The Kronborg castle was the first sign to welcome us in Helsingor. I loved the way it looked. I loved that it was just there, like it has been for nearly 400 years, now a welcome sign for all the sailors, promising incredible adventure inside its guts. In the past this must have been a rather sore sign, as no sailor dared to pass the castle without paying the king his Sound dues.
The narrow water path we were sailing on divides 2 countries – Sweden and Denmark. There is only 4km between the shores and Frederic II chose wisely. He built the castle in a strategic point, ingeniously positioning himself between two countries, making sure Sweden knew who was important here. After all it took him seven years to establish his position even though he still could not declare himself a winner. And the war with the Swedish king Erik XIV left them both penniless. But Frederick II came up with a brilliant idea. He made changes to the Sound Dues, and could collect a large sum of money every time a ship sailed past the castle.
The money he collected helped him build the castle. And he absolutely adored it. No expanses were spared! Spires, sandstone and copper roofs, gigantic Ballroom, expensive furniture and toasts with the canon fire, that was heard on the opposite shore. 24 dishes, washed with enormous quantity of wine and beer, noble guests, exquisite food and the longest ballroom in Northern Europe – 60m long! Every time a ball was held, the ballroom would be decorated lavishly in tapestries and magnificent furniture. Sadly a lot of it was lost during fire in 1629 and when Swedes occupied the castle in 1665.
There is so many tapestries hanging around the castle! They are incredible, rich, amazingly detailed. As you can easily guess they were born out of rivality between Fredrick II and Swedish monarch Erik XIV. When Danish king discovered that his rival is making tapestries, he could not hold back. He ordered 43! 101 Danish monarchs and legendary kings, 1,000 years of royal family history and mythology, from the legendary King Dan to Christian IV were woven onto silk and yarn.
The castle is incredibly interesting. You can visit not only beautiful halls and ballroom, but you are welcome to descend underground, take yourself into the guts of the dungeons! They are cold and damp, poorly lit even now, but they were a life-saviours! They have protected soldiers, who could barricade themselves inside together with the horses and stay there for up to 6 weeks, as the provisions let them do just that. 1000 man could stay and no harm would come to them!
If you venture there, you will meet a national hero – Holger Danske, asleep deeply under the castle. Sleeping for hundredths years he will only wake up if the Denmark is in danger. He will wake up and he will slash the enemies throats with his sword! Let’s hope he will sleep in peace for a very, very long time.
Do you remember where famous Hamlet from Shakespeare’s tragedy had to travel when he learnt about the death of his father? Are you familiar with the name Elsinore? This is Kronborg castle! No one really knows if Shakespeare ever visited this castle, but there is no doubt he let the story of Hamlet happened in here. Some of the actors who performed Hamlet during the tour in Europe, when the tragedy was written, did perform it here, in the very same place! To this day you can come and watch “Hamlet” here!
I would recommend strongly going on a tour with a guide. This tour is free of charge, included in your ticket, if you wish to go.
For tickets and details of the opening times, head over official Kronborg website.