Anton, Graz, Simon, Leah and I boarded the boat on the Swedish side of the Bay to the Baltic Sea. Helsingborg, Sweden was where our Danish adventure began. The short 20 minute boat ride from Helsingborg to Helsingor, Denmark was similar to the short boat ride from Malta to Gozo, although the water was much smoother. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Denmark except that, in general, they are a tall people and most Swedes call them “mush mouths” because of their unique accent. (Leah said that they sound like they have a mouth full of mashed potatoes in their mouth when they speak Swedish.)
The convenient location of the Kronborg castle on the Danish shore made it easy to find despite the unfamiliar streets and construction in Helsingor.
The 15th century castle has been a strong military fortress, king’s home, a place to pay tolls, Shakespeare’s inspiration and is now one of the most renowned castles in Northern Europe and major tourist attraction.
The dungeon area is one of the more popular areas in the castle. It’s dark, dank rooms and eerie feel inspired Shakespeare to tell the tragic story of Hamlet, a Danish Prince, which was also set in the Kronborg castle. (Hamlet is performed on a regular basis in the castle.) At the mouth of the dungeon, Holgar the Dane, a 15 feet, floor-to-ceiling, limestone, sleeping-warrior statue greets his visitors. The rumor is that as long as Denmark remains safe, the warrior will sleep but the moment Denmark is attacked, he will awake to defend his country.
The Chapel, Knights quarters, grand Ballroom and artwork were some of the most impressive things at the castle. Anton, Leah and I ventured throughout the castle as Simon and Graz spent some alone time in a quaint café outside the castle gate. We all had a lovely time. I realized that I loved visiting castles! J There’s something very humbling about standing in a courtyard nearly 600 yrs old, more than twice the age of my own country.
Next, we hopped on the train headed towards Copenhagen. Copenhagen is the largest city in Denmark, boasting a population of over 1.8 million people. It was definitely the most diverse place that I had visited on the Scandinavian portion of my trip. It was nice to see the colors of the city, both culturally speaking and architecturally.
As you can see from the pictures, many of the houses are painted different colors. It was very beautiful, especially along the river.
Whenever I travel to a new country, I try to understand a bit of the spiritual climate and spirit of a city/country. Copenhagen was unlike anything that I’ve experienced before. I felt welcome as a tourist and culturally, the city was very diverse. But I’m not so sure that the Danes welcome that diversity. (As you may remember, in 2005 a Danish cartoonist depicted Mohammad as a terrorist. This of course caused world-wide dissension and the US was one of the few countries who even refused to show the cartoon when reporting the news because of its prejudice slant.) The attitude of “we are better than you” (and by “you”, they mean darker skinned, darker hair, darker eyes, religious people who have migrated to Scandinavia) is wide-spread through out the region. I was shocked to find out that olive-skinned people, like my Maltese friends, are some of the ones that are looked down upon the most. (I’ll explain more about this in my Sweden blog.)