On a trip around Scandinavia
Taking a trip around Scandinavia find yourself in the midst of Europe's most stunning views and most revered Medieval Age castles.
Ragnar Lothbrok's adventures on the TV Show Vikings have had a major impact on my travel plans. In an attempt to recreate the adventures of Ragnar, Freya and Floki, I decided to take a trip around Scandinavia and found myself in the midst of something I love the most in Europe: Medieval Age castles. The rugged yet scenic landscape of Scandinavia has seen quite a bit of bloodshed, thus the military strongholds had to be built to withstand multiple attacks. This gave rise to some eye-catching architecture that is truly worth exploring. These military strongholds also became the centre of art and culture during the medieval times. I took a trip around the Scandinavian countryside discovering three castles and the stories they hide within their walls.
Kronborg Castle, Denmak
The first castle I decided to head off to was the Kronborg Castle in Denmark. Located on the northern-most tip of the Zealand island, the castle's first origins can be traced to the early 15th-century fortress built by Eric of Pomerania. The Kronborg Castle is a showcase of the power and architecture of medieval Europe. With strong ramparts and bastions, the imposing structure of the castle is divided into three wings: the ramparts on the exterior, the gardens and the courtyard and the castle itself. Frederick II had it made into a magnificent castle from 1574-85 due to its strategic position which gave him immense control over the Aegean Sea trading routes. Although a fire in 1629, and a sacking by Swedish king Gustav in 1658 destroyed much of the castle, it has since been restored to its former glory.
My decision to check out the interiors of the castle reaps some rich dividends. It houses the largest ballroom in northern Europe with a size of more than 60 metres; walking through it transported me back nearly a millennia. A canopy of purple would overhang the king's seat with gold and silver threads while wood carvings and brass chandeliers adorned the walls. Frederick II had ordered a series of tapestries to be woven depicting the life of the Kings of Denmark. Seven out of these 43 tapestries can now be found in the Little Hall. These royal tapestries used to drape the walls of the Ballroom when the King held his events. A statue of mythical hero Holger Danske is also found inside the castle. The statue depicts the typical Viking lineage of the country: Broad-shouldered, long-haired, bearded with a sword resting on his lap.
The castle hosts three guided tours. The first one, the Casemate, takes you through the dank bowels of the castle. In Hamlet's Footsteps, there is a recreation of Shakespeare's famous play as Horatio becomes your guide and takes you through a 45-minute tour. The mystical town of Kronborg forms the backdrop in Bard's actual book too. A Day for the Royal Housekeeper showcases the best of the Nordic culture of that era with the housekeeper taking you through the daily life of the royals. The Castle also hosts a Renaissance fair from mid-October and a winter market in early December.
How to get there:
The castle is about an hour's drive along the Danish Riviera's coast from the capital city Copenhagen. You can also take a train from Copenhagen Central Station or a ferry from Sweden.
Ticket prices: 90 DKK for Adults
Timings: 10am – 5:30pm in summers and from 11am – 4pm in autumns and winters.
Gripsholm Castle, Sweden
My next destination was Sweden as I headed to the Gripsholm Castle, just 60kms away from Stockholm. Right out of a fairytale, the Gripsholm castle has everything for a daydreamer: a multi-level structure, corner towers with spires, a garden and a lake beside it. Built by Gustav Vasa in the 1500s, the castle boasts a plethora of furniture and artwork spanning over four centuries, the most prominent of them being over the wooden panelling in Duke Karl's chamber.
Multiple portraits of Gustav Vasa adorn the Hall of State while Gustav III's are present in the Round Drawing Room. The Gripsholm Castle has so many portraits in it that it has been recently made into the National Museum of Portraits. During the latter's rule, he commissioned a theatre whose opulence and grandeur had been the talk of Europe. Standing underneath the gigantic drapes tucked into the golden arches and towers, I can totally understand why. The Palace Gardens and the Deer Park Field at Hjorthage allow you to relax and breathe in some fresh air. With deer grazing all over the estate at Hjorthage, it is a wonderful opportunity for kids to see these magnificent creatures outside the confines of a zoo.
How to get there:
An hour's drive from Stockholm along E4 to E20 or take a train to station Laggesta.
Ticket Prices: SEK 130
Timings: 12 noon – 3pm in winters and 10am – 4pm in summers.
Royal Oscars Hall, Norway
My destination in Norway was the Royal Oscars Hall. Built in the mid 19th century, this white stucco exterior is one of the rare castles still being used by the royal family of Norway. The first floor of the castle houses the vestibule and the dining room. Under Queen Josephine's express instruction, the castle was supposed to be an epitome for Norwegian arts and the salon proves exactly that. Together with carved figures from the Norwegian middle ages and paintings adorning the Dining Hall, the castle plays a beautiful testament to what it was intended to. As I enter the vestibule, I feel transported to a Gothic church with a dark ultra blue marine colour and two Tudor arches along with chandeliers and a small Neo-Gothic table. The dining hall and the lounge have large amounts of stained glass which creates a magnificent interplay of colours inside the rooms. One of the better places to relax is the gardens that usually surround these castles. Manicured lawns with a lush green cover is a contrast against the white statues that dot inside it. The gardens at Oscars Hall have a café known as Queen Josephine's café where I grab a Bagel and Cheese before heading back to Oslo.
How to get there:
A 15-minute bus ride from Oslo
Ticket Prices: NOK 70
Timings: Wednesday – Sunday, 11:00am – 5:00pm from May to September.