The Second Oldest Amusement Park in the World – Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

One of Copenhagen’s central tourist attractions, Tivoli Gardens, doubles as a regular destination for locals as well. The amusement park, which is semi-seasonal, is open between mid-April and the end of December each year.  It boasts a variety of wonderful (and comprehensively decorated) themes that change with the seasons while offering a more historical amusement park experience than many visitors may have experienced in the past.

Despite having arrived in Copenhagen back in July, I’m embarrassed to say this was my first trip to Tivoli.  I can’t say I have any good reason for the delay other than that due to my housing and visa woes I missed the initial trip most of my friends and classmates took when we first arrived. Now that I’ve finally made it, I’m definitely sorry it took me as long as it did to make it to the park, and that I’ll have to wait until April to return.  Though, to balance out the long delay, the magical ambiance that went with the holiday decorations and firework show definitely left me with an extremely memorable first time to the park – but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s talk a bit more about the park and its fascinating history.

Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

While it may be old news to amusement park aficionados, most readers will probably be surprised to learn the Denmark is home to more than just the original Lego Land.  In fact it not only boasts Tivoli, which was founded in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world.  It also serves as home to Dyrehavsbakken located a few miles to the north which is the world’s oldest park with a history dating back to the 1580s, and which I hope to visit (and share with you all) this spring.

The Peacock - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

As the story goes Tivoli was initially launched under the rule of King Christian the VIII as an initiative to nurture citizen’s goodwill.   Initially located just outside of the city’s western gate in Vesterport, as the city has grown the park has slowly been incorporated into Copenhagen’s historic downtown.   Throughout its history the park’s owners have consistently focused on maintaining the park’s ambiance and historical allure while working creatively within the park’s limited space to add modern rides and attractions.  It currently boasts twenty five rides, four of which are roller-coasters.  No small accomplishment for a park that takes up just over 20 acres of land.

Little Russia - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

Throughout its rich history, Tivoli has left its mark on the entertainment world.  The park served as a heavy inspiration for Walt Disney when he set out to create Disneyland, inspired Hans Christian Anderson as he wrote The Nightingale, and is said to have played a central role in composer Hans Christian Lumbye’s musical career. With its fantastic charm, romantic ambiance, and rich vegetation it’s guaranteed to leave its mark on all who visit.

The Daemon - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

My introduction to the park began just after dark (which comes far too early in Copenhagen in December).  The weather was crisp, but tolerable, and the sky largely cloudless with a beautiful crescent moon.  It was the 29th of December, one day before the park was scheduled to close down until April. I’d arrived after dark to see the park at night, and to make sure I had the chance to see Tivoli’s famous firework show which is put on the last week of December.  The plan was to connect with a classmate and her boyfriend who were both Danish and had offered to introduce me properly to Tivoli.  However, eager to spend some time wandering the park on my own I arrived a few minutes early to snap a few photos and some video.

Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

As I waited for Jonas and Margrethe to arrive my attention was immediately stolen by the rich, deep, sparkling blues of the Pantomime Theater.  The theater is designed in an oriental style, and features a brilliantly colored peacock with sparkling tail.  Built as an outdoor theater, it was designed by Vilhelm Dahlerup who also designed the Royal Danish Theater.  While the theater is known for the peacock’s mechanical tail, which serves as the front curtain, I was immediately distracted by a large stable set up immediately in front where I presume the chairs would normally sit.  In their place a rustic stable had been built served as a temporary home for Santa’s reindeer during daylight hours.  Long since put to bed, a rumbling recording of roaring snores reindeer snores echoed out from the hut, serving as an amusing contrast to the pristine plumage and diamondesque elegance of the Peacock Curtain that served as its backdrop.

Little China - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

From the theater, I quickly wound down through small free standing shops and past Tivoli’s Moorish Palace, which serves as home to the Nimb Hotel and Restaurant.  Then past little Russia with its vibrantly colored  buildings, and out into one of the park’s open areas.  The open space serves as home to two of the park’s large carousels: the Music Carousel and the Swing Carousel, both of which are vibrantly lit at night.  It is also home to the world famous Star Flyer, and the heart tree/kissing tree.

The Lover's Tree - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

To my delight the crescent moon fell squarely amidst the naked branches of the heart tree.  Naked of leaves the large tree cut an impressive silhouette while supporting a number of large, glowing red hearts.  All of which surrounded a beautiful, brilliantly bright crescent moon in the background.  It was delightful, if a bit lonely – definitely one of those places and moments made for a stolen kiss, music to remember and a beautiful travel companion.

Light Show - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

Leaving the tree behind, I quickly met up with Jonas where we mad our way immediately to one of the small concession stands for steaming cups of Gløgg/Glögg. Gløgg is a staple of winter life in Denmark.  It consists of mulled red or white wine, often with almonds and raisins in it, is served steaming hot out of large cauldrons.  In many cases it is further fortified with a few shots of hard alcohol.  Jonas opted for the spiced rum, and I followed his lead.  With blood slowly returning to my fingers, we wound into little China Town, beneath the Daemonen – Tivoli’s largest roller coaster – before pausing along Tivoli’s fairly large lake.

