Docking on a magnificent summer’s day in this magical capital city, our first stop was, of course, the Little Mermaid, mournfully resting where I first saw her some 25 years ago just off the foreshore near the ship. More than just a photo opportunity of this icon so symbolic of Copenhagen, our visit gave us an opportunity to reflect on the fairytales of our childhood, of Hans Christian Andersen. Fortunately, this maiden who for eternity longs for her handsome prince, was poised on her rock where she belongs and not on a world tour or in statue hospital being repaired from her occasional injuries. Our visit almost coincided with her 100th birthday (to be celebrated on 23 August), an opportunity to celebrate this famous work of Danish sculptor Edward Eriksen who used his wife, Eline, as the model.
Next stop was Nyhavn, or “New Harbour” which is actually one of Copenhagen’s oldest harbours, dug by Swedish prisoners in the mid-17th Century and the centre of nautical life for generations of sailors – both commercial and hobby. Since I was last there, the harbour has blossomed into an alluring and romantic restaurant and café precinct, offering diners an opportunity on these long summer days to dine on the terraces which overlook the canal and its random assortment of sailing boats, tourist canal boats and other craft. Behind these terraces, in two of the houses, Hans Christian Anderson wrote some of his fairytales. Busy, colourful and entertaining, Nyhavn draws locals and visitors alike – especially on a warm, summer’s day.
The best was yet to come. A walk through the grounds of the magnificent Christianborg Palace with its 106 metre high tower (the highest in Copenhagen) and its symmetrical colonnades and riding ground complex (dug up for the city’s seasonal summer maintenance) and along some roads through the commercial district – we soon found ourselves at that very special, that very fairy tale place, Tivoli.
One of my earliest childhood travel recollections growing up in New Jersey was listening to my aunt’s descriptions of a place called Tivoli Gardens in Europe, a place where kids would always be kids, and grown-ups would also always be kids. A place to dream, a place for fantasies. An amusement park far grander than Palisades Park back in New Jersey, or even the boardwalk along the New Jersey sea shore. I vowed I would get there one day, and although I have been to Copenhagen several times on business since then, I have never been to Tivoli, until now – some 55 years later. Walking through the gates, it is hard to imagine what you will see, what you will experience.
Missing in this amusement park is the brashness of its American counterparts. Within Tivoli’s beautifully landscaped gardens are theme park rides, more than three dozen restaurants (almost all with open air dining), several fine design and souvenir shops, a massive Chinese style stage and open air seating, a building more than remiscient of the Taj Mahal, a pirate ship (doubling as a restaurant), a small train to ride on, a very proud white peacock and so much much more. It is a place for spending a day, particularly when the warm summer sun is shining. But still, there is more to see at Tivoli. As we wandered through the grounds, we could see lights in interesting arrays, undoubtedly Tivoli would be at its fairytale, magical best after dark, when the colourful lights would be illuminated and give it an even more special look. And of course, we would miss the firework displays which take place every Wednesday and Saturday night throughout the summer. However, we did enjoy a wonderful lunch at one of Tivoli’s charming restaurants, and had a look through some of its shops. And on the subject of restaurants, it is worth mentioning that Tivoli has both a Wagamama and a Hard Rock Café….just in case.
Sadly, though, it was time to think about heading back to the ship, so we got on our Hop On Hop Off bus and started the journey back to the ship, seeing such Copenhagen attractions and landmarks such as Amalienborg, home to the Danish monarch and StrØget, Copenhagen’s one mile long pedestrian shopping street.
However, there was time for a little shopping, and along the waterfront in what looks like it might have been part of the old City Wall (but is probably newer construction), is a row of outlet shops which extends almost to the cruise ship itself. Fashion, sports clothing and homewares outlets and other shops kept my retail curiousity pleasantly high for our hurried look through the shops.
Then, time to embark. But, may I please ask each of you a favour? Please make sure that your children and grandchildren and their children read the stories of Hans Chistian Andersen, that they learn about a charming kingdom in northern Europe and that they, too, some day, will visit Tivoli.