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Trust the Americans!

DENMARK | Tuesday, 16 October 2007 | Views [1176] | Comments [1]

Holger Danske or

Holger Danske or "Holger the Dane"

Another of those days where i feel my head is going to explode from the amount of information i've learnt. Also the first day of the trip where i had to set an alarm to ensure i got up early enough.

Kronborg castle was the destination for today, an hours train ride away from the central Copenhagen station. The castle is in the town of Helsingør (and that ø isn't a mistake). Which Maria told me is the most violent town in all of Denmark.

This is probably due to the fact that Sweden is only 4km away by water, there are two ferry companies both running a boat across the water every 30 minutes. You see Sweden has very strict government imposed rules on alcohol purchase, all alcohol in Sweden is sold from government controlled outlets which allow it to be taxed as much as the government likes.

Denmark has no such rules, which explains why there are so many liquor stores in Helsingør, and thus why there is so much violence. All we did was arm ourselves with sandwiches and made our way upto the castle.

This was where the history lesson began. The part of sweden across the water from the castle used to be part of Denmark, and the original purpose of the castle was as part of a pair to police the water and be Copenhagen's first line of defence against sea assault.

However when Sweden captured the land it currently owns today a problem developed, the sole castle at Kronbrog wasn't as effective to protect the full length of the water between the two bits of land. Which was exploited by us Brits in the 1800s when we discovered we could sail right past the castles cannons untouched but were able to shoot at the castle because we had better guns.

Apparently we misfired one of our beter guns, and managed to hit our own embassy building in the town behind the castle.

The guns range didnt stop the Danes from taxing the majority of merchant ships that came through the water. At first each boat paid a simple price, the value of 1 cow per boat that passed by Denmark. However it was soon decided that 10% of the value of the boats cargo was a much fairer (and wealthier) system. It was this tax that enabled the building of the castle in the first place.

Also when the castle supports gave way and the roof collapsed, the tax was simply trippled for a single year and this allowed the entire roof to be rebuilt, apparently 10% of the Danish state income came from this tax alone.

Then we come to the reason for the name of the blog entry, as the American's developed into a naval power they refused to pay the Danish tax, they were carrying international goods in international waters as were not for paying the tax and it was abolished in the mid 1800s

Later in the castles history it was home to the German's in world war two. Very early on in the war they occupied the castle to prevent sea based assault upon northern Germany, to their surprise they were able to use the already existing casement as a bomb shelter, and the gun mounds along the waterline were already perfectly positioned for their weapons.

About the casement, there was a tour in english of the casement at 2pm, i was quite amused to find i was the only person who wished to take part (as Maria was tanking the boss) and everyone else was happy in danish. This meant i won my very own personal tour guide "William" who hardly stopped talking the entire way through but was a wealth of info about everything Kronborg related.

A casement is something developed in the east, to enable soldiers and workers to continue crafting when the temperature (and sunlight) in arabian countries would make this too difficult and inefficient. Thus the castle walls are made exceptionally wide and thick, so that the gap between the walls can be hollow and allow people to work in them.

The problem is the climate doesn't suit it in Denmark, as the stone maintains the cold of the exterior and an adaptation of the design was needed. A curved ceiling was added, and ontop of the ceiling (below the courtyard floor) dirt was piled to ensure some form of insulation to keep heat in.

However in times of war, when 2,000 soliders occupied the castle and were forced to live in cold, humid, dark and small areas of the casement it wasn't very productive to the wellbeing and battle readiness of the soldiers.

Other aspects of the casement included a prison cell (the triangluar room with William in it) which i thought was quite large for a cell (and oddly shaped) until i came upto the point. there i noticed a second set of hinges in the wall, this meant there had been a door within about a 1-2 feet of the point of the room. Will told me that someone had been forced to "stand in the corner" for a year and a half as punishment. Basically he said bad things about Sweden when they controlled the castle.

Also in the casement is the Statue of Holger Danske or "Holger the Dane" the story Maria told me about about him was that if Denmark is ever in need of a warrior again the statue will spring to life and come to the rescue. This Will confirmed saying the tale says that after he had traveled the world Holger returned to Kronborg and sat down in the position he is in today. He fell asleep, and his beard grew till it blended with the stone around him, there he waits asleep until needed.

However the rest of the story is much older and revolves around religious fighting between Spain (containing jews, muslims and "impure christians") against the "pure christians" of europe, supposedly one of heroes of the war was killed and a revenge campaign was led by none other than Holger. He is branded as a hero, although he burnt every none christian religious building and monument in his path, forcably baptised 1000 muslims and jews, and killed enough people to make the streets run with blood (to knee height).

This story has been changed over time (as the ethnic diversity of Denmark has changed) but he's still seen as an important figure in Denmark and is used for various things from political leverage to childrens programs at christmas.

Last thing i learnt today was about food and eating habits. First the soliders in the casement had containers for salted fish and pickled cabbage. The containers were there to ensure the food was protected if the casement flooded (which it could) That wasn't the worst part, the casement flooding meant the moat had flooded, and in times of war the moat was the soldiers toilet...

In comparison the king, queen and guests held parties that went on for days at a time with people eating the equivelent of 15 lbs of food per person per day. They started early, and when they were full called for a silver urn like cup and a feather, they would vomit into the urn with the aid of the feather and continue eating.

It was demanded that cups at the parties were wooden, as it hurt less when drunken guests began throwing and dropping them, and less dangerous than glass.

Being king was all about being wealthy and being seen as wealthy by common people. This was done in a few ways, at parties the king would fire all his cannons, but he would keep his windows closed, shattering all the glass in your castle 3-4 times a year and having the cash to replace it was apparently a sign of wealth.

Another sign was dumping all the food left overs, smashed plates and cups, and human refuse from the three day long party in the castle courtyard so that any commoner with business at the castle could see just how big a bash the wealthy people had.

Right at the bottom of this post (so you have to get down here to find out) there are new Gomez photos, as he was getting sulky at not leaving the appartment since he saw the mermaid.

And i've been told to tell Nikki that in Australia the 2 year old word for cake is "Gake"

Almost forgot! Kronborg is the supposed place where Shakespears fictonal character Hamlet was based, and the play is performed in the courtyard every year

Tags: Sightseeing



Do you carry around a notepad or a dictaphone or do you just have the world's best memory??

  Kylee Oct 22, 2007 10:14 AM

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