“Went to Sweden. Walked around in the evening”
I hope, considering Nig was on holiday with us, we stayed in Sweden a little longer than the 3 minutes we did in August 1973?!
I don’t think we indulged my Grandfather – and his preponderance to remain onboard the ferry working his way through a create of beer – on this occasion though, and instead took a train journey up the coast to Helsingør, where we caught a ferry for a very short trip across the Oresund to Helsingborg.
It is said that the history of Helsingør can be traced back as far as 70 BC. Whilst that has never been proven, what is known is that the town started off as a fishing village and marketplace, its location on sea routes contributing much to its growth.
‘Modern day’ Helsingør was founded in the 1420’s by the Danish king Eric of Pomerania, (yes, the Danes had a King named Eric) and is probably best known for being home to Kronborg Castle, immortalised (as “Elsinor”) in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.
King Eric (hahahahaha!) built it initially as a fortress overseeing the entrance to the Baltic Sea, and ships leaving or entering the ‘sound’ had to pay him ‘dues’ to pass. So, he was a bit like a gatekeeper, but with a crap name.
In 1585 it was rebuilt by King Frederick II, becoming the magnificent Renaissance castle it is now. However, 44 years later most of it went up in flames and it took another ten years to for it to be rebuilt. (I wonder if they put up “No Smoking” signs this time?)
Sweden briefly invaded and took seige to Kronberg in 1658, the conquest eventually overthrown and leading to a vast improvement of the castle’s defences and ramparts. (“After”, “horse” and “bolted” spring to mind)
From 1739 until the 1900’s Kronberg was used as a prison, the convicts often (somewhat ironically) employed to further fortify the castle’s moat, walls and ramparts. Many builders, descended from those prisoners, have been reluctant to do much work ever since.
Here’s a video I found about Helsingør and Kronborg castle.
Helsingborg, in Sweden, is just two miles away across the sea. It is one of the oldest cities in Sweden, first settled in 1085. It’s location, like it’s Danish ‘twin’, has been both a blessing and a curse, providing necessary income for the region whilst also being a target for early Danish aggression. (“Oi… blondie… did you spill my pint of Tuborg?”)
From humble beginnings, Helsingborg is now a major international center of business and trade. It is not only home to the worldwide headquarters of IKEA, but Nicorette – the smoking cessation chewing gum – also has its manufacturing plant there.
The mineral water Ramlösa also comes from a suburb in the south of the city. In an ironic twist – given the historic battles between Denmark and Sweden over the city, the Ramlösa company is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Danish brewing giant Carlsberg.
Having done this trip again as recently as 2004 (with the wife) I can’t help but recommend it as a fab day out away from ‘the big city’ (Not that Copenhagen is big by any stretch of the imagination, but you know what I mean).
The train ride goes right up the eastern coastline of Denmark so the views from your carriage are wonderful, added to which it stops at some beautiful little villages along the way. Everybody is very friendly. The walk from Helsingør Station to the castle is minimal and you can easily spend several hours gazing at all its history and architecture.
And Sweden is a mere 20 minutes away across the water.
My 1975 diary entry doesn’t make it clear if we spent the evening walking around Denmark or Sweden (“international jet-setters” as that sounds) but it could maybe also refer to returning to Copenhagen, where I do seem to remember Nig & I spent a LOT of time by ourselves on this holiday. Doubtless soaking up the sights, some of which I have remarked on before. Hey, we were teenage boys, OK??!!
I have to say that researching, remembering and writing all of this is making me feel very (second) homesick indeed. I feel very indebted to my dad for meeting, falling in love with and marrying a lovely Danish girl. Without that wonderful twist of fate my world view would have stayed remarkably blinkered by comparison, and my life completely different. Thanks Dad!