Tivoli Gardens wins my accolade for loveliest amusement park.
It certainly isn't the most modern, and that's one aspect of its charm. It involves real people, real electric light bulbs, real metal and wood, and real music played on real instruments.Situated in the heart of Denmark's beautiful capital city, Tivoli is easy to reach, and easy to get around in. There are no mile-long lines, and the guides are not encased in funny costumes.
The sandy paths are lined with flowers in all the hues of nature. There are benches for sitting to watch the flowers, the ducks in the ponds, the acrobats and jugglers who wander here and there to entertain. There's an air of happiness and brightness, whether it's a family group or a group of teen-agers.
This slightly old-fashioned aura doesn't mean that Tivoli is for fogies. It has flashy rides designed to turn stomachs inside out and bring heart palpitations.
Tivoli is open from late April until early September, from 10 a.m. until midnight. The early hours are for children; playgrounds are supervised until 6 p.m., and there are children's shows every afternoon.
By 1:30 p.m., all 25 rides are open, including the carousel, bumper cars, Ferris wheel, roller coaster and fun house.
There are band concerts and marching bands during the afternoon, and pantomime performances, one of which works in classic commedia dell arte style, with Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine, stars of the mime stage since the Middle Ages. As darkness deepens (past 10 p.m. in June and July), there are jazz concerts in the jazz hall, dancing in the dance hall and folk music in the folk music hall. The guards parade again, and the last show on the open-air stage begins at 10:30, with fireworks to follow.
Denmark is a nation of munchers. Street kiosks do a busy trade in "polser," or hot dogs, generally served without a bun, though you can have one for a few cents more. Most Danes take the hot dog, wrapped in waxed paper, slap some mustard on it and munch away.
And Tivoli is, in some respect, a muncher's heaven. There are 29 restaurants and food stands, or four more places to eat than to ride. The restaurants range from the classy, elegant and very expensive Belle Terrasse to cafeteria-style pastry shops and ice cream stands. Some are nightclubs, with music and dancing; others are just for sitting and munching; still others are wine and beer bars.
A return visit to Belle Terrasse was much like a reunion; I'd eaten there in 1968, on my first real trip to Europe, and I couldn't visit Tivoli without dining there again.
The rooms are lovely, with mounds of flowers inside and out, and windows that open in the evening when the breeze is comfortable and the happy sounds of brass bands float in from outside. The cuisine combines French preparation with Danish ingredients, the wine list is immense, prices are high and reservations are vital.
What a meal, however! Real buckwheat blinis (thin, crepe-like pancakes) with beautiful black caviar, and gravlax, or marinated salmon sliced at tableside, were appetizers, and the gravlax offered all the rich flavor of salmon, with a lovely hint of dill. Venison was prepared with wild mushrooms, and the meat was beautifully marinated and roasted, with just a hint of gaminess. Thin, crisp, fried potatoes were enchanting, and I discovered later they were made from mashed potatoes blended with heavy cream, then fried crisp as chips.
The Danes called it "fried salmon," but it was a thick, filet-like cut of fresh salmon, perfectly poached, then slipped under a broiler just long enough to crisp one side. The Baltic salmon, light of color and flavor, was marvelous.
A chocolate-orange gateaux, rich and perfect, capped the meal, just in time to wander the paths and enjoy the myriad of flashing lights, the people and the charm of the late-summer evening.
When it comes to amusement parks, Tivoli is No. 1 to me.
The clown named Pjerrot welcomes people of all ages to Tivoli Gardens, located in the heart of Copenhagen. The park's walkways are lined with flowers and benches, where you can sit to watch jugglers and acrobats. The park also has exciting rides that appeal to teenagers. A variety of delicious food is available in the park.