Weather: Hot and sunny all day
Air temperature: +20°C
I woke up at 8.15am when I heard Conrad’s “Good Morning”. We were about to sail past Hamlet’s Castle, so I grabbed my camera and rushed out on deck to be greeted by a beautiful, hot, sunny day. I took photos of Kronborg Castle from many angles before attending a quick staff meeting to sort out Zodiac-driving details for the day; unexpectedly, strong currents prevented us from docking in Helsingor, so we had to anchor and Zodiac into the pier – no problem, since we are an expedition ship!
A Zodiac shuttle got underway around 10am once a safe disembarkation platform had been set up. My side-gate duties were easy today as we had very smooth waters and were unlikely to get wet, though we always recommend waterproof clothing just in case. Today really was extraordinarily hot and I had some difficulty recognising people who are usually well bundled up.
So we had a few hours to explore the town of Helsingor on our own before heading back to Silver Explorer for lunch. At 13.30pm I was back on the quay, helping people alight from the Zodiacs and directing most people to the waiting buses. The majority of us went on a fascinating four and a half hour “Castles of Denmark and Sweden” tour. This featured, of course, Kronborg Castle, built between 1574 - 85 on the site of a still older castle, to protect the seaward entrance to the Baltic Sea. It is now recognised as one of the most significant Renaissance castles in Northern Europe and has been inscribed on UNESCO’S list of World Heritage Sites since 2000.
Kronborg Castle is best known as Lord Hamlet’s Castle and Shakespeare includes many correct details about it in ‘Hamlet’; maybe he learned of it from travelling players who performed in all the courts of Europe. We entered through the Dark Gate into the Castle Courtyard, from where we could admire interior views of the castle in all its splendour. My group started in the 1582 chapel (the only area to survive the fire of 1629; the rest of the castle was rebuilt in the same style), with its beautifully carved and colourful interior. From there we moved through a variety of Royal Apartments, enjoying our guide’s anecdotes of royal life and some amazing tapestries – the one of the rhinoceros was my personal favourite.
The highlight of our tour was the 62 x 12 metre ballroom, which was magnificently tiled and hung with old paintings. Also memorable was a long gallery, created so that the queen could get from her private apartments to the ballroom without going outside and getting wet! Finally, we descended the wide, stone spiral stairs again to the courtyard and went to get some much-needed refreshments (coffee/tea and cake) before reboarding the bus and taking the ferry to Sweden.
The ferry crossing took only 15 minutes and no sooner had we reached the outside deck to get views of Denmark receding and Sweden approaching, than we were making our way back to the bus. We drove through Helsingborg town centre along the coast to Sofiero Castle. Our aim here was to explore its spectacular gardens and we were not disappointed. It is famous for its rhododendrons and we were lucky enough to catch them right at the moment of their final glorious flowering. Behind the small castle there were shaded trails descending into a cool river valley, with spectacular blooms everywhere. There was just enough time to get a glimpse of the more formal garden area, with small glasshouses, fountains, a maze, shaped hedges and seasonal flower beds, before we regretfully returned to the bus and crossed back into Denmark, getting back to Silver Explorer in time for a shower before dinner.
Seven brave guests had spent the afternoon on a quite different kind of tour – an active and scenic exploration of Elsinore by bicycle! Ably led by a local guide and accompanied by Conrad and Gordon, all seven returned intact, well-exercised and in good humour.
Several staff members and a number of guests gathered in the Panorama Lounge for a pre-dinner drink and to talk about our day. I then joined an especially lively table for dinner, which we enjoyed while cruising past Copenhagen. After dessert and coffee I went out on deck in the dusk and was treated to an impressive electrical storm on the horizon, though the rain held off until bedtime. One more day to go! We will wake tomorrow morning in Bornholm, Denmark.