Kronborg Castle Tour : On way to the castle
A short train journey Northwards from Copenhagen brought us to Helsingør Station. The town was small but its standing was big, thanks to William Shakespeare and one of his most acclaimed play “Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark”.
Kronborg Castle Tour
The First Glimpse
Walking down from the station, as we came to the waterfront, the Kronborg castle or the Hamlet’s Castle, as it is fondly called, came into view. Even from this distance one could see the spectacular shape of the castle and our minds started visualizing the various scenes of the play.
After about 15 minutes we entered the red gates when a person dressed in a medieval regal costume said in a matching accent “But what is your affair in Elsinore?” Even as I replied “We are here as visitors?”, another voice behind me said “My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral”. Then it struck. Ha, that must be Horatio and the one in front of me was surely Hamlet.
Elsinore as referred in the play is generally believed by scholars, to be derived from Helsingør, and Kronborg was the setting for the play. In his remembrance, Shakespeare Festival takes place in Kronborg Castle each year in August and we were lucky to be right in the middle of it.
Kronborg Castle: The History
Kronborg was built in the early 15th century, by King Eric of Pomerania, on a promontory at the narrowest part of Øresund, which divides Zealand, Denmark and Scania, Sweden. This strategically located castle helped in completely controlling the sound and the merchant ships coming from the Baltic sea going south were charged heavy taxes. The castle also protected the Danish land from unwanted incursions.
The castle as it appears now was rebuilt in 1620 when the original castle was destroyed in a fire. This remarkable castle was also the home of the royalty till late 17th century. The collection of tolls continued right until 1857 when the King abolished the unpopular tax.
After shaking off Hamlet and Horatio we entered the main courtyard and were at once transported back a few centuries. The renaissance architecture of the towers and the buildings and the outfits of the people (actors) made sure of that. The centre of the courtyard served as the stage for the play. Soon Hamlet too arrived and exclaimed “To be, or not to be, that’s the question”, and multi-act play continued, no question about that!
Stairs of a tower at one corner of the castle took us to the living quarters of the Royalty.
Every room was ornately decorated with artefacts of the Royalty as well as his army. The castle also included a private chapel, which was beautifully embellished with Religious objects.
The paintings on the wall, the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the fine wood furniture, all must have been mute spectators to the happenings within the castles walls. The ball room walls would have heard the finest music while the well-dressed gentry danced or developed sinister plans.
As we return to the courtyard, someone taps me on the shoulder and asks us if we wanted to see the Ghost of the King of Denmark. It was Horatio and we were game. We followed him and Hamlet into the clammy casemates of the castle where we saw a translucent apparition of the king and heard him say “I am thy father’s spirit”. The floor was wet and slippery and the surrounding dark and eerie. The ghost recounted the horrid tale how his wife, the Queen and his brother Claudius hatched a plot to kill him, the King of Denmark, while we watched spellbound. On hearing the spooky, screechy voice resounding on the walls of casemates, we got the goose bumps.
This stunning castle, which has stood the test of time and the vagaries of weather is certainly worth a visit on your visit to Denmark, at least to experience the play in its original settings.
How to reach?
By train: During summer, there is a train every 20 minutes from Copenhagen to Helsingør and is probably the most convenient. The journey takes about 45 minutes.
By Car: Take E47 highway right upto Helsingør. The journey is about 40 minutes.
Opening hours – 10:00AM to 5:30PM in summer months.
Ticket price- 140 DKK (Danish Kroner)
Map of Kronborg Castle
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