In the last few days, SOK’s received a diagnosis of his latest ailment. We’ve learned how to make black gunpowder, then visited a lighthouse, a castle, and a sewage works….
Sunday’s first stop was the Powder Museum at Frederiksværk. This was included in our tickets to Knud Rasmussen’s house nearby (which we’d visited on Saturday) – what a fabulous combo! The Powder Museum was just the kind of intriguing little place that we really like.
The powder works was founded in 1758, although most of the buildings we visited were built in the 19th century. Individual buildings were located along both sides of a canal “like pearls on a string”. What a cute description! They were spread out along the canal in case one of them exploded!
A big wooden water tank fed a waterwheel, providing power.
We walked from building to building, following each stage of the process….
To make gunpowder, you need 1) saltpetre (which was imported from Bengal), 2) sulphur (which was imported from Sicily and Iceland) and 3) charcoal (the easy part – trees were planted nearby and charcoal produced locally).
Step 1: Pounding
Each of the three ingredients was pounded separately (there were bronze balls inside each drum)
Step 2: Mixing
Sulphur and charcoal were mixed, then saltpetre and charcoal, and finally the two mixes were very carefully blended together.
The powder was kept wet throughout most of these processes to minimise the risk of an explosion, also the workers had to wear rush shoes – early health and safety gear! I got my able assistant to model the footwear:
3. Breaking Cakes of Gunpowder into Grains
After the mixing stage, you now had big wet cakes of gunpowder which had to be broken up into grains (grains had been found to be more powerful and long-lasting that gunpowder in powder form). This machine is the only one of its type left in the world – and it still works!
Round wooden discs rotate in the bottom of each barrel to break up the gunpowder cakes and the entire white plate with the barrels on it jiggles in a roughly circular motion to encourage the granules to fall through the sieves in the bottom of each barrel and be collected in the drawers below.
Step 4: Polishing
Next comes polishing in a slowly rotating drum – which again makes the gunpowder more powerful and more resistant to humidity.
Step 5 – Drying
Almost there – the grains of gunpowder now need to be dried out on big racks, a dangerous part of the operation. Following an explosion in 1844, bits of the drying house were found 3km away…. Miraculously, no-one was killed.
Step 6 – Sorting
All that’s left now is to sort the grains by size, different sizes of grain being suitable for different guns. Here we saw a selection of machines designed for the purpose.
Et voilà, there’s your gunpowder finished and ready for listing on Ebay!
It only took an hour or so to look round the Powder Museum, but we really enjoyed it – it was fascinating stuff, and really well explained.
Our next stop was up on the north coast of Zealand. The Nakkehoved (“Neck Head”) lighthouses near Gilleleje were established in the 1770s to guide shipping through the sound between Denmark and Sweden (along with a lighthouse at Kronborg and another on the Swedish side) – this is the shipping route between the North Sea and the Baltic. At that time, they were coal fired.
We looked at the West lighthouse first, which was extended and updated in the 1890s, at which time the East lighthouse was taken out of service.
A small museum here explained all about early coal fired lighthouses – the difficulties of keeping the fire lit and, when the lights were enclosed, of ensuring adequate air flow to keep the windows clear and the light visible!
There was a good view from the top:
The East lighthouse was really the one we’d come to see. It’s been preserved pretty much as it was in 1800 and is one of very few coal fired lighthouses left in the world today.
We really enjoyed this north coast of Zealand. The tourist office publication for this region calls it the Danish Riviera, and we could see why. We found a nice spot to park up for the night at one of the numerous beach car parks:
We liked the beach so much that we went back on Monday night!
On Monday, we visited Helsingor, which is on the coast in the north-eastern corner of Zealand, at the point where the sound is at its narrowest and Sweden is very clearly visible on the other side of the water.
Helsingor is Shakespeare central! Helsingor Castle was supposedly the inspiration for Elsinore Castle in Hamlet. Shakespeare never visited Denmark, but the castle was rebuilt in the late 16th century, so I guess Shakespeare heard all about it from someone who had been there when it was the latest thing. By all accounts, his descriptions of the castle do fit….
We chose not to pay to go into the castle (it was a lovely sunny day and we had other plans) but we could explore the ramparts and extensive landward fortifications (added to over the centuries) for free, so we did.
Apparently, in the summer months, actors playing parts from Hamlet roam the castle. There are showings of Hamlet, and there’s an outdoor Shakespeare Festival in August each year. This year they’re doing Richard III….
We set off to follow the Elsinore Walk, which was great. It’s marked by intermittent blue dots on pavements and information boards at each of the sights, and it gives you an easy way to meander through the town without having to spend any time juggling a map. There was lots of art (murals and sculptures) interspersed with the historic sights.
We both liked the fish outside the maritime museum (the museum does look very good but again, one for next time….):
Hamlet makes an appearance in an alleyway:
A medieval street:
We were both really impressed by Helsingor. It was a busy place, with lots going on in the pedestrianised centre of town, but everything was easily reached on foot.
