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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

12/14: Castle Blitz on our Trip's Last Day in Denmark's Zealand

After experiencing the warm temperatures in Dubai and Abu Dhabi the last several days, it was definitely a bit of a shock returning to chilly Copenhagen for the last two nights of our trip. Steven and I had visited the city en route home at the end of another long trip but this time we had an extra day to explore the city’s environs. 
We decided to follow noted travel writer Rick Steve’s suggestion and see the highlights of Zealand, the island where Copenhagen is located. That meant we would, using public transportation, visit both Frederiksborg and Kronborg castles and Louisiana Art Museum, all located north of Denmark’s capital.

We had chosen our hotel well, at least in terms of its proximity to the train station, as it was just up the block. However, our room was very ‘cozy’ and the so-called 'facilities' were a good 30 or so feet down the hallway. 
We took the morning S-tog train for the short 40-minute ride to the cute little town of Hillerod, which was near Frederiksborg Castle, our first stop of the day.
Bikes were a common sight everywhere in Copenhagen and all over Denmark
Glad we were nice and warm in the train and didn't have to get outside in the chilly weather quite yet!
Instead of taking a bus from the Hillerod station to the castle, we chose a pleasant walk through the mostly car-free town. 
The Torvet or town square:

These African animals seemed just a tad out of place in the town square!
I wonder if concerts are held in the town square's pavilion during warm, summer days.
What fabulous views of the castle as we walked along the path to the castle.

Frederiksborg Castle, which sits on the island in the middle of a lake in Hillerod, is the grandest castle in Scandinavia and is often called the Danish Versailles.  Built from 1602 to 1620, Frederiksborg was the castle of Denmark’s King Christian IV. Much of it was reconstructed after an 1859 fire and the castle became a museum 20 years later.  

For all you beer lovers: Denmark's Carlsberg Beer:.

As Rick Steves wrote, the entrance to the castle complex was an appropriately regal approach to the king’s residence. We could almost hear the ‘clopping of the royal hooves’ as we walked over the moat and through the first island. 
'Slot' is the Danish word for castle.
The island had formerly contained the stables and small businesses needed to support the royal residence. Now the area was used for a more prosaic reason: parking!
Where or where is that castle?! Surely, we'll reach it soon.
A winding lane, designed so it could be easy to defend, led us to the second island which was home to the domestic and foreign ministries. 
After finally crossing over the last moat to the main palace, we had almost arrived where the king lived!
Through one final arch, we caught sight of the Fountain of Neptune in the castle courtyard.
Thank goodness, the view of Frederiksborg Castle was definitely worth the short walk from the station and the stroll across the moats.
The gnome in the fountain looked like the Travelocity one I always see in my favorite TV program, The Amazing Race!
As we had arrived before the castle opened at 10, we had time to walk around the castle. Since it was pretty nippy out, at least for us who had just spent so much time recently in far warmer climes, we probably didn't appreciate the lovely sculptures and views as we would have if it were warmer.

Janina: Seeing this half-naked figure reminded me of your comment from a post I wrote in our trip to Budapest a couple of years in which I had included photos of other half-naked men!
I don't know if this was a replica of the Danish crown atop the spire.

After walking around the entire castle, we had an enjoyable stroll in the massive Castle Garden, one of the country's national palace gardens. The herb and ornamental gardens were partly designed by Frederik IV in the 18th century as a baroque garden. There was also a small deer park with grand oak trees planted to rebuild the naval fleet after the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807.

We were so relieved when the clock struck 10 and we were finally able to enter the castle!
At the time of Christian IV (1588-1648), the first room we entered was called the Knights' Room. After alterations were carried out in 1740, the enormous room was given the name of 'the rose'. I hadn't known that a 'rose' is a dining room for the ladies and gentlemen of the court. The elaborately decorated, vaulted ceiling was supported by five marble columns.
Imitation gilt leather covered the walls; above them was a stucco frieze of beasts of the chase. The stag had real antlers.
On the ceiling were circular panels with the heraldic figures of the coats of arms of Christian IV and his queen.

