As the two-months long Polar night just ended, Longyearbyen entered the blue period. And my longing for the cold, but oh so magical, island grows.
I am so glad we got to visit Egypt before the trouble there started! Although they do not advise against travelling to the tourist-sites in Egypt, I would opt it out. Thus, I am happy I already crossed it out of my bucket list. Been there, got the pics to prove it!
We went there in Des 2009, when the Karate Kid was 8 years old. I am considering writing a series of blogposts from Egypt, but right now I’ll only share pictures of some big friggin’ things:
Now that we have visited the Kronborg Castle, where Hamlet lived, spoke to ghosts, and died, I think it is only natural to pay the surrounding town a visit, Helsingør (Elsinore, as Shakespeare called it). Helsingør is situated on the northeastern tip of the island of Zealand, Denmark, at the narrowest point (4 kilometers) of the sound, (Øresund) between Denmark and Sweden.
The area has been inhabited for a long time, and around 1200 the first church, Saint Olaf’s Church, was built. Helsingør as it is known today was founded in the 1420s by king Eric of Pomerania. In 1429 he established the Sound Dues, meaning all foreign ships passing through the strait had to pay a toll, which constituted up to two-thirds of Denmark’s state income. At the time, the Swedish side of the sound was Danish, therefore Denmark could control all activity in the sound. With this income, Eric of Pomerania built the castle Krogen that was later expanded and renamed Kronborg. (This is the castle we visited yesterday – Hamlet’s Elsinore.) All ships had to stop in Helsingør to get their cargo taxed and pay a toll to the Danish Crown, and of course this meant increased trade for the town, as the ships had to anchor here anyways. In 1672 Helsingør had grown into the third biggest town in Denmark. The Sound Dues were abolished in 1857.
A lil’ bit of trivia: The car ferry line crossing the sound, between Helsingør and Helsingborg, Sweden is the busiest in the world with more than 70 departures in each direction every day.
Yes, this place actually exists! Except the castle’s name is not Elsinore, it is Kronborg Slot (added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in 2000). You can come and see for yourself, it is in the town of Helsingør, Denmark, on the northeastern tip of the island of Zealand at the narrowest point of the sound, (Øresund) between Denmark and Sweden. The sound is here only 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) wide, so a fortification here has always had an immense strategic and economic importance, and it has been repurposed several times throughout the years.
The castle dates back to a stronghold, Krogen, built in the 1420s by King Eric VIII (Eric of Pomerania*). King Frederick II** transformed the stronghold into a Renaissance Castle from 1574 to 1585. Much of the castle was destroyed in a fire in 1629, but King Christian IV subsequently had it rebuilt.
*Related reading: Roskilde Cathedral, King Pantsless, where Erik of Pomerania becomes King through adoption by King Pantsless (Margrete I)
**Related reading: Roskilde Cathedral – The Renaissance Ruler, about Frederick II and his young Queen.
Per a legend linked to Arthurian myth, a Danish king known as Holger the Dane, was taken to Avalon by Morgan le Fay. He returned to rescue France from danger, then traveled to Kronborg castle, where he sleeps until he is needed to save his homeland. He mst be knackered and overworked to sleep this long! His beard has grown to extend along the ground. A statue of the sleeping Holger has been placed in the castle.
The Ballroom was, when it was completed in 1582, the largest hall in Northern Europe. It measures a whopping 62 x 12 meters. The present floor and fireplaces are from the rebuilding 1924-38.
The chapel was inaugurated in 1582, but in 1785, as the castle was being fitted for use as army barracks, the chapel was fitted out as gymnasium and fencing hall, and the furniture was stored away. In 1838, the chapel was refurnished with the original furniture, and reinaugurated in 1843.
The Swedish army besieged and conquered the castle during the Dano-Swedish War of 1658-60, and the castle was deprived of many of its most precious art works. The Swedish conquest demonstrated that the castle was far from impregnable, so after the castle was back on Danish hands, the castle defenses were strengthened scientifically. After their completion, Kronborg was considered the strongest fortress in Europe.
