Day Trip to Hillerod and Helsingor

Trip Start Jul 11, 2008
1
13
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Trip End Feb 28, 2009


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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

DAY TRIP TO HILLEROD & HELSINGOR: (02/09/08)

I announced that I was going to go north of Copenhagen to see some of the Danish countryside and to check out some cool castles. Steve (my bathroom mate) and John decided to come with me.

Our first stop was Hillerod, which is a small inland town about 45 minutes northwest of Copenhagen. The major attractions here were Frederiksborg Slot and the surrounding gardens. It was also quite a pleasant walk through a very European looking town and by the water to get to the castle. When I was walking by the water with the swans and reeds on the embankment I really felt like I was in Europe for the first time. It had a very European feel, which was nice.

Frederiksborg Slot is an amazing looking castle from the outside. It is incredibly ornate and looks like a castle out of a fairy tale. Up closer, the intricate craftsmanship on all the stone and the wooden doors was just phenomenal. To think that this construction was accomplished before the times of electricity is amazing. We decided not to go into the castle's museum as it was quite expensive and we were happy to see the amazing exterior and courtyard. However, the castle did not seem as though it would be easily defended so I think that it was probably used mainly as a winter home for royalty.

We then had a look at the gardens surrounding the Frederiksborg slot. Like the castle, these gardens are amazingly decorative and beautiful. It was very pleasant just to walk around them and marvel at the view of the castle from across the water.

Our next stop was Helsingor, a coastal town about an hour north of Copenhagen but only 25 minutes from Hillerod. When we got off the train, we went and had a traditional Danish lunch, which was recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebook, which I had used to plan today's trip (thanks Uncle Paul & Angie). The food was good and not too expensive. I had Smorbroed for the first time in Denmark, which was great.

We then went up to the famous Kronborg Slot, which is supposedly where Shakespeare's Hamlet is set (although Shakespeare never set foot in Denmark). It is not as beautiful a castle as the one in Hillerod, but it is much more practical. Situated on a hill overlooking the narrow straight to Sweden (which is less than a kilometre away), Kronborg Slot is an imposing military fortress, which could obviously be well defended. It is equipped with a deep moat, high walls, watchtowers, canons, etc. Apparently the Danish Royalty used the castle in order to take a tax from any foreign trading vessel that wanted to pass through the straight. The canons would be used if the ship's captain refused to pay. Judging by the look of the castle, I think I would have paid the tax back in the day rather than taking my chances.

John and I then paid to go inside and look at the Casements below the castle (basically the dungeons). Sitting down there is a statue of Holger Danske (Holger the Dane - the hero which the street of our residence is named after). Apparently the Danes believe that if Denmark ever needs him, Holger will come back to life and help them out in war. Anyway, it was cool to see the guy that our street and residence hall are named after.

When we progressed further down into the casements, it was completely dark. There were torches to buy at the entrance but we didn't know that they were basically a necessity. We made do with our camera flashes and light from our mobile phones. It was kind of spooky down there. It got very cold and the ceilings were low. There was absolutely no natural light in a lot of the rooms. I cannot possibly think of how terrible it must have been to be a prisoner of Kronborg Slot. During winter it would be freezing cold. I don't think that many prisoners would have survived.

Anyway, that was pretty cool. After finishing at the castle we were going to take the ferry across to Sweden just for the sake of it but the weather started to look quite foreboding and the seas looked quite choppy so we decided to head back to Copenhagen instead. Sweden could wait for another day. On the train home we were so tired from all the walking we did that day that we all fell asleep and woke just before arriving back in the city. It was a very interesting day and it was great to get out and see some more of Denmark other than Copenhagen.
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