The room contained a number of lovely carved and painted chests all dating from the time of Christian IV. The chests would have been filled filled with objects of everyday life: clothing, linen, bedclothes as well as valuables. The decoration of the chests was linked to the status of the owners and changing styles. 

Two suits of armor from around 1600 were in one corner of the room. They were copies of originals used by King Frederik II during a military campaign in southern Denmark.
Royal Chapel: Christian IV wanted the grandest royal chapel in Europe – it certainly appeared that his wish may have been granted! The stunning chapel, dating back to 1620, is nearly all original. For 200 years, it was the coronation place of Danish kings and it is still used for royal weddings. 

An intricately carved organ was located in the upper area of the chapel.
We had never seen so many coats of arms lining the walls as we did in the chapel - there must have been hundreds of them. They belonged to people who had received royal orders from the Danish crown – similar to Britain’s knighthoods. 
While most of the names were obscure princesses and dukes, there were a few interesting and more familiar names too. One was the distinctive red, blue, black and green shield of South Africa which marked Nelson Mandela’s coat of arms. He was awarded the very prestigious Order of the Elephant which was normally reserved for royalty.
We also caught sight of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s with the blue anvil and the motto “Peace Through Understanding.”
Winston Churchill’s coat of arms: he had already come from a royal line.
We were pleased to see the coat of arms belonging to Haile Selassie, the former ruler of Ethiopia, as we had visited that amazing country earlier this trip. 
We next saw the Rotunda, room, that in the 1680s, was furnished in baroque style. On the ceiling was a painting that showed the personified vices of deception, slander, libel, etc. fleeing from Christian V. The silk walls were covered with a pattern of his crowned monogram and flowers.

This impressive corridor led to the Audience Chamber.
The ceiling panels represented the four corners of the earth.
The paintings in the wall panels were a tribute to Christian V, his family and his achievements. In one, the king was represented as a Roman emperor accompanied by his three sons.
The gilded, wooden chandelier with the figure of a stag was carved in 1625. 
In a corner of the room was a wooden chair-lift for the king to be lowered to the floor below and then exit there! Built in 1693, the lift was still working!
I marveled at the illusions created by some of the materials as they weren't what they seemed to be. It was only upon closer examination that I noticed the 'draperies' were not made of fabric but of stucco. Likewise, the wall panels were not stone, but wood painted to imitate marble. 
The next room focused on the Reformation. In it was a case that contained the first Bible translated into Danish in 1550 as access to the word of God was a big part of the Reformation.

Over the door to the next room was the image of a monk, Hans Tausen, who was invited by the king to preach the new thinking of the Reformation.
As we walked around the upper level, we noticed graffiti scratched on the windowpanes by the diamond rings of royal kids visiting for the summer back in 1600!
Several paintings told the story of Christian IV; one of them was of the chancellor on his deathbed handing over the keys to the realm to a still-wet-behind-the-ears young Christian IV.

Miniatures galore and various Danish orders, including the most 
prestigious Order of the Elephant, were the focus of another room.

Yet more coats of arms took up almost every inch of wall space as we walked up the stairs to the second floor!
This room portrayed Frederik III as an absolute monarch. The ceiling was a copy of a ceiling at Gripsholm Castle in Sweden. The painting represented Aurora, the goddess of dawn. 

My eyes were immediately drawn to the ornately carved cabinets.

The small cabinets on high legs were imported from Germany, Holland and France.
After climbing the stairs, was a fascinating golden globe in another room designed to illustrate Nicolas Copernicus’ bold theory that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the world.

From there, we continued into one of the castle’s most jaw-dropping rooms, the Great Hall. The walls were lined with stunning tapestries and royal portraits. 

The elevated platform was where musicians could play without getting in the way of all the festivities.
I have always heard of how beautiful Flemish tapestries are but never Danish ones. Steven and I hope to visit parts of Western Europe, including Belgium in 2018, God willing. It would be fantastic seeing that country's tapestries but it's hard to believe those can outdo the ones we saw on every inch of the walls in the aptly-named Great Hall.
The remarkable wood-carved ceiling included panels illustrating various industries. 

