“Brevity is the soul of wit.”
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Part One – It is midnight, bitter cold. Guards outside the castle at Elsinore wonder if the ghost will appear again tonight. I have always imagined this scene from Hamlet taking place on the ramparts with some protection from the weather, but still essentially “out there” in the cold, where strange things happen. Touring Tallinn, Estonia (just 500 miles by sea from Elsinore near Copenhagen) I was delighted to discover the perfect setting for this scene. The city walls of Tallinn still look exactly as they must have in Hamlet’s Denmark.
I saw the walls with protective roofing in the daylight in June, but could easily imagine how cold and scary they would be in the winter, after midnight, when the ghost-king was wandering about. No wonder Hamlet was convinced he had received a genuine message from another world.
After Hamlet has received the worst of the news from beyond, he asks his friends to promise they will tell no one about the ghostly visits. They are reticent but the ghost repeatedly prompts them, unseen – “Swear!”
Even standing with friends on these ramparts, I would swear, too!
Part Two – We all know that Venice has no roads because it is a collection of islands. But my husband and I did not realize that most of the ports in our Baltic cruise are filled with bridges to connect small islands and tinier islets to each other and the mainland. Getting around in Stockholm, Helsinki, and Copenhagen must be easier on foot than by car; the one way streets and bridges present serious challenges touring each city.
Look up Copenhagen on Mapquest and note how far you have to go to get to “mainland” Denmark. Is it any wonder that the sea became the primary connection for the civilizations surrounding the Baltic?
St. Petersburg has two rivers running through it. A standard part of any tourist’s visit is to ride a canal boat along the watery thoroughfares. Someone in a tour group asked if people skate on the river in the winter. I wouldn’t say the guide’s response was “horrified” but she was surprised by the question. Even as far north as St. Petersburg, rivers are moving water under the ice; river ice is not to be trusted!
Part Three – Our tour guide in Helsinki told us that Finland produces world-class race car drivers and ice hockey players. She also said that Finns do not express emotions readily, preferring to be more reserved than most other cultures.
A few days later I was back in Boston. I never usually follow sports but I heard one reporter discussing how the Bruins would do in the upcoming Stanley Cup finals.
He praised the cool-headedness of the 26 year old goalie. “Tuukka Rask is just unflappable,” he said.
“Tuukka?” I thought. With a name like that….
Sure enough, he is from Finland. The Bruins lost the Cup in game six, but I have a new Finn to watch out for.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
3 July 2013