Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

After lunch we went to Tivoli Gardens. Though it is an amusement park, Kirsten and a lot of Danes call it a pleasure garden, which makes me flinch. It first opened in 1843 as “Tivoli & Vauxhall”, taking inspirations from the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris and the Vauxhall Gardens in London. The origin story, as recounted by Kirsten, was pretty funny. It was built to indulge the Danish people so that they would forget about the politics.

First built in those years when Europeans viewed the Near and the Far East as the depraved centre of exotica and erotica, Tivoli have various Oriental buildings, from theatres to fountains: the Nimb Building with its domes and minarets, Chinese-pagoda gardens, Moorish pavilions, the Hanging Gardens, and the Bubble Fountain. (The original park was burnt down in 1943—again a symbolic message by the Nazis to destroy the old regime—but it was rebuilt.)

We took many historical rides in the park: the world’s oldest wooden roller coaster, (Rutsjebanen or Bjerg Banen (Mountain Track), according to omniscient Wikipedia), the world’s tallest carousel, Himmelskibet, and a nice free-fall tower, which Wikipedia doesn’t name.

We missed the Tivoli Symphony, which displays its merits only in the morning and at noon, but we stayed in the gardens until midnight. Tiny lanterns and bulbs illuminate the park from gorgeous Hans Christian Anderson Castle to the Glass Hall, which shines like an alien spaceship. The park transforms itself from an amusement park to a fair ground—open-air theatres replaced souvenir shops and cafés; jugglers and magicians came out of nowhere to entertain. But I was treated to two surprises.

At Chinese Mime Theatre, I saw Italian Commedia dell’Arte, and its clichéd story of Cassander, Harlequin, Columbine and Pierrot. I saw that once in Venice, but the Danish version was not only more colorful but also more vivant. (As a side note, the Chinese Theatre has a marvelous mechanical peacock’s tail curtain) From a small boat on the Tivoli Lake, we admired the firework display (only put together on Saturdays). Under the sky blued and crimsoned with Catherine wheels, and Roman candles, we ended the day with a lovely kiss.

Post-Scriptum: the return was not so pleasant. We didn’t know that the trains back to Køge stop running at half-an-hour past midnight, so we had to take a taxi back.

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