Hunting for Hamlet in Copenhagen

When I was in my late teen age, I heard about the country Denmark from a play by William Shakespeare. I was a bit of a daydreamer. I believed the character of Tintin really exists with his speaking dog Snowy. I believed in the existence of Feluda (the famous detective character of Bengali Literature), Sherlock Holmes, Perry Mason. When I was introduced to Shakespeare with his play “Comedy of Errors” I was convinced about the reality of the story. Next I read Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Hamlet – The Prince of Denmark”. I was confident about the reality of the story and the existence of the castle.

Google was not there at that time. I checked the globe and pointed to the country Denmark. Most of the dreams of the teen age are usually broken by the harsh reality. I had to accept that there is no existence of Tintin, Feluda and other characters. 

When my office deputed me to Stockholm in 2018, I was very happy. One of the reasons behind the excitement was to get easy access to Denmark. I revisited my wish list and instinctively I googled with the keyword “Denmark and Hamlet” and the search engine showed the result with Kronborg Castle – the castle Elsinore of Shakespeare’s Play Hamlet. I did not believe my eyes and finally in November 2018, I started for Copenhagen with my friend Dipayan. It was a weekend trip including the sights and sounds of Copenhagen and the famous Kronborg Castle.

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Kronborg Castle, the castle of Hamlet

Copenhagen has its own spirit. The city won my heart within one hour of arrival. I stayed there for two days and throughout the entire tour my likeness gradually increased to maximum.

Denmark is located in the mainland of Europe and well connected by rail and bus with Germany, Poland, Netherlands. Secondly, Denmark is the cheapest among all the Nordic Countries. These two reasons helped to grow tourism in Denmark. People visit Denmark to get the flavor of Scandinavia in a cheaper and easier way.

Apart from that, Denmark has its own culture and a civilization of 6000 years. Its Scandinavian beauty is ornamented with the jewels of mainland Europe and thus Denmark has its own aesthetics that made the city to be a popular tourist destination.

Copenhagen – the capital of Denmark is different from any other city in Europe. Amazing castles, colorful waterside town homes, unforgettable boat rides on the canals, breathtaking views from the top of churches, the little mermaid and last but not the list mouth watering street foods corners – Copenhagen is famous for many things.

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Nyhavn

But though not pricey like other Scandinavian countries, Copenhagen is more expensive than most of the major European cities and far more costlier than Eastern and Southern Europe. But a tourist can beat the cost with a proper plan and by the optimum use of a travel card. 

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Top view of the geometric town

We reached Copenhagen at 9.30 AM and boarded a hostel opposite the Copenhagen Central Rail Station. Breakfast was included in the package. After having a sumptuous breakfast we started at 10.30 AM. It was a cold winter morning 

Free Walking Tour:

Each and every day, Free Walks are organised from the city town hall. I prefer to opt for free walks as the walks give a detailed idea about the history of the city and also the historical places are covered. There are many free walks departing from the City Hall. The most famous and effective is the Copenhagen Free Walking Tour.

We gathered in front of the City Hall and as scheduled a young lady Melba introduced herself as the guide and the tour got started.

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The City Hall:

The City Hall was constructed in the years 1892-1905 in National Romantic Style and nowadays is the office of the Mayor and Municipality. 

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City Hall Square

Old City Center:

It was the heart of the city. The entire area is full of gift shops, curio shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs. Thus people from across the world can be seen there. Melba was talking about the famous dishes and beers of the country. I really liked the mood of the entire area. Like other old towns of Europe, the Old City Center is so happening that it can bring joy to everybody’s heart.

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Nyhavn:

Ornamented with the colorful homes Nyhavn was a famous port in Hanseatic Europe where ships from across the world would dock. During the League Era, this locality was always busy with merchants, restaurants, pubs and entertaining girls.

