were able to watch her wander about unawares for a few minutes and it was hilarious to observe her interaction with Tim. Apparently she spent most of her time playing on the beach with an errant gelato spoon. You use what you got…
We enjoyed a quick picnic lunch on the grounds (there was, of course, a kid-friendly picnic area complete with an array of sand boxes and toys). At this point, my day started to go downhill – for the past few months I had been randomly plagued by virtually debilitating migraines (this was actually the last one I’ve had, praise the Lord). I put on as brave a face as I could muster, but I felt miserable for most of the rest of the day.
A nice wandering stroll through the nearby town revealed some quaint locales:
We then boarded a ferry to venture to the nearby shores of Sweden (but not before snapping the following picture of an elevator sign). Immature, yes, hilarious, ditto.
Ferry traffic is constant, not only from tourists, but from commuters traveling to the opposing country for work purposes (Sweden has considerably lower taxes, especially on vehicles).
Our first stop in Helsingborg (Sweden) was a delightful little ice cream shop. I felt less miserable at this point – the ice cream was fantastic, and it was Abby-approved!
From ice cream to shopping, we wandered along the Kullagatan – the main pedestrian shopping street in the city, and were entertained by a variety of buskers, before finally making our way to the stairs leading to Kärnan – a tower in the center of the city which is the only remnant of a Danish fortress built in the city.
The only way up was up! Abby got the royal treatment being carried up the steps like a princess on her throne (being her stroller, or course).
Abby thoroughly enjoyed being rid of her confines, and had a blast exploring the grounds. The following picture is one of my absolute favourites. Adorable, yes, but can you ever see the mischievous glint in her eyes. Tim had packed a few Frisbee’s which we tossed around, and poor Abby got stuck playing monkey-in-the-middle before opting for the swings.
Just look at those precious little feet, smooth, tanned little legs, and beautiful mess of blonde curls. I know I am biased, but that is off the cuteness charts! *If she wasn’t nestled snugly asleep in bed right now I would grab that bundle of sweetness and squeeze her tight.
After this, we high-tailed it back to the boat for Denmark, stopping to capture a few more scenes of the city on our way home:
After a long, sleepless, migraine-riddled trek home, Tim was kind enough to grace me with two Tylenol-with-codeine (I’d never had them before). I was in so much pain I actually vomited, so I had little hope these pills would do the trick, but about 20 minutes later I felt good as new, and we enjoyed some fantastic take-out from a little pizza joint across the street.
Visit Sweden. Check.
See past Denmark adventures here (and follow the link at the bottom to additional dates).