From 1739 until the 1900s, Kronborg was used as a prison, and the inmates worked on the castles fortifications. From January 17, 1772 to April 30, 1772, Kronborg was the place of imprisonment of Queen Caroline Mathilde***, following the scandal of her affair with Johann Friedrich Struensee.
***Related reading: Royal Shenanigans, where I tell the story of the Royal infidelity that landed the young Queen in prison.
***Related reading: Roskilde Cathedral – Power struggles and insanity, the story of the mentally ill King, the imprisoned Queen’s hubby.
We do have to talk about Hamlet, William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, which is set here at Kronborg. In the play, it is called Elsinore, though that is actually the anglicized name of the surrounding town Helsingør. The play has been performed several times in the courtyard and at various locations on the fortifications. For those of you that are dire Hamlet-fans, here are some famous Hamlets:
The castle was opened to the public in 1938, and they host a fantastic Christmas Marked two weekends in December every year. I absolutely recommend visiting Helsingør and Kronborg Castle. And should you happen to be in the area in December, make sure you visit the Christmas Marked!
From its prime location on the boardwalk, the Bella Vista offers – just like its name promises – great views! Roman and his family and coworkers offer authentic Spanish foods. I am particularly fond of the tapas and the arrozes (rice dishes, like paella). The restaurant is reasonably priced, there is a laid back and welcoming atmosphere and this is a great opportunity to speak Spanish! Just be aware that due to the dialect in Murcia region, they are very hard to understand. I am glad to notice that I do get an increasingly better understanding of what they say for every visit.
Now, make sure you pay the Bella Vista a visit, should you happen to be in this part of Spain. You are in for a wonderful meal and a great time, whether you go for lunch or dinner! I am sure you will soon see why I keep returning to the place.
(And no, this I not a sponsored post, I figure it must be possible to say something nice without getting paid)
The what and the who, now? The Costa Cálida (“Warm Coast”) is a 250 km stretch of the Mediterranean coastline of the Spanish province of Murcia. Here you find a micro-climate which features comparatively hot mean annual temperatures and a relative degree of aridity (average precipitation less than 34 cm per year)
The northern end of the Costa Cálida includes Mar Menor (“Lesser Sea”), Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, and on the interior shores of Mar Menor, you find an old fishing village, Santiago de la Ribera, with 4 kilometers of fine, golden sand-beaches. The Mar Menor is rather shallow, so you have a longer season for bathing and swimming in the Mar Menor than in the Mediterranean. Even though the town is a fav vacation spot for Spaniards, it does not feel nearly as touristy as the nearby towns. Santiago de la Ribera is a true gem, as I am sure my pics from Oct 2016 will show:
As mentioned in several posts already, Valencia is definately worth your while to visit. If you are not into visitig museums and churches, then at least take a walk through the old parts of Valencia and sit down at one of the many outdoors cafees at a square and enjoy your cafe con leche or vino tinto and relax. It is an exquisite, magical city, as these last pictures will reveal.
Make sure you check out my previous posts from Valencia as well:
When in Valencia you’d be well advised to spend a day at the Oceanographic and travel around the planet’s main seas and oceans. It is quite big, so a full day will be needed at this magic place. There are several places to eat in the park, but none offer great culinary experiences.
The Prince Felipe Museum of Science is also very much so worth a visit – especially with kids! Maybe not the youngest kids, but let’s say from 6-7 years and up to the teens. It is an interactive and elicit place. It’s great fun.
If none of the above-mentioned activities interest you, you should still go there just to see the cool architecture:
When in Valencia, I will recommend a visit to the Valencia Cathedral, bearing this impressive name in Spanish: Iglesia Catedral-Basílica Metropolitana de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora de Valencia (English: The Metropolitan Cathedral–Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia). If you relish historical works of art, this is your spot!
The cathedral is a Roman Catholic parish church, consecrated in 1238. It was built over the site of the former Visigothic cathedral, which under the Moors had been turned into a mosque. The predominant style is Valencian Gothic. The cathedral contains numerous 15th century paintings, and the Santo Càliz de Valencia (English: Holy Chalice of the Cathedral of Valencia). This chalice is recognized by the Vatican as a historic relic, although not as the actual chalice used at the last supper.