Visiting Denmark in the summertime means there are many hours of daylight, providing more opportunities to explore. A daytrip train from Copenhagen north to Helsingør takes you through the Danish lowlands next to the sea, but the goal here is a visit to Kronborg Slot (Kronborg Castle).
Does the place, Helsingør, sound familiar?
How about the Anglicized version of the name – Elsinore?
Elsinore is the setting for one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, “Hamlet”.
Since its designation in 2000, Kronborg Slot (Kronborg Castle) in Helsingør, Denmark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is commonly known as “Hamlet’s castle.”
Hamlet’s castle over the Øresund
The Øresund strait (known as Öresund or Sundet) is a narrow strip of water separating the Danish island of Sjælland (Zealand) from Scania in southern Sweden; only four kilometres separate Helsingør, Denmark from Helsingborg, Sweden. The Øresund has always been an important busy passage for shipping, and is one of three channels connecting the Baltic Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.
“Krogen” was established at this spot in northeastern Denmark in the early 15th-century to guard the strait’s entrance, to control the sea lanes in and out of the “The Sound”, and to collect shipping tolls called “The Sound Dues”. After Krogen came Kronborg Slot with renovations, fire, sacking, and conversion to barracks, altering its shape and use since the 16th-century. The present-day restoration of Kronborg Castle reflects the Renaissance and baroque stylings from the 16th- and 17th-centuries.
Written in the 12th-century by Saxo Grammaticus, “Gesta danorum” (History of the Danes) contains the first reference to the character of “Amleth“. The name appears again in 1514 when Christiern Pedersen published a story based on the legend recorded within “Gesta danorum”. François de Belleforest wrote a French version in the 16th-century, and by 1590, English writer Thomas Kyd wrote his own version as drama complete with the elements of revenge.
It’s not clear whether Shakespeare ever visited Kronborg Slot, but actors from England from Shakespeare’s company likely came over in the 16th-century because of the Helsingør’s importance as a hub or crossroads with ties to overseas shipping. Based on the visiting actors’ accounts and Kyd’s English version, Shakespeare wrote by 1601 his famous “Hamlet” play which honours Saxo Grammaticus’ prince Amleth.
Above on the castle ramparts under bright sunlight or below in the underground caverns in dim light, the spirit of Amleth lives on in the Gesta danorum. Who knows – you just might hear the whispers of a man in quiet soliloquy …
On the way into Kronborg Castle, you’ll go through the new Maritime Museum of Denmark (M/S Museet for Søfart) which opened in October 2013.
Frequent DSB trains run between Copenhagen (Københavns H) and Helsingør (Helsingør st). DSB Øresund operates the service up and down Zealand’s east coast with a one-way trip lasting 45 minutes. From Sweden, visitors can take a passenger- and vehicle-ferry across the Øresund strait from Helsingborg.
POSTSCRIPT: Here’s a neat little fact, connecting my training in physics and astronomy with Shakespeare.
Famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) made night-time observations of the sky, leading to Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) formulating his three laws of planetary motion, which in turn were described elegantly by Isaac Newton’s (1642-1727) universal law of gravity. Brahe was directly related to the Rosenkrans and Gyldenstjern families, whose modified names, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, appear prominently in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Erik Rosenkrans (1427-1503) and Sophie Gyldenstjerne (-1477) were parents to Kristine Rosenkrans (-1509), who was grandmother to Brahe’s mother, Beate Bille (1526-1605).
William Shakespeare wrote his play, “The Tragedy of Hamlet, prince of Denmark” around 1601, the same year Brahe died.
I made the photos above on 30 June 2008. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-w7.