Denmark's Tivoli Gardens mixes old and new, carnival and culture, flowers and honky-tonk

August 29, 1993|By Jay Clarke | Jay Clarke,Knight-Ridder News ServiceKnight-Ridder News Service

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — Copenhagen, Denmark--After 150 years, Hans Christian Andersen has come back to Tivoli Gardens, Denmark's world-famous amusement park.

Andersen, of course, died in 1875. But the great fairy tale writer is here in spirit as Tivoli celebrates its 150th birthday.

Andersen actually visited Tivoli during its inaugural summer in 1843. Though the shy author was put off by the then-risque songs of some performers, that visit did inspire him to write one of his memorable fairy tales, "The Nightingale."

This year, Tivoli has returned the compliment, creating a new ride in his honor. H. C. Andersen's Flying Trunk, which takes passengers on a Disney-style chair ride through scenes from dozens of Andersen fairy tales, is one of several additions made for Tivoli's anniversary year.

Another new feature is a large wooden frigate anchored in the lake. Made of 200-year-old larch wood, it houses one of the 28 restaurants in the park.

And earlier this summer, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark opened the new Tivoli Museum, a three-level permanent exhibition that spans the park's 150 years.

In dioramas, old programs, posters and photographs, the museum shows how Tivoli looked in earlier years. A display of historic costumes delineates the evolution of the park from its beginning to now -- though some of them, like the harlequin outfits, are little changed today.

That's part of the charm of Tivoli. It's a mix of old and new, of carnival and culture, of floral beauty and midway honky-tonk.

You can listen to a symphony orchestra in a beautiful concert hall or chill out with a jazz group playing from a tree-shaded gazebo. You can take a throat-choking ride on a roller coaster or go for a quiet stroll on a flower-lined path under thousands of twinkling lights. You can dine in continental elegance in a restaurant more than a century old or grab a Danish polser (hot dog) at a kiosk.

The choice is yours, and that's what puts Tivoli several notches above other amusement parks. Its appeal spans all ages and all tastes.

One reason may be the wide range of music offered by Tivoli: classical, jazz, rock, blues, even country. There's something for everyone.

"We have 200 musicians -- five bands and a symphony orchestra -- and we put on at least one concert each day," says spokesman Orson Nielsen. "All the music at Tivoli is live. There is no recorded music ever."

During the park's five-month run this year, Tivoli will stage 144 concerts, plus innumerable band performances at its two outdoor gazebos.

Most concerts are free, but when big names are brought in for major performances, an additional admission is charged. Last year at such a concert, Cher drew a crowd of 70,000, a huge number considering that this midtown park is only 22 acres -- so small it would occupy only a corner of the main parking lot at Orlando's Disney World.

Though Tivoli opens in the morning, the evening is when it is at its glittering best. When night falls, more than 110,000 light bulbs transform it into an incandescent never-never land.

Colored lights outline the upturned eaves of the Japanese pagoda and the onion domes and minarets of the Turkish bazaar, two of the park's most visible buildings. Other bulbs circle the lake, twinkle in the trees, illuminate fountains and glow in hanging baskets of flowers.

Neon banned

But neon is banned, and so is plastic. "Everything is natural here. And everything is designed especially for Tivoli -- the lamps, the signposts, the rides, even the flagstones," says Mr. Nielsen.

Still the most popular ride in Tivoli is the roller coaster, which dates to 1914. It is one of 25 rides in Tivoli, each of which requires one or more amusement tickets, which cost 8 kroner ($1.25) each in addition to the park admission of 35 kroner (about $5.80.)

Also on the grounds are several gambling venues, mainly slot machines (no table games), with payouts not in cash but in tokens usable elsewhere in the park.

Unlike most American amusements parks (Disney excepted), Tivoli pays a great deal of attention to landscaping. This spring, gardeners planted 134,750 tulips, and this summer they have been planting 400,000 summer flowers. That's why "gardens" is a part of Tivoli's name; having extensive gardens was part of Tivoli from the beginning.

Tivoli's creator, a well-traveled entrepreneur named Georg Carstensen, got the idea for the park after having visited the Vauxhalls in London and the Parisienne, both permanent amusement parks, now long gone.

He convinced a nervous King Christian VIII of Denmark to lease him land for the project by arguing that people who were having fun wouldn't be thinking of overthrowing their king. On opening day, Aug. 15, 1843, a total of 3,615 people visited the park. On the next Sunday, the crowd exceeded 10,000, and Carstensen knew he had a hit.

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