Cities / Towns Visited: 37
Countries Visited: 12
Steps Taken Today: 14,514
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,392,152
Having had a taste of royal revelry the previous day, we headed out after breakfast, with our day lined up to bask in the history and excess of further former dynastic residences. To our misfortune, there was major rail works beginning on our line today meaning we had to get an uncomfortably slow bus then a train to get into the city, which in all took us about three times as long as it should have, but we left the station at the other end unperturbed. Our first stop, was the smaller of our two destinations; Rosenborg Castle. This compact but impressive structure, sits surrounded by beautiful parkland, and it is not hard to see why King Christian IV, who commissioned its construction in the 17th century, chose to reside within its walls.
We, along with the shoulder to shoulder queue of other visitors, meandered through its dim, but ornately decorated interior. With dark woods, and rich fabrics, it feels more like a royal hunting lodge, than a castle. Amongst its almost dime a dozen royal must haves, like intricate classical hand painted fresco covered ceilings, an unnecessarily large array of regal portraits, and gilded everything, there was a number of quirky and fascinating additions to the décor. From a trick chair fitted with prongs to catch on the clothes of its unfortunate user and keep them in place while a water reservoir in the backrest soaked their pants (aptly known as the ‘pants wetting chair’), to a gilded birdcage with a functional clockface on its base, to a room entirely decked in mirrors (we’re talking wall, ceiling, and a large portion of the floor). Upstairs is host to a massive grand hall, which houses a throne at either end, the largest of which is guarded by three almost life sized silver statues of lions; a truly majestic spectacle.
Stepping back outside, we swung round the corner and down into the treasury. A veritable treasure trove of amber and ivory artwork fills one room; although I will say I did find it ironic that a royal family who’s highest honour is the ‘Order of the Elephant’ has an extensive collection of ivory which would have cost quite a number of elephants, along with rhinos and walruses, their lives. In the next rooms sits a collection of old weapons, including some beautiful old swords. The last room holds some of the royal jewels, from crowns and scepters, to a large array of rings and necklaces, all forged of gold and adorned with precious stones. The funniest addition to the treasury though, would have to be a store of barrels of German wine (although the wine is now held in bottles in the next room to ensure it keeps better) which were purchased by a former king in the 1500’s and is still served at certain royal occasions now, although it now tastes more like port at this point. You know when you go a bit over the top and buy so much wine that your family is still drinking it 500 years later; happens all the time, I know.
Climbing back into the royal grounds, we took a little time to sit beside the small lake, just beside the castle, and watch the fish swim around as we ate our lunch under a shady tree. We then meandered through the beautiful gardens, before heading across town to the other royal residence that would bemuse us for the day.
Arriving at Christianborg Palace, it was hard not to be impressed by the scale of the place. It seems almost a waste that the royals don’t reside in this grand old residence, but the first thing you learn about the estate is that it has burnt to the ground and been rebuilt three times in its history, with the current palace being barely a century old, despite the fact the site has been home to some sort of castle since well before medieval times. These fires were almost all souly due to poorly maintained stove pipes overheating, which kind of makes you wonder how after the first fire they wouldn’t have employed someone who’s entire job was stove maintenance, but maybe that’s just me. In their defence the second time it happened, there was supposed to be guards on fire watch, but by some failure in the system there wasn’t anyone on at that point, leading to them discovering the flames too late to save the palace. The fire warden in charge and two of his men were originally supposed to be sentenced to death for the error following the inquest, but the king commuted it to having to run the gauntlet multiple times (running the gauntlet of course involving running between two rows of soldiers wielding sticks who belt you at hard as they can as you run through). The two lower ranking men survived, but the fire warden ended up dying from his injuries. Taking this into consideration it is not hard to understand why after the first fire the royals decided to move to the four building residence that is Amalienborg.
The interiors are far more grandiose than the Amalienborg Palace, with massive grand halls for formal receptions, including one filled with impossibly large tapestries made only a couple of decades ago, depicting notable events throughout the centuries of royal reign. There is plenty of gilding, plush fabrics, and elegant furnishings, but my heart was stolen, unsurprisingly, by the library. Now every Beauty and the Beast loving bibliophile in the house will surely back me in my assertion that this one would surely woo Belle.
After completing the state rooms, we trotted off to explore the stables. With a couple of the beautiful white horses relaxing in their stalls, it was nice to take a moment to just pat one. There is something soul feeding about being close to animals and nature. Beside the stalls, sit a number of the Royal carriages, which are always envy inducing, and it was interesting, and pleasing, to learn that one of the former Queens, of whom was an avid rider, had gone against the social norms of her time and insisted on riding astride, as oppose to sidesaddle. You’ve got to love an assertive queen in a world which demands submissive women.
Next up it was time to visit my favourite place in any royal residence, or any other residence for that matter, the kitchen. Now although these kitchens aren’t used for cooking anymore (you know, because of the seemingly highly flammable nature of this site), they are still used as a base for the royal culinary brigade to reheat and store food during royal functions. When you first walk in the thing that hits you the most is that this place absolutely decked to the high heavens with copper cookware. It’s a chefs dream, and would easily be tens of thousands of dollars worth of this most coveted of conductors. Pots, pans, and baking trays covered the old stovetops, and hung lazily from the walls; simply collecting dust when all I could think about was how many things I could cook with them. Eventually my partner managed to peel me away, and I am proud to say I refrained from buying a few hundred dollars worth of copper canelle moulds, despite the fact they are basically impossible to find at home. Common sense reminded me that it would cost me about the same again to send the weighty pieces home, thus with a heavy heart I left them, and the kitchen, behind.
Our last stop at the palace was to delve below ground level to see its ancient foundations. Although the top has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, the foundations of all of these incarnations remains strong beneath them. From the brick base of the very first small fortified castle, to today’s version. It was hauntingly beautiful down in the cool dark of the basement, with light and shadow playing together. They also display small models of the past and present architectural designs, and it’s more than a little sad to see that one of the first palaces was so much grander and elegant than the geometric square of today.
By this point, the day was growing old, and thus we ventured back to our home for now, for food and rest. As I reflected on my day, my mind drifted joyfully up and down the ladders of that picture perfect library, and in and around the kitchen, dancing in the warm reflected light of the copper, until it eventually settled back down beside the foundations hidden in the shadows. I though about how alike they are to the foundations we build our lives on. Just like ancient structures, we must build ourselves a solid base. If we build our foundations as people with the strong bricks of morals, ethics, compassion, and empathy, and if we mortar it together with dignity and integrity, no matter what else happens on the surface, no matter the struggles we face, we can always pick up the pieces and rebuild. We may seem different after the reconstruction, but underneath we are just as strong, if not stronger, as the fires of our trials and tribulations serve only to strengthen us. Be true to your foundations, and stand tall on them, for as Shakespeare wrote ‘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.’