After our morning exploration of the pier we boarded our bus. We headed towards North Zealand along Highway 152 and through an area known as the "Danish Riviera." Denmark is a country of eye-watering beauty. The Danes have decided that aesthetics trump mercantile interests and the countryside is devoid of any billboards or commercial signs - including those of estate agents. We turned off on Gammel Strandvej, never having our eyes assaulted by greedy commercialism, and made a photo stop along the Baltic Sea near what once were small fishing cottages. These thatch-roofed buildings used to be the homes of humble fisherman but are now the expensive residences of the well-heeled.
We continued north to Kronborg Castle, located near the town of Helsingor (Elsinore). The fortress here has guarded the narrow strait where only 4km of water separate Denmark from Sweden. While it was meant to guard the Danish frontier, the Swedes walked over in the winter of 1658 and commandeered the castle. When control returned to the Danes, they thought it would be best to increase the strength of the fortifications so that no one else walking by might decide to stop and occupy the castle. As the castle is also known as Elsinore, it has had a close association with Shakespeare's play Hamlet and a number of performances of the play have taken place in the castle.
Fredensborg Palace, the summer home of the Danish royal family, was our next stop. The building, also known as the "peace castle" is where the Swedes and Danes signed a treaty promising to stop swapping castles with each other. A long, descending gravel avenue call the Slotlet serves as the approach to this magnificent castle and seems to be a wonderful place to park a great many tour buses during the summer.
This stop was relatively short and filled with tension as our tour guide herded us around the grounds so that we could arrive at our lunch stop before any of the other tour buses beat us to the buffet. With the perfect timing that usually comes from any tour the Dougall's are on, our tour bus arrived dead last at the watering hole. Regardless, as impressive as the morning's castles were, this restaurant was able to feed six tour bus loads of guests AND had sufficient cold beer (and washrooms) to accommodate every one in short order.
Our afternoon was taken up with a single stop at Frederiksborg Castle, which is also the Danish Museum of National History and the largest Renaissance castle in all of Scandinavia. This castle looks and feels like the home of royalty. From the huge fountain at the entrance to the massive chapel that survived a devastating fire in 1859, we could have spent the entire day there - and having walked most of the building, it seemed like we were there a long time.
By this point, we had done almost all the walking we needed to do on this particular tour and took a well deserved break on the bus trip back to the ship. For anyone interested in Danish history and the wonderful countryside, I would highly recommend this particular tour of North Zealand.