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Nyhavn

The port is still there from where the canal ride starts (later in this story). But this area is the most beautiful, colourful and charming zone of Copenhagen. Especially during summer, Nyahavn is the perfect place to spend a day. I wished to spend the entire day but due to time constraint, we had to leave.

The Royal Palace of Amlienborg:

This place is famous to get the experience of the Monarchy of ancient Denmark. 

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Royal Palace of Amlienborg

Entering into the Palace Garden I felt the smell of the Royal history of Denmark in every step. The history started speaking the story of its glory and decay. Just because of its easy connectivity with Northern Europe, Copenhagen was always a vital port and still it is an important town. The importance makes a town experienced. 

I was completely sunk into my own thoughts.  Suddenly it started raining.

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The Statue of little mermaid

Due to the heavy shower we could not go to Christiansborg Palace which was the last spot to be covered in the walking tour. When the Sun again showed its smiling face, Dipayan and I decided to detour, have lunch and enjoy the boat ride.

We had a quick lunch with sandwiches and coffee.

Boat Ride:

Post lunch session we went back to Nyhavn. We purchased tickets and took our seats. 

Personally, I try to avoid the joy rides arranged for the common tourists rather strolling in the less travelled streets help me to connect to the city, relate to the culture and give the pleasure of travel. But I broke this habit in Copenhagen; and honestly speaking the boat ride was the best part of my entire trip. It started from the Nyhavn port, and through the canals to sea and again back to Nyhavn port. I felt myself as a shipman exploring the city while sailing in water.

It is really funny that the commentator girl asked to head down while the boat was approaching under any bridge and tunnel. This is because the city is not that much higher than sea level and the bridges are thus not so higher than the boat. It was my first time experiencing a city not so high from sea level. 

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Narrow bridge on the canal

Starting from the port of Nyhavn the 90 minutes long canal ride takes the tourists to Copenhagen’s main attraction. Our guide was polite and had vast knowledge about the city. We sailed past Kastellet and Little mermaid Statue, Christiansborg Palace, Amlienborg, Church of Our Saviour, National Museum of Denmark and much more. 

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Church of our saviour as seen from boat

Though some of those attractions were seen during the walking tour, seeing them from a different angle during sailing helped me to relate more with the city. Secondly the boat tour helped me to get more attraction that was difficult to cover by feet. The Copenhagen tour is incomplete without the boat tour.

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Royal Palace of Amlienborg as seen from boat

The boat trip ends in the city center and this is the time to explore the City Center more and have some mementos for your home. Light snacks with Danish Beer can also be a good option.

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Copenhagen City Center

Once you are done with the gifts it is the time to Get a Copenhagen Card. The cards cost 54 Euro for 24 hours, 80 Euro for 48 hours and 99 Euros for 72 hours. This card not only allows for free entry in the castles, museums and churches but also helps in free transport by busses, trams, trains and underground metro rails. I opted for 24 hours only. Since the sky was good, first I visited Rundetaren or the Round Tower.

Rundtaren or Round Tower:

Located in City Center, Rundetaren is a living landmark since 1642. It was another Christian IV’s project and has a remarkable architectural excellence. It was built for a star gazing observatory for the king and since the King was supposed to climb there by horse, instead of staircases there are sloping ramps that twists and turns itself. 

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On the way to Rundtaren

In 1990, somebody drove a car up there and an unicycle race is organised annually to the top and back. 

Climbing on the spiral ramp takes to the library hall and finally to the balcony on the top. The breathtaking top view is visible from there.

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View of Copenhagen from Rundtaren

Taking some photographs I came down, and walked to Christianavn – a backwater port and then to København K – a popular market for cheap shopping and finally to Church of Our Saviour.

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Christianavn

Church of Our Saviour:

Church of our Saviour is a baroque style church with a staircase to climb to the top, offering extensive views over central Copenhagen. It is also noted for its carillon, which is the largest in northern Europe and plays melodies every hour from 8 am to midnight.

I was unfortunate as there was some maintenance going on inside the church.

