Friday, March 16, 2012

Bad Traveler's Good Week, day 6

okay, so the photos are awful. the experiences weren't.  [the blog wouldn't accept any of the pix i had downloaded,  so i finally gave up and just took pix of the pix, with unstunning results.  but if you look hard you can see the castle on the first picture [inadvertently accompanied by teletubby dipsy].  the place is gorgeous, and easy to find pix of via google.  as is the second picture, of christine of denmark. both shall be imminently discussed.....

copenhagen is lovely. you may quote me. the first real day there i took a tour called 'hamlet castle', which  drove thru a lot of countryside, with scheduled long visits to 2 castles. it turned out i was the only one on the bus.  i was both surprised and pleased that they still did the tour, and i had a very sweet driver/lecturer. 

the first castle--the one that emerges from the photo here if you stare at it a minute or 2--is the Frederiksborg castle, now the museum of natural history.  my guide went in with me, steered  me to his favorite thing there, a view from the 2nd floor down into the royal chapel. it had been constructed for christian iv, king in the 1600s.  gorgeous, and the view from the balcony area is perfect.  my guide told me about the stuff on the 2nd floor, the reconstructed Great Hall, with portraits and furniture from 1700-1850. i was already wheezing and shaking from the one flight of stairs, and i knew i wasn't going to risk another for an era that wasn't one of my big interests.  but he was so determined to make sure i had a good museum visit that i acted enthusiastic.  then he left, telling me i had 45 minutes.  for a while i just sat on a bench on the balcony, but i knew i didn't want to stare at the chapel for nearly an hour, so i started wandering around the rest of the 2nd floor--and was in heaven.  there were portraits etc. from the 15th and 16th century, which is my favorite era.  the ruler at the time was  christian I, who had 3 children.  one of them was a woman i've been fascinated with for years, who plays a tiny tiny role in tudor english history, and whose famous holbein portrait hangs in the National Gallery in london. after i'd seen a lot of very cool portraits of famous danes in the era, none of whom i'd ever heard of but whose looks i liked, i started wondering if christine would be there. i figured not, since she's not so big in danish history either, though she became a fairly important minor figure at the italian and spanish courts later.  and then, there she was--in  a decent, almost life-size copy of the holbein.  i felt like i'd unexpectedly run into a beloved old friend [in london, i always make a trip to the NG to say hello to her]. as it turned out, even in the best of health, with only about 1/2 an hour left, i wouldn't have seen the rest of the museum.  half an hour with christine was just about right.

 for anyone interested, the painting exists because after the death of wife number 3  henry viii was looking for a good political fourth marriage, and sent holbein all over europe to make portraits--essentially photographs--of the eligible royal women in each country.  he did several; all we have left is this and the famous anne of cleves likeness.  christine was adamant that she would give holbein only 3 hours, as she had no intention of marrying henry.  the great apocryphal and possibly true line attributed to her was, 'if i had two heads, i would gladly given his majesty one.' ironically she later married the duke of lorraine, who had also had marriage negotiations with anne of cleves.

  since the castle was built later than the 16th century, i asked the museum guide if there had been an earlier castle on the site, from christian I's time, and she said yes--a much smaller castle and used only as a summer home. enough for me and my fantasies, and i pictured young christine playing in the summer gardens...

i returned reluctantly to the bus, stopping only to see if the gift shop had a postcard of the portrait, which they didn't.  i was also in worsening shape, and when the bus eventually pulled up to the Hamlet Castle, and my guide showed me the path to it, i knew i wasn't going to make it.  the connection with hamlet and shakespeare was tenuous, to say the least, so i didn't  mind missing it, and was glad to look at it from the bus; it's a gorgeous structure, even if the possibly real, pre-medieval  prince who morphed into the bard's hamlet had nothing to do with it.  more peaceful pretty driving, and when we got back to the spot the tour had left from, he asked where i wanted to get off.  when i asked if there was a taxi stand there, he was concerned; i must have looked or sounded pretty bad by then. where did i need to go? to the strand hotel, i said. and he drove me there.  lovely man! he pointed to a nearby restaurant, telling me it was the best in town and also one of the priciest. 

it was around 3 pm, and i was hungry. best-but-priciest sounded both inviting and impossible, so i walked in the opposite direction looking for a restaurant, a supermarket, any place i could grab a sandwich.  there was a small cafe, or so it called itself, at the end of the street. on the door was the ominous sign, 'smoking.'  okay....i'd risk it, eat fast, and bolt before i could breathe in much smoke.  the place was odd. only a few small tables and chairs, a bunch of what looked like gambling machines, and a few scuzzy looking men. in the room behind was the bar and more people, and i wandered in, asking if they served lunch.  one woman, who was either owner or general worker, thought about it, checked with one of the men there, and then said yes.  she sat me at a table, asked what i wanted to drink, and looked almost crushed when i asked for water. 'only water?' she cried. 'we have coca cola!' she sounded nearly pleading so i ordered a coke and waited for her to bring me a menu. when she didn't after ten minutes or so, i went searching for her again in the little room in the back. the 3 or 4 men there all stared at me, and one said, 'she's gone to get your lunch.'  ummm, but i didn't order yet....a few minutes later she arrived triumphantly with a nice little plate of shrimp and lunch meat, with a few bits of hard boiled egg. it turned out they didn't have food there; 'lunch' was bought in a store nearby, and 'lunch' was this.  [you see why i hate adventure?]  finally i said it was okay, i'd eat out the bits of egg.  i thought i had spotted some bread under all the  tiny shrimp and figured i could scrape off the outside layer and eat the bread.  a few minutes later she came back with a small plastic box of cheese slices--the kind of box you put your kid's sandwich in--and some pieces of dark bread.  i wondered whose personal stash i was being given, and didn't care.  the cheese looked like one of those american cheese-product things, but turned out to be strong, hearty, and real; the bread equally delicious.  when i finished i ran back into the room to pay and tip her; again they were all standing staring at me, but with friendly smiles.  i started to laugh, and said, 'i guess this has been a bit strange for all of us,' and left in a wave of laughter.   i still wonder what that cafe was really about...

got to the hotel, took a nap, and woke up in the early evening in time to watch two back-to-back subtitled episodes of 'how i met your mother,' one of the dumber american sitcoms. it was just what i needed, and i fell asleep contentedly, thinking about my nice driver and christine of denmark--and ready for my last day of vacation.  

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