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How we chanced upon Hamlet's castle!
Way back in the 60s, four of us Indian engineers in Germany, decided to drive up close to the Arctic Circle. Jointly we owned a second hand Volkswagen Beatle, which we had nicknamed as 'Dilruba'! It drew attention everywhere and earned us goodwill, as we had decorated it with flags of every country we had driven through.

Way back in the 60s, four of us Indian engineers in Germany, decided to drive up close to the Arctic Circle. Jointly we owned a second hand Volkswagen Beatle, which we had nicknamed as 'Dilruba'! It drew attention everywhere and earned us goodwill, as we had decorated it with flags of every country we had driven through.

En route to the fringes of Arctic Circle, we were to drive through north Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. While driving up north, we noticed that the old fashioned romantic windmills were to be found not only in Holland, but also on the shores of northern Germany and Denmark, too. 

In Denmark, we wanted to just drive around the town and most of all go up to the sea front, to admire the statue of iconic mermaid perched on a rock. The statue is inspired by the popular fairy tale, 'The Little Mermaid', by Hans Christian Andersen. 

It was nightfall, when we crossed the German border and entered Denmark. We checked into the International Youth Hostel, which was close to a sleepy fishing village, by the name Odense. In the morning, we took out our maps to decide where we should be heading. Suddenly, it dawned on us that Odense was no ordinary sleepy fishing village. It was also the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, whose fairy tales were read and told all over the world. Even I and my children also had grown up on his fairy tales like: 'The Emperor's New Clothes', 'The Ugly Duckling', 'The Little Mermaid', 'Thumbelina', 'The Nightingale', etc. 

The house in Odense, where Hans Christian Andersen was born, has been turned into a national museum. His fairy tales have been translated into over 125 languages. What interested me most in the museum was that copies of his story books, in all languages are exhibited. I spotted his stories in Bengali, Tamil, Urdu and many other Indian languages. 

This unplanned visit to the story teller's birthplace and seeing his books in over hundred languages was truly a literary pilgrimage for me. It also made me relive my own childhood, as well as how the same stories had sent our children and grandchildren dreamy eyed, into the world of innocent fantasy! 

Leaving Odense behind, we headed for the Danish port of Helsingor. From here we were to take a car-ferry to Malmao, Sweden. After loading our car on to the ferry, we still had two hours to idle around, before departure. We had nothing to do, other than roam around, and eat and drink. Suddenly, I felt that I knew this place. 'This place appears very familiar to me. I am sure, I know this place!', I told my friends. They just laughed it away.

Anyway, I asked the locals, 'What can we see here? Any place, you would recommend?'  Incredulously, they replied, 'You don't know about Hamlet's castle? Go there!', pointing towards ramparts of a castle. So there we headed.

I immediately understood how my 'sixth sense' had worked. We were at a place, which the Danes call Helsingor. Shakespeare readings flashed in my mind, for in his play 'Hamlet', the playwright had called the place by its English name – Elsinore. The similarity between Helsingor and Elsinor, lit up my mind's bulb! 

So within minutes, we were at the entrance of the magnificent Kronborg Castle, where once Hamlet, the brooding Prince of Denmark paced up and down pondering:

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them."

As soon as we entered, we saw a stone plaque dedicated to Shakespeare, for making the Kronborg Castle famous through his play 'Hamlet'. (See inset)   

In the historical complex there is an open air amphitheatre, where Hamlet is staged

every year along with other plays by Shakespeare. Not to be left behind, some of us

came forward to recite/enact lines from 'Hamlet'. It was great fun.

I for one, among others recited:

"This above all: to thine own self be true,

 And it must follow, as the night the day,

 Thou canst not then be false to any man."

When we set out from Germany heading for Scandinavia, little did we realise that Denmark would spring a bonus on us! The birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen and Hamlet's castle in Helsingor/Elsinore! 

This was pure serendipity! 

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