One thing we struggled to figure out was the parking. The car park on the right in the photo below is pay and display (£1.25 an hour) whilst the one on the right is…. free. When we arrived on Monday morning, the free car park was empty but the paying one was filling up fast…. We thought we must be missing something, but the parking map on the tourist office website did show the port car park as free, and a local Mark went to ask said the same. All good then….. As an added bonus, the port car park has free motorhome service facilities (fresh water and a toilet emptying point).
Back at the beach after our day exploring Helsingor, Mark settled down in his chair by the front of SOK to watch the world go by, and a few minutes later called me out to look at SOK’s front tyres. SOK seems to have developed a case of front tyre psoriasis:
This is happening right round the front tyres, on both shoulders. Mark suggested that maybe I could contact Goodyear, so I dug out an email address and sent them some photos.
Fair play, Goodyear were great. The next day, I got a ‘phone call from a very nice chap there, who diagnosed SOK’s problem as a case of what is apparently known in the trade as “Chip and Chunk”.
Apparently, it does happen from time to time and there are a number of possible causes, one of the main ones being road surfaces (Chip and Chunk is big in India for that reason, I was told: something to throw into the conversation should you ever end up sat next to a boring tyre company executive on a flight). We haven’t been driving in India or on any unusual surfaces (not counting the melting road surfaces in the south of Ireland last summer), but then again we don’t know how long SOK’s had this condition. Mark only noticed because he was sat next to a tyre…. It’s nothing to do with tyre pressures or anything else we could have done, unless we’ve been doing a lot of very extreme cornering (no, I think not, slow pootling is more our thing!).
The main message was that tyre manufacturers regard chip and chunk as a cosmetic issue and I was assured that it doesn’t affect the performance of the tyre. The tyres wouldn’t fail an MOT and they’re not about to drastically or suddenly fail. That’s fine then… Mark had been thinking that if we’d needed to change the tyres, a diversion to Poland might be needed on cost grounds!
Reassured on the tyre front, we drove south on Tuesday to visit Frederiksborg Castle at Hillerød. Started in the late 16th century by Danish King Frederik II (hence the name), the Renaissance castle we see today was built in the early 17th century by his son Christian IV.
The reason that half of the parterre is looking bare is that they’ve had problems with nematodes attacking the box plants – so the whole thing is having to be dug out, the soil replaced, and then replanted…. Here’s what the baroque garden normally looks like:
We were surprised that we could get into the gardens for free….
Visiting the castle wasn’t at all expensive either (though as noted in our previous post, other tourist attractions in Denmark seem pretty extortionate to us, so it pays to check before visiting). This cost just under £10 each, and we could then borrow an audioguide or join an English guided tour for free.
The entrance was pretty impressive:
If you wondered what Mark was up to in front of the fountain, he was being childish…. He had noticed that some of the water jets look a bit unfortunate if viewed from certain angles, and was trying to get the best photo he could:
You get the general idea…..
Once Mark had finished photographing the fountain, we joined the guided tour. It was quite nice to be given a bit of an overview. It seems that all Danish kings are called Frederik or Christian, so things can get very confusing very quickly without a guide to explain who’s who!
The basic story here is that there was a fire at the castle in the 1850s which started in the King’s private apartments, to which only he had the key. Drawing water from the lake was delayed by the fact that it was frozen so the surface had to be broken up first, and after all that they discovered that the fire hoses were too short! The result was that much of the interior was destroyed before the fire was put out.
The only original thing in this room is the black pillar:
The head of Carlsberg stepped in and offered to pay for renovation, but on condition that the castle ceased to be a royal palace and instead became a museum. It’s absolutely amazing that the place was refurbished to such a high standard: it must have cost absolutely squillions…. “probably”, says Mark, who has watched a lot of beer adverts in his time!
One bit that escaped the fire and so is original is the chapel:
Since 1878, the castle has housed the National History Museum, so it’s basically now stuffed full of paintings (80 rooms full of them!).
The guided tour took in the highlights (basically the big impressive rooms), after which it took us quite a while to look at all the rest! We were quite pleased with ourselves in that we did manage to recognise the two portraits of Hans Christian Andersen before looking at the labels (yep, we noticed his comb-over). Mark spotted Knud Rasmussen straight away in the room devoted to polar explorers.
Oh, and in the Knight’s Hall (the last photo, above), there was a very recognisable full-length portrait of our very own Edward VII from that point in his life where he had clearly discovered the pies but hadn’t quite eaten them all yet (the marble lady on the far side of the minstrels’ gallery is his wife, Queen Alexandra – she was, of course, a Danish princess, hence the connection).
Tuesday night was spent on a very quiet car park on the outskirts of the town of Farum. Wednesday’s plan was to head down to Copenhagen, but having read all of the reviews of the motorhome aire there, we’d decided to try Plan B (brief summary: the aire is supposed to be for 8 vans but as it’s not policed – you just buy a ticket at a machine – there can often be 20 vans crammed in there. Reviewers suggested you be careful where you park or you might struggle to get out when you want to leave and expressed concerns about fire risk – oh, and it’s over £30 a night).
As the first step in our cunning plan, we popped round to the local sewage works first thing on Wednesday morning:
The Farum sewage works offers free motorhome fettling (fresh water and emptying of waste water and loo). How good is that?
We were now fully fettled and ready to hit the motorway into Copenhagen. Bring on the free parking!