During late July and early August 2006, weather stations across the Northern Hemisphere measured record heat. Who would have expected temperatures in Denmark to be twenty degrees above average in a nation with very little air conditioning? Such was the case as we were privileged to travel with a Moorestown, New Jersey church youth choir on a concert tour. While we were there to record the choir’s music and chronicle their trip photographically then, and again three years later, we saw several lighthouses.
Denmark is nearly totally surrounded by water, so there is an abundance of lighthouses. Among the first things that come to mind about Copenhagen harbor is The Little Mermaid statue, a tribute to Hans Christian Anderson’s immortal tale, but just a little further toward open water is Trekroner Island, a manmade island fortress, part of earlier defenses, with its light.
The canals of Copenhagen are a delight to travel on by boat or walk around on foot. Several retired lightships are scattered throughout the canal system. Motorfyrskib No. 11 was built in 1916 and served until 1978. Since 1985 it has been a summer restaurant in Nyhavn operated by the Nyhavn Hotel. Two others were seen in the area, but their usage was uncertain. One appeared to be a house boat with the light no longer at the top of the mast. Tour and taxi barges travel the canals and harbor waters, including the canal at Nyhavn, or New Harbor, making it very easy to see and visit them.
Based on what two actors involved in the royal wedding of Anne of Denmark to British King James told him about the location, Shakespeare set his play Hamlet at 15th Century Kronborg Castle in Helsingor. This is the same King James who sponsored the landmark King James Bible translation into English. While the Bard never saw it, he used the concept of the castle for his play. For many years this fortress like castle served as intimidation and reinforcement for the collection of royal taxes levied on ships passing through the adjacent narrow waterway between Denmark and Sweden. In more recent times, the tower closest to the water, known as “The Pigeon Tower,” was been turned into a lighthouse. Close inspection of the light room shows a green filter for most of the illumination and a small red area that warned of doom when sailors would be in its beam.
Heading westward to Jutland, the bridge at Nyborg was bookended with lights. On the east side is the striped Sprogo Light. On the west side, approaching Odense, we found the Knudshoved Light. When we got home and looked more carefully at the pictures, we saw something we missed when the bus sped past. You will see to the left of Knudshoved light a smaller version of the ancient, Skagen light, which was an interesting use of a levered fire pot. Flammable materials would have been put in the metal pot, set afire, and raised into the air. Limited by the lever arm’s length, this primitive light was neither high nor bright. While of limited value compared to what would follow in later years, it was better than nothing. As the best available in its time, it surely saved ships and lives from destruction, and guided sailors to their homes.
Our return to eastern Denmark, Zeeland, was by ferry from which we saw several lights at a distance and a few at closer range. Sletter Hage Light, at the tip of the Helgenæs Peninsula in Slettervang, is in a park setting, offering camping and picnicking. Further east, we saw the Resnæs Light on a bluff, guiding ships to and from port in Kalundborg.
A brief trip through a tunnel and across a bridge brings us from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden. While we did not have time to explore, we did see several lights on either side of the narrow channel between the two countries. Somewhat obsolete since the bridge-tunnel was built, at the Swedish end of the bridge still stands a faithful marker for Malmo’s waterfront.
Ferry service runs between the two countries further north, connecting Helsingborg, Sweden and Helsingor, Denmark. On the Swedish side, the Helsingborg Harbor Light stands like a fortress. A night ferry passes it on the return to Denmark in sight of the Kronborg Castle light.
A beautiful, modern country with friendly people and charming small towns, Denmark is on our short list of places to enjoy again. The next time, we will be sure to plan extra time to rent a car and search out more of their lighthouses. Maybe we will see you there!
This story appeared in the
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