Lucky you: I just couldn't take any more photos of the ceiling as I got a crick in my neck attempting to make sure the photos came out straight!

Yet one more amazing room with massive tapestries and an interesting, possibly ivory box on a center table.

The detail in this ceiling, too, was just eye-popping.
I have always been intrigued by optical-illusion portraits. This one showed King Frederik V when viewed from one angle and his wife when viewed from another.

A portrait of Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish writer known for his fairy tales. Remember “The Emperor's New Clothes” and The Ugly Duckling"?
In one of the next rooms we walked through, the most eye-catching feature was the ceiling. I don't ever recall seeing what looked like 'rolling logs' on a ceiling before! 

Then it was time to wander or be thrust into the modern world with contemporary paintings as Frederiksborg Castle was also the Museum of National History. I was amazed to learn that the Museum of National History was established in 1878 by brewer J.C. Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg Brewery, and is a department of the Carlsberg Foundation.

There were official portraits of politicians, scientists and governmental officials.

There were also a slew of history paintings but we spent scant time looking at any of them.

Oh no - just when we thought we'd seen enough coats of arms to last a good long while, there were still more of them on the stairways!
A small room was dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen. On his desk was one one of his famous silhouettes from 1859 cut out in paper with two dancing figures.
In a very long corridor was just a section of the 229 ft-long Frolich Frieze, a 'painting' paying tribute to the Danish king's dominance in England. The scope of it was absolutely incredible especially since this was just a part of it.

Near the castle's Wine Cellar was the rather grand entrance to the women’s bathroom!
And to the men's!
What a great choice we had made to follow Rick Steves' advice to visit the stunning Frederiksborg Castle.

Luckily for us, it was much warmer as we left the castle and walked back through town to the station in time to get the train to Helsingor, a town northeast of Hillerod, to tour Kronborg Castle.
Bike racks were common in the trains we took.

Helsingor was a small town but had an unusually large train station.

The town is located directly on the Oresund channel, just two miles across from its Swedish counterpart, Helsingborg. I read that many Swedes come over to Helsingor for the lower-priced alcohol!
Once we left the station, the castle was dead ahead along the coast. You can just see it on the right-hand side of the photo. First though, we passed through the harbor front which contained the town’s cultural center and maritime museum.
This view across the sound was as close as we got to Helsingborg, Sweden.
Our initial view of Kronborg Castle, also called Elsinore, the Anglicized version of Helsingor, is a sight famous for its tenuous ties to Shakespeare. 
The giant fish on the waterfront was created out of recycled art people no longer wanted.
As we approached Kronborg, just as at Frederiksborg Castle, there were many layers of earthen ramparts and moats.

 Just when we thought we were actually at the castle, we found yet another gateway or waterway to pass!

As Rick Steves wrote, most of the ‘Hamlet’ castle was built long after the historical Hamlet died and Shakespeare never saw the place. But this Renaissance castle existed when a troupe of English actors performed here in Shakespeare’s time and Shakespeare may have known them. I read that these days, various Shakespearean companies from around the world perform Hamlet in Kronborg’s courtyard each August. “Among the actors who’ve donned tights here in the title role are Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law."
Ah, it was so nice being able to warm our hands as walked toward the castle.

Upon finally entering the castle, we saw the Royal Apartments first. In 1572 at the age of 38, King Frederik II met his future bride, Sophie of Mecklenburg, who was then only 14 years old! According to the information panel, from the moment Frederik laid eyes on her, he fell in love. They married that year and "lived happily ever after" although she was only 30 when he died. One of their seven children became the illustrious King Christian IV at the age of just 11. 
When the king was in residence at Kronborg, the country was ruled from this room, called the Chancellery. Officials of the realm dispatched everything from royal decrees about moving marketplaces and receipts for altarpieces to letters about major political affairs and laws on everything imaginable.
The King's Chamber was the most important room of the Royal Apartments. When the King was in residence, the chamber was the place where important meetings were held about the future of the realm and it provided the setting for many a party held with good friends. Through the window, King Frederik II could view his realm on the other side of the Sound and could enjoy the sight of the many passing ships paying the obligatory customs duties to him.
The castle interior sadly was a far cry from the opulence of Frederiksborg Castle. While the structure was rebuilt after a 1629 fire, its rooms were never returned to their former grandeur.

