Monthly Archives: October 2016

Kronborg castle and Hamlet

Kronborg castle.

Kronborg castle.

Last August I went together with my daughter Andrea on a trip to Denmark to visit my sister Beatriz, who lives there. Among the cultural visits that we made, we decided to go to the Kronborg castle, in Helsingør. This is known as well as the “Hamlet castle“, referred to in Shakespeare‘s play as Elsinore.

This year 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, which happened on April 23rd 1616. A series of activities are organized along the year and across the globe to commemorate it. As you can imagine some of those activities take place at the Kronborg castle, therefore in this year, once in Denmark, the visit of that castle was a must.

The visit was superb:

  • There were several actors impersonating the different characters of the play. You would find them at different spots of the castle.
  • There was as well a stage put in place at the courtyard of the castle where in the evenings Hamlet is played (this year produced by Peter Holst-Beck). During the day, the actors were rehearsing the play. An extra of the visit then was to watch some passages of the play. In fact, one exhibition at the castle displayed some of the many renowned actors that have played Hamlet at Kronborg along the years.
  • Other activity included the performing of a puppet show at a room in the castle, together with the characters of the king and the queen (similar to the Act 3 scene 2 of the play).
  • And, of course, another performance consisted of an actor impersonating Hamlet, skull in hand at the ballroom of the castle, acting his lines “To be, or not to be: that is the question…”

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It was certainly a great visit which I strongly recommend, as for DKK 90 (or about 13 euros) you will spend a very entertaining couple of hours.

Hamlet, the play

hamlet_bookAt the end of the visit, my sister and I bought copies of the book Hamlet at the castle shop: an edition by Christian Ejlers which includes some pictures of the tapestries with images of different kings of Denmark that can be found in the castle.

A few days after we concluded the trip, I started to read the book, which with 135 pages and despite its difficult old English language it reads in a few hours (spread in a few days in my case).

The plot of the book is rather well-known (no spoiler here): Hamlet’s father, the previous king, has recently died and Hamlet is profoundly affected by his death. A ghost of his father appears to him and this sets Hamlet into the search of who has killed his father.

I wanted to share some passages of the book that called my attention:

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,

Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;

Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,

And recks not his own rede.” (Ophelia to her brother Laertes)


“And these few precepts in thy memory

See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Not any unproportioned thought his act. […]

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement. […]

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry…” (Polonius)


“Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.” (Hamlet)


To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; […]

ay, there’s the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, […]

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make us cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sickled o’er with the pale cast of thought, […]” (Hamlet)


“Let me be cruel, not unnatural:

I will speak daggers to her but use none;

My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites; […]” (Hamlet)


“[…] May one be pardon’d and retain the offence? (King Claudius)


“[…] your fat king and your lean beggar is but

variable service, two dishes, but to one table; […]

A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a

king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm. […]

Nothing but to show you how a king may go a

progress through the guts of a beggar” (Hamlet)


“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:

Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” (King Claudius)

A classic, a short book, at times quite entertaining and intriguing, even if it requires some effort, it is a must read, strongly recommend. May be in your own language or a version with a more modern language (I later picked up a Spanish version that I found at my parents’ which was much easier to read… and you could clearly see that translations were not literal).

Let this post be my particular homage to the figure of William Shakespeare in this 400th anniversary.


Filed under Books, Travelling

Yeager (book review)

yeagerChuck Yeager was the US Air Force flight test pilot that broke the sound barrier for the first time on October 14, 1947, flying on board of the rocket-propelled Bell X-1. That part of his biography is widely known.

Reading his autobiography you discover that he went from being an uneducated child in rural West Virginia to retiring as a general of the US Air Force, acquainted with several US presidents and other dignitaries, he was the first pilot to become ace in a single day by shooting down 5 German fighters at World War II. Previously, he had been shot down by the enemy when flying over France near Angouleme, he escaped the Germans on ground with the help of the resistance and crossed the border to Spain via the mountains carrying the heavily injured body of a fellow American. He fought as well in Korea and Vietnam, he flight tested dozens of American aircraft and a MIG 15 taken from the North Korea, he set up and led the Air Force Space school which provided for plenty of astronauts for NASA initial space programmes, he became friends of female aviator legend Jackie Cochran, and altogether made him receive plenty of medals and recognitions. Plenty of remarkable achievements in a lifetime.

Many considered Yeager the best pilot in the Air Force at his time. What it seems clear is that he had a privileged eye sight which allowed him to spot enemies, trouble, etc., much earlier than others. He had a deep knowledge of the machines he flew despite of his initial lack of engineering education. He overcame that by eagerness to learn, by continuously asking to the best engineers available to him, and thanks to his experience in maintenance. And he flew a lot. He repeats several times throughout the book that experience, flying continuously, flying plenty of different aircraft, was what made him a great pilot. Despite of those assets, he recognizes as well that luck played a big role in shaping his career. From being born in a time when the flying over the speed of sound was something unknown to surviving various close calls both in war operations and during flight testing.

Let me quote some of the gems I had marked in his book:

“I got sick the first few flights […] like everyone else, I sweated through my first solo.”

“… most of us reached a point where, if a pilot borrowed our Mustang on our day off and was shot down, we became furious at the dead son of a bitch. The dead pilot might have been a friend, but he wasn’t as special as our own P-51…”

“I was still the most junior officer in our squadron […] there were several captains who were rubbed wrong being led by a new lieutenant. One of them was assigned to my flight of four, and refused to follow my orders. […] We were over Germany and this guy was flying as tail-end charlie, but lagging too far back in the rear, and ignoring my order to close up. […] I did a big barrel roll and came in behind him; he never saw me. Then, I fired a burst right over his canopy. The bastard saw that. He closed up immediately, and did what he was told.”

“Flying came with the marriage licence, and I had no problem with that.” (Glennis Yeager)

“I doubt whether there where many who loved to fly as much as I did.”

“Wright Field was a fun place to be, loaded with every airplane in the inventory…”

“[…] the real barrier wasn’t in the sky, but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.”

Arrogance got more pilots in trouble than faulty equipment.”

“The real art to test flying was survival; maybe only a spoonful of more luck and more skill made the critical difference between a live test pilot and a street name.”

“The best pilots fly more often than the others; that’s why they’re the best. Experience is everything. The eagerness to learn how and why every piece of equipment is everything. And luck is everything, too.”

“And luck. The most precious commodity a pilot carries.”

“I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment […]”

I strongly recommend the reading of this book (423 pages in the paperback edition).


Filed under Aerospace & Defence, Books