For all the Buckingham-esque uniforms and international tastes, Tivoli Gardens still struck us as decidedly Danish. It's Denmark's biggest tourist attraction, but Danes themselves pile through the gates along with us foreigners. We were actually visiting during a school holiday and generations of families who'd all grown up coming here walked around the place like it was second nature. No maps are given at the door. Wood was piled neatly in places, a windmill turned, vendors sold pork hot dogs and pulled pork sandwiches (Denmark is the highest consumer of pork per capita in the world). Tivoli doesn't feel like a carnival, a sensory onslaught. The manic, loud, cartoonish feeling so many amusement parks have isn't present here. As Walt Disney remarked after visiting, there is a "happy and unbuttoned air of relaxed fun." It's something that he is said to have tried to emulate in his own creation, Disneyland.
One of the world's oldest roller coasters, the wooden Rutschebanen built in 1914, is at Tivoli, as is the awesome Star Flyer, a 260+ foot 'swing ride' that spins 24 people at a time around a watchtower high above the city. The newest ride, Vertigo, was absolutely mesmerizing to us. We stood, rapt, frightened, watching for a good ten minutes. These four-seater planes are controlled by the riders, so you can hit 'turbo' and zoom so fast the people underneath you may squeal. You can also flip and spin as you'd like.
I may have been even more impressed by this, though. Bumper boats. Why don't they have this in America? There was this feeling of giddiness in the air at Tivoli and the lack of a care in the world. When Georg Carstensen decided he wanted to build the park, he appealed to King Christian VIII himself. It's not every day someone wanted a chunk of land in a city center for what may be seen as frivolous purposes. "When the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics," he apparently told the king to sway him. Music to a politician's ears.