Two small rooms were used as the private quarters of the King and 
Queen because they were easy to heat. During the Renaissance, the climate was much cooler than it is today so a small room with a blazing fire was the preferred choice. Because many arranged marriages ended up as an unhappy union, royal couples slept apart. I was amused to learn that sleeping apart was also a sign of great status as huddling up to another warm person in bed was a much cheaper option!

After passing through the small bedrooms, we came to the Queen’s Chamber which contained lovely tapestries. This room was where the Queen and her ladies in waiting passed much of their time. They ate here and it was from here that the Queen managed her household, oversaw her children's education and relaxed in front of the fireplace.

From there, stairs led up to the Queen’s Gallery, custom built for Queen Sophie to be able to walk directly from her chambers to the ballroom or the chapel. The gallery was also used on an everyday basis for indoor strolls so the ladies' shoes wouldn't be damaged on outside walks! When the royal court left the castle, all inventory and furniture that was not taken to the next castle was stored in the gallery.

Near and yet so far: a view of Helsingborg through the windows. We didn’t have time to take the ferry across the strait to Sweden. I had spent about a month in Sweden waaaay back in 1975 after working in Geneva as an au pair!
The Great Ballroom, the largest such hall in all of northern Europe, was decorated with a series of paintings commissioned by King Christian IV. 
Parties and banquets at Kronborg were known for their lavish splendor and guests came from far and wide to show off their newest party clothes in gold brocade, silk and velvet adorned with lace and ribbons. Entertainment was provided by acrobats, actors and musicians while guests danced.
The ballroom led to the Little Hall which included a series of fine tapestries depicting Danish monarchs.

Leaving that part of the castle, we walked across the courtyard to the Kronborg Chapel. The castle fire of 1629 luckily left the chapel virtually untouched. When Kronborg was handed over to the military in the 18th century, the furniture was removed. The space was needed for fencing, gymnastic exercises and ammunition storage. When the Chapel was restored in 1840-41, the original furniture was returned.The chapel has been the setting of princely weddings. Even today, commoners who belong to the local parish of St. Martin's Church are occasionally wed in the Chapel but they must book long in advance! 

The altarpiece, completed in 1587, was made of alabaster and marble with wooden side panels. The large center depicted the crucifixion while the side panels had panels from the Old Testament, forecasting the sacrifice of Christ.
The enclosed gallery was the private pew of the royal family.
Diagonally across from the chapel, was a door in the main courtyard to the Casements, Kronborg's underground system of corridors and rooms.
Looking at this picture again so many months later after being there reminds me of photos taken during a colonscopy!!
The passages, though not particularly tight, were very dark and apparently intentionally not very well lit. The extensive network of dank cellars was a double-decker substructure that once was a hive of activity. 
The upper level, which we saw first, was used as servants’ quarters, a stable and a storehouse. 

The most famous ‘resident’ of the Kronborg casements was Holger Danske, a mythical Viking hero revered by Danish children. 
The story goes that if the nation is ever in danger, this Danish superman will awaken and restore peace and security to the land. While this legend has been around for many centuries, Holger’s connection to Kronborg was cemented by a Hans Christian Andersen tale.
The lower level was used to train and house soldiers during wartime. As we explored the labyrinthine, nearly pitch-black area, it was easy to imagine the miserably claustrophobic conditions the soldiers lived in while waiting to see some action.
Having had enough of dark tunnels, we ‘saw the light’ after coming back topside! 
We walked back to the station, only to discover we’d just missed the train to the town of Humelback, site of the acclaimed Louisiana Art Museum.