Appreciating the culture and public art of Hippie Haven Freetown Christiana:

Though I do not smoke up but it is must to mention that this is the only “Greenline District ” of Scandinavia and world famous for the quality of cannabis. Apart from that the small area is an international community and commune. The area has its own rule which differs from the country and the bohemian culture of the area added a feather in the crown of Denmark Tourism.

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Graffiti and Street performance in Christiana

I liked the street arts. Every street art was telling a socio political story. Human desire, gender movement, free lands, the fight of Christiana are depicted on the walls of the homes. 

Secondly I must say the music of the area really impressed me. I found at least 7-8 people sitting in the lane bi lanes and playing guitar, mandolin, ukulele, piano accordion. Everyone was playing their own song but not distracting others. But walking down the narrow lanes I felt a synchronicity. A synchronization with other’s music and a synchronization with the painting. Painting and arts are always sharp political weapons. I felt the politics of the Freetown Christiana.

Strolling is absolutely free till the tourist stays sober.

When I went there dusk was about to set in. I came back to my hotel by metro rail and bus.

Tivoli Gardens:

On the way back, we went to Tivoli Garden. It is an amusement park. We spent few hours and finally back to hotel at 9PM and called it a day.

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Tivoli Gardens

Luck did not favour us. Next morning was a cloudy one with 70% rain-forcast. We started earlier for the Rosenborg Castle. We got a metro rail and reached the castle.

Rosenborg castle:

In the early 17th century, King Christian IV set in the royal hermitage. Currently Rosenborg Castle features 400 years of splendor, royal art treasures and the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia.

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Rosenborg Castle

Exploring the interior was a time travel for us. The way they preserved everything convinced us to believe like a royal guest. Experiencing the king’s private writing cabinet, his bathroom, wax figures of former royal inhabitants reflected the glory.

“Amlan, it seems like we have just been on a time machine” said Dipayan. I agreed. Suddenly it started raining and we headed back to Central Station for our next destination – Kronborg Castle.

Kronborg Castle (Castle of Hamlet):

From Copenhagen Central Station we boarded at the train for Helsingør Station. As we had Copenhagen Cards, it was not required to purchase any other ticket for the same. The train took one and half hours and we rechead the small coastal town Helsingør, which is also connected by ferry with the Swedish Town Helsingborg.

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Kronborg Castle

Walking down from the station, the first glimpse of the castle thrilled us. It was a 15th Century renaissance castle built on the narrowest bank of Øresund.  The castle is immortalized as Elsinore in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

The castle is a 15 minutes walk from the station and in every step, the scenes of the play was appearing in my mind. The Copenhagen Card qualified us to get an entrance to the castle. The castle is now inscribed to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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Entrance of Kronborg Castle

During Summer, the scenes of the play are performed in the courtyard but we were not that lucky as it was winter. The guards were dressed in the costume as written in the play. They asked,”Stand, and unfold yourself”. “Long live the King” the words flowed out of me instantly. Every step was thrilling me like I am inside the play. I was recollecting even each and every dialogue.

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View from the top of the castle

We climbed to the terrace. The rain was only spoiling the mood.We came and suddenly a guard asked us to go inside a room. We followed him and suddenly we saw a translucent apparition of the king and heard him say “I am thy father’s spirit”. It was Horatio. Then he told the horrific story of his wife and brother Claudius hatched a plot to kill him. I felt the goose bump. 

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Though our mind wanted to stay there for some more time but we had to come back as our permissible hour of Copenhagen Card was approaching towards the final hour. We came back to Copenhagen, had dinner and the next day we left for Stockholm.

Note to the readers:

  1. Travellers should visit Rockslide Castle – it is also a middle age castle and inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since we were informed about the ongoing renovation, we opted it out.
  2. Beware of pickpocket while you are in the entertainment zone. Staying sober is always the best option to avoid any unexpected incidents.

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