- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2008

COPENHAGEN (AP) - The 165-year-old amusement park that inspired 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 and gourmet restaurants.

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,” says Tivoli manager Lars Liebst.

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 grown around the green oasis where families and friends stroll and lovers cuddle on benches amid oaks, birches and Japanese cherry trees.

“It’s so beautiful; it’s cozy,” says 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 the thrill rides are what have made Tivoli famous, especially among the throngs of young visitors. The youngest children prefer the slow-moving vintage car ride, while exhilarated teenagers zoom past in the adrenaline-pumping roller coaster.

Meanwhile, Tivoli’s Boys Guards, dressed up as guards to the royals, march behind children riding a horse-drawn carriage through the garden. The scent of popcorn and cotton candy fills the air while Viennese waltzes, big-band tunes and rock music play in the background through the evening.

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

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

The park covers about 880,000 square feet between City Hall and the capital’s main train station.

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

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 colored 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, K.D. Lang and the New York City Ballet among performances this season, either at Tivoli’s concert hall or on an outdoor stage where strongmen and bearded ladies once performed.

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

“Craftsmen back then used other methods,” Mr. Liebst says. The park hired Italian workers to re-create the front using a mixture of concrete and marble. The building houses a high-end restaurant, a dairy, a deli and a luxury hotel with 13 suites.

Tivoli has extended its opening times in recent years. The park twinkled in the Nordic winter darkness for the first time in 1994 and now stays open for four weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. A fall season was introduced in 2005 and focuses on Halloween’s universe of witches, pumpkin lanterns and autumn harvests.

In past years, the number of summer visitors has hovered above 3 million. Visitors are chiefly Danes and Scandinavians. Less than 10 percent come from outside the region.

“We depend very much on the weather,” Mr. Liebst says, adding that a gray and rainy summer last year meant just 2.9 million people went through the gates.

When Tivoli opened on Aug. 15, 1843, 3,615 visitors were recorded. About 10,000 came the next Sunday.

The biggest day was Tivoli’s 100th birthday, when 112,802 celebrated “Carstensen’s old garden,” as Danes like to call the park.


Tivoli (www.tivoli.dk), in the heart of Copenhagen, has three entrances. Admission to the park costs about $18 for adults and children older than 12. Children between 3 and 12 pay about $10. Rides are paid for separately, priced between $2 and $13. Multiride tickets can be bought.



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