I, quite frankly, didn’t mind too much having to wait for the next train as it gave me time to wander through more of Helsingor while Steven stayed warm in the station’s waiting room. We both have really enjoyed our two brief visits to Denmark but, if we ever return, I hope it will be in the summertime, as it gets very dark by just 4 p.m. in the wintertime.
After seeing all the liquor stores, I could now understand they must do a bang-up business with neighboring Swedes!
Shortly after 4, we were on our way to our final destination of the day, just a 15-minute ride south to Humelback and 18 miles north of Copenhagen. The very chilly walk along dark streets to the Louisiana Art Museum took us the same amount of time as the train had from Helsingor. I am sure that the path from the station through the trees would have been a lovely stroll in the daylight but that seemed just too spooky at night. 
Unlike most (all?) other museums we’ve visited over the years around the world, there was no permanent exhibit at the Louisiana. The museum’s curators constantly organize their substantial collection into ever-changing arrangements, augmented with borrowed and special exhibits.

These decidedly unusual and humorous paintings by German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann were our introduction to the museum. I had never heard of Feldmann so was intrigued to learn that he doesn't sign his paintings and that he "obscures, turns upside down and short-circuits an ostensibly venerable but also ambitious tradition - salon art."

A couple of paintings by another German artist, Daniel Richter, who's had his work shown at the Denver Art Museum and the National Gallery in my hometown of Ottawa. No wonder they caught my eye!

If you have a moment, the text from an interview with Daniel Richter makes for some compelling reading in my opinion.

I don't think we've ever seen a museum that has so many levels as this one had. We’d see a few pictures, then walk down to another level.
The painting was called 'Army of Traitors.' I would liked to have known why the artist chose to paint the 'traitors' in red.
Albert Giacometti, the famous Swiss sculptor and his 'Naked Woman.'
More of Giacometti's works:

I say tongue in cheek that luckily for us, we were able to view one of the museum’s favorite item, French sculptor Cesar’s ‘The Big Thumb’ – simply a six-foot-tall bronze thumb – because every time it was removed, museum patrons complained! 
I could certainly appreciate why 'The Half Circle' by Spanish artist Juan Munoz was a very popular work at the Louisiana. It was impossible not to be drawn in to the large group of figures.

I don't think anyone seeing these laughing figures could ever leave the room not being uplifted.
Again, I would strongly recommend reading this explanation of Munoz's work because of the insight it provides. 

Only in a modern art museum would we see an exhibit by US artist Jim White called 'White Bathroom.' I admit to having difficulty seeing the merit of this and the following work and how they are classified as 'art.'

Louise Bourgeois' 'I leave the Nest, then I Leave my Home' was another different work of art.
Bourgeois is apparently well known for her large spider sculptures. I read that playing on the common fear of spiders, Bourgeois saw "the spider as a caring and protective creature - a weaver, like her mother who restored historical tapestries in the family's tapestry workshop."
We knew the Louisiana had a delightful sculpture garden that sprawls through the grounds, downhill toward the sea but of course it was too dark for us to see it. The views over the Oversund, one of the busiest passages in the nautical world, are said to be nearly as inspiring as the art. The museum’s interesting collection of modern art took me beyond my 'safe' appreciation of more traditional art. As this was Scandinavia’s most raved-about modern art museum, I am glad that we took the opportunity to spend some time there.

We walked back to the station where we were lucky enough to only have to wait a few minutes for the train for the short jaunt back to Copenhagen. Once there, a band got us in the Christmas spirit as they played familiar holiday carols.
After spending so much time writing this blog, there is just one post left to do in the next few days before we hit the road for about seven weeks traveling here in the US and Canada. That post will attempt to recap some of our favorite or most compelling stops on our four-month trip last fall. I am not looking forward to determining what makes that list as there were so many stellar experiences.

Posted at long last on April 26th, 2017 from Littleton, Colorado. 

1 comment:

  1. Loved the reflective photos of Frederiksborg Castle at the beginning of the post. These castles reminds me of Peterhoff in St Petersburg, Russia. Thanks for all your wonderful posts from your 2016 expedition! Lil Red


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