April 20, 2012

0180 DENMARK (Hovedstaden) - Kronborg Castle (UNESCO WHS)

"But what is your affair in Elsinore?" asks Hamlet in the first act of the play. "Without any affair, my lord, I just received a postcard, as you see." I would answer him, if he could hear me. Indeed, Elsinore is the version used by Shakespeare for Danish Helsingør, now a city on the northeast coast of the island of Zealand in eastern Denmark, where is located the Kronborg castle, the one in the image, included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000. In this castle takes place the action of the famous play, which was performed in it for the first time to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, with a cast consisting of soldiers from the castle garrison. The play has since been performed several times in the courtyard and at various locations on the fortifications. Later performers to play Hamlet at the castle included Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi, and in 2009 Jude Law. Every summer the outdoor courtyard of castle hosts this theatre festival, usually a homage to Shakespeare.

Helsingør lies about 45 km north of Copenhagen, and is surrounded by The Sound (Øresund) - the stretch of water between Denmark and Sweden. It’s the closest Danish city to Sweden, being separated from the swedish city Helsingborg only by a mere 4,000m of water and a short ferry ride of twenty minutes.

Along with the fortress Kärnan, located on the opposite coast of Øresund, the stronghold Krogen (the Hook), Kronborg Castle precursor, controlled the entranceway to the Baltic Sea. Between 1574 and 1585 King Frederick II had transformed the medieval fortress into a magnificent Renaissance castle, rebuilt by King Christian IV after it burned in 1629. In 1658 Kronborg was captured by the Swedes, who took many of its valuable art treasures as war booty. In 1785 the castle ceased to be a royal residence and was converted into barracks for the army, which left the castle in 1923.

By the castle is linked also the legend of Holger Danske, who was taken to Avalon by Morgan le Fay, as King Arthur. He returned to rescue France from danger, then travelled Kronborg castle, where he sleeps until he is needed to save his homeland. Holger appeared for the first time in Chanson de Roland, as one of Charlemagne’s great warriors, named Ogier le Danois.

A bronze statue of the Holger was commissioned for Hotel Marienlyst in Elsinore in 1907. The plaster figure on which the statue (sculpted by Hans Pedersen-Dan) was based was set up in the casemates of Kronborg and gradually became much more famous than the bronze version. In 1985, the plaster cast had to be replaced with a concrete replica.

Regarding Hamlet, I don't know how many know that it isn't Shakespeare's invention. He appeared for the first time in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta danorum (Deeds of the Danes) in 12th century. The legend continued to Danish writer Christiern Pedersen, who published a story about Amleth in 1514, and also a French version was authored by François de Belleforest in the 1500s.

About the stamps

The stamp (which depicts Pierrot pedalling away on his Christiania bike in the middle of rush hour, with Harlequin sitting in the box at the front) was designed by Casper Sejersen and was issued on March 21, 2012. Since 1956 are issued annually the Europa stamps. Over the time, the stamps issued by the participating European countries had or a common design, or a common theme, but in 2000 was adopted (definitively?), the last variant, a common theme. Moreover, from 1993 all the stamps have "Europa" inserted into the design, in small print. 1993 is also the year in which PostEurop, the association which represents the interest of European public postal operators, took over organizing this activity. The theme for this year was Visit..., and this stamp is Denmark's chosen to represent it. Personally, I like this danish stamp, but not as much as the romanian one, which has as author a postcrosser, Mircea Ostoia (KLMircea). To see all the stamps and vote, go to the competition page.

sender: Genek / gforp (postcrossing)
sent from Copengahen (Denmark), on 27.03.2012

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