Tivoli awakens for the new season

May 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Copenhagen, Denmark – 4 April 2013

It’s early April and in Copenhagen spring is creeping in – though it’s still a bit too cold for my liking. We got under the skin of the 170-year-old traditional – and tradition rich – amusement park a mere week before the new season kicks off.

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Taking a stroll through Tivoli before it opens to the public is an interesting eye opener. For some reason one expects a place like this to always look the same, but the barred gates, myriad of workmen and their machines, and rolls of grass waiting to be laid down like a carpet in your living room quickly put things into perspective. Preparing a precious old lady like Tivoli to face the crowd in all her grandeur requires a lot of hard work back stage – she needs her attention and make-up like any great diva.


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It’s nigh on impossible defining or describing Tivoli in terms of regular theme parks as we know them today. With its long history and heritage it’s about much more than just a bunch of rides and rollercoasters in a pre-fabricated fairy land. In 1843 Tivoli opened its doors for the very first time. Back then the 20 acre area was nestled firmly outside the borders of the Danish capital. It was a nice escape for the day for city dwellers. Time flies, however, and cities grow and so nowadays Tivoli finds itself slap bang in the middle of the city. The garden still remains an oasis unperturbed by its changing surroundings even if the modern city grows ever bigger, higher and louder around its long time citizen. Tivoli itself doesn’t stand still either, though, and in places grows bigger, higher and louder as well. It has to – many things change with time, including what’s required to keep yourself interesting on the global menu of entertainment opportunities.

Pantomime and Nimb

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A few short steps into the park a beautiful, old pantomime theatre appears. This stage – where Pierrot, Columbine and friends entertain – is an icon from the early days and the oldest existing attraction. Further down the path another Tivoli elder rises majestically before your eyes – perfectly framed for postcard posterity complete with water fountain, peacocks and all. This building – or rather palace – nowadays houses luxury hotel Nimb. The building started life as a bazar before turning into a restaurant and later hotel. Major refurbishment took place a few years ago and even when we visited now further works were in progress – all in perfect tune with the history of the place.

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Originally Tivoli opened as an “exotic garden” and – as people didn’t travel as much in those days – it basically meant “it worked” if something looked Chinese or Japanese or maybe had an Arabian feel to it. A quick glance at the two scenes mentioned above hammers that notion home perfectly.

Friday Concerts on The Lawn

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Across from Nimb we find Tivoli’s largest performance stage facing Plaenen (The Lawn). A bunch of shows over the season take place here, not least the weekly Friday Concerts. This annually returning concept has been an amazing success for Tivoli to the extent that it can be almost impossible to even navigate the park during some of the big name gigs. Out of the many performances this year I’d sure love to catch up with the past and enjoy Suede and Sting when they hit the stage.

Dallying Down the Alley

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Walking further on past The Lawn we come across something else separating Tivoli from the modern theme park. Over time space has become an increasing challenge and in the 1950s a rather ingenious idea came to fruition. A small work alley behind some of the restaurants was cleverly incorporated into the public area as a whole new attraction in its own right. Instead of using optical tricks, like mirrors, to make it seem larger the intimate feel was kept intact – an illusion of an old, province town street complete with shops, bars and all that jazz was the result. The effect is quite impressive – exactly like taking a turn off the high street and into the hidden unknown. While the alley can be very busy indeed when the park is open and running on all cylinders there’s still no doubt it also serves as a welcome break from the open areas of the park.

Reaching the Jolly Corner to find Tycho Brahe and Aquila

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Coming out of The Alley we’ve reached the far corner of Tivoli – Det Muntre Hjoerne (The Jolly Corner). This area has been busier than most over the off-season as it’s been through a major make-over. By relocating some offices the area doubled in size and a complete redesign was performed as well. Inspired by Tycho Brahe, The Jolly Corner now appears as a miniature, renaissance town square and boasts no less than three new rides. One of these – Aquila – will turn, twist and spin you in pretty much any direction you can imagine at breakneck speeds and is clearly Tivoli’s big new attraction this year. Personally there’s no chance I’ll be going on that one anytime soon, but I’ll happily stand by and look at those who do.

The Indecisive Tower

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Further down the paths we meet the Chinese/Japanese Tower. Another of Tivoli’s old buildings the tower dates back just over 100 years and through its life it’s been switching names back and forth between the two options as it if were a slightly confused pop star trying to find itself. When a few years ago a sushi restaurant opened there naturally it changed back to being the Japanese Tower once more.

Lakeside Brewhouses and Cartoon Playgrounds

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Towards the end of the tour we find ourselves strolling along the bank of the Tivoli boating lake passing Faergekroen (The Ferry Inn) on the way round. The modern brewpub dwells completely on its own with tables right by the water and offers a secluded, romantic setting away from the hustle and bustle. Having come all the way around the lake we enter a colourful playground for the smallest guests. Based around the characters and stories of Rasmus Klump – best described as Denmark’s own Mickey Mouse – it’s one of a kind anywhere and a beautiful, imaginative take on the standard playground. The vivid colours and soft cartoonish shapes bring it to life and it’s definitely a theme worth considering developing. In the end I just love the fact old school cartoons can stand the test of time and give digital entertainment a run for its money.

Full Circle – Back to Reality

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In our last few steps we catch the sound of a Tivoli Guard trumpeter practising his horn skills and we get one last view of the beautiful old pantomime before heading back out through the main gates. It’s been a lovely walk around Tivoli this afternoon and fantastic to observe a little of the preparations for the coming season. Not sure when I’ll be back in Copenhagen next, but I would sure love to come back this summer, have another walk around the paths, soak up the atmosphere, and take in a concert and a quiet pint or two…

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