I’d taken the train from Copenhagen to Helsingør largely to see Kronborg Castle. Kronborg was immortalised in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet as the Danish Prince’s castle ‘Elsinore’, so tourists flock from the world over to get a look into the imagined home of one of literature’s greatest characters. Anything related to Shakespeare is a big thumbs up for me, but it was particularly exciting to go now as next year I’ll be seeing Benedict Cumberbatch take on the role of Hamlet in London (excuse me whilst I’ll flail my arms in the air excitedly).
I’d heard that Helsingør was a pretty seaside town with great views over to Sweden and was a nice place to blow some Copenhagen city air from your lungs. That all sounded perfect to me, but I tripped off the train not really knowing what else to expect from the place.
What got me first was the wind. The sort of wind that every once in a while requires you to take an extra step to balance yourself. The sort of wind that digs itself in your ears and inside your coat and forces you to spend your time cuddling into your scarf. Makes a lot of sense considering that it’s a coastal town, but I was glad that I had unintentionally packed my woolly hat that morning.
From Helsingør’s old-fashioned station it was easy enough to locate Kronborg castle. When I pushed through the big wooden doors of the station I spotted the castle up ahead, a bright red above the blue sea, sat on its own little spit of land like a spiky matchbox. The walk from the station to the castle takes you along the side of the harbour and past the port where ferries bound for Sweden heave themselves off into the water.
It was just past here that I spotted two boats lurching into the harbour waters followed by a squawking, shrieking cloud of seagulls. I watched them crawl towards the harbour with the flock of birds hot on their heels and wondered how much of an industry fishing was around here. I didn’t think much more about it until I turned the corner and saw the lines of people waiting for the boats.
It seems that if you are a person or family of a fishing persuasion then you can jump on these boats for a price and spend a few hours fishing.
On a sunny Sunday the lines were thriving. I hung around a bit to watch the newly arrived boats dock. The whole place was brimming with energy and excitement. Although there were quite a lot of men by themselves, or couples, there were dozens of families jumping off and on the boats. I saw a girl no older than seven dragging a tackle box off the deck of the boat and heave it onto the harbour side, whilst her brother helped to drag their catch – stuffed inside a black plastic bag – onto shore. Some of the bags thrown onto the harbour side in clear bags revealed catches of cod and mackerel, all a sparkling silver in the sunshine.
And whilst the boats were disgorging their passengers there was a rumble in the lines as people surged forward to make it onto one of the boats. Fishing rods bristled in the wind above their heads as they took their pick of the three boats and shuffled forward eagerly.
By the time I came back later that afternoon all of the boats were gone. Perhaps the best fishing is in the morning. But watching the excitement as the boats came in – both from the local seagulls and the expectant people on the harbour – was as much as a highlight of my trip to Helsingør as seeing Kronborg castle.