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Tivoli Gardens’ eternal charm

The 165-year-old amu­se­ment park that inspired both Walt Disney andDanish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen offers style and charmof a kind often imitated.


The 165-year-old amu­se­ment park that inspired both Walt Disney and Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen offers style and charm of a kind often imitated.

Tivoli, Copenhagen’s downtown landmark, blends tradition and modernity with old-style ferris wheels and gravity-defying rides, family restaurants and gourmet eateries.

Neon lights are banned here and plastic materials are avoided — beer cups aside — to preserve the feel of an old-style amusement park.

“We want to maintain tradition and quality,” Tivoli manager Lars Liebst said.

In 1841, Georg Carstensen sought royal permission to create an amusement park on the ramparts that once surrounded medieval Copenhagen. The son of a diplomat, he wanted to give Danes samples of the wonders he had seen during childhood trips abroad.

Tivoli opened two years later.

The Danish capital has since grown around the green oasis where families and friends stroll, and lovers cuddle up on benches amid oaks, birches and Japanese cherry trees.

“It’s so beautiful, it’s cosy,” said Elin Peitersen, a 74-year-old retired secretary. “You can take your family along or sit on a bench, like I do, and enjoy others having a good time.”

The park is charming but it’s the thrill rides Tivoli is famous for, especially among the throngs of young visitors.

The youngest children prefer the slow-moving vintage car ride, while exhilarated teenagers zoom past in the adrenalin-pumping roller-coaster.

Meanwhile, Tivoli’s Boys Guards march behind children dressed up as royals, riding a horse-drawn carriage through the garden.

The scent of popcorn and cotton candy fills the air while Vienna waltzes, big-band tunes and rock music play in the background through the evening.

A stone’s throw away is the Chinese-style Pantomime Theater from 1874 with its peacock curtain. When the bird lowers its tail, the curtain rises for one of Europe’s last stages keeping Commedia dell’Arte traditions alive.

“I heard it was a famous amusement park so I wanted to see for myself,” said Sung Young-Jae, a 36-year-old visitor from Seoul, South Korea. “It is very beautiful but I am a little bit disappointed. It is so small.”

The park covers about 82,000 square metres, elbowed between the City Hall and the capital’s main train station.

For the 2008 season, Tivoli reopened a Moorish-style building from 1909, which has been through a major renovation. The white edifice, now decorated with 3,600 different coloured light bulbs, was originally covered with papier mâché and chicken wire.

Disney visited Tivoli several times in the 1950s and 1960s to seek inspiration for his theme parks in the United States, Liebst said.

Nearly a century earlier, Andersen, the legendary children’s author, wrote The Nightingale after watching the illuminated Chinese Tower, one of the park’s landmarks.

Today, the park is lit by tens of thousands of coloured lights after nightfall.

Before each summer season, which runs from mid-April to mid-September, gardeners plant 100,000 bulbs alongside another 50,000 flowers.

Posters announce Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, Canadian songstress k.d. lang and the New York City Ballet, among others, will perform this season, either at Tivoli’s concert hall or on an outdoor stage where strong men and bearded ladies once performed.

 
 
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