Little China - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

As Jonas explained some of the park’s history to me we were greeted by a stunning view. The lake’s water was almost perfectly still and the lit buildings, trees, and roller coasters that sit along it cast vibrantly colored reflections. Just as Margrethe arrived music began to play, the lights changed, and fog rolled out over the lake. Then, to my absolute (and perhaps slightly childish) delight a laser and fountain show began. It combined a fun mixture of fog, light, laser webs, music, and even a bit of flame for an enchanting performance that had water, and light dancing across the surface of the lake. We stood mesmerized for the length of the show, despite the cold.

The Lake Lights - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

I mentioned it briefly already when talking about the heart tree, but it bears reiterating. The old trees that decorate Tivoli are fantastic. Especially in winter, devoid of their leaves, and decorated in brilliant arrays of Christmas lights. The trees along the lake cast stunning reflections while simultaneously seeming to be lit by thousands of small, glowing lake fairies.

The Pirate Ship - Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

Eager to find something for Margrethe to drink, and nearing the bottom of our cups of Gløgg we made our way down and around the far end of the lake, which took us past the park’s impressive pirate ship and then across towards the aptly named Smuggler’s Row.

Tivoli Gardens - Smugglers Row - Copenhagen

Smuggler’s Row has a fun, eclectic feel and serves as home to a number of  permanent food stands and small shops.    As the photo suggests, it has a delightful mixture of oddities and fantastical decorations.

Tivoli Gardens - Smugglers Row - Copenhagen

The crowds had begun to build, and eager to warm up we ducked into a small beer garden that had liter steins of Paulaner beer and just as importantly large heat lamps.  There we sat, chatted, and exchanged stories while warming up and preparing for the evening’s main event.  The firework show.

Tivoli Gardens - Copenhagen

As we finished our beers and made our way back towards the open space with the heart trees we were shocked to see how much the park had filled up. In the seemingly brief time we had been away, wandering the park, the entire area had filled – shoulder to shoulder – with eager onlookers. We quickly found a small spot with a great view and settled in. Now, I’m not sure what you might be familiar with for firework shows back home, but after spending the holidays and new years here in Denmark, I can promise you that regular residents take their fireworks very, very seriously. As a result the bar is set pretty high for a professional show like Tivoli’s and I’m happy to say they more than delivered. You’ll have to watch the video which is embedded earlier in this post to see them. I’m afraid I was so busy enthralled by the fireworks and recording video I failed to pause and snap a few traditional photos. The backdrop was gorgeous with little Russia to our left, old street lamps in front of us, and the colorfully lit dome at the top of the Star Flyer as the backdrop. The show rivaled anything I’ve seen the city’s put on for the 4th of July back home. The fireworks were colorful, plentiful and of course loud!

My trip to Tivoli was an evening spent in a magical fairy tale land. The park is an absolute delight and has its own unique charm which I thoroughly enjoyed. If you find yourself in Denmark, make sure you set aside an afternoon – or evening – to explore the park and all it has to offer. As an interesting side note, you have different options when purchasing tickets. There is a cheaper, non-ride based ticket which gives you admission to the park – perfect for evenings like mine. Or you can opt for a ride pass which is good throughout the park, and ideal in warmer months when fast rides and daring drops call!  For more information you can view their site at Tivoli.dk.

Have your own experiences, or fun facts from Tivoli? Feel free to share them in a comment. As always, thanks for reading, and please make sure to subscribe for future updates!

On Outsourcing, the Economy and the United States

Listen to this post:

Audio: On Outsourcing, The Economy and the US

If you’ve missed the economic disaster that’s gripped the world over the last few months, you’re probably capable of forgetting to breathe.  Then again, if you’ve been following the free fall of the US stock market you’ve probably stopped breathing all together.  The economy is on everyone’s mind and a popular blogging subject.  As such, I was a little hesitant to write on it.  However, I’ve yet to see anyone discuss the big picture and very few American news outlets are taking a realistic look at what’s really going on.

The Global Environment

Simply put, you can’t understand the economy until you understand recent world history. The collapse of the USSR in 1990 set off a series of dramatic changes.  With the death of the Soviet Union the US lost its major competitor and the world saw one of its largest and most powerful economies vanish.   This provided a fantastic opportunity for the US to solidify its presence on the global stage.

In 1993 the European Union was formed and began to fill the void that the USSR’s collapse had created.   By 1999 the Euro was introduced and by 2002 most of the member countries had switched to it as their exclusive currency.  As intended, the EU and its currency created a new world economic superpower able to face off with and stand side-by-side with the US dollar. Meanwhile, the widespread adoption of the internet, and decreases in the cost of shipping/phone communication and the like made it economically beneficial to outsource to places like India and China.

Russia’s collapse offered a valuable opportunity for China.  By devaluing their currency China was able to establish and maintain itself as one of the world’s greatest exporters –  fueling an industrial revolution unlike any the world had seen for over 40 years.  With a wealth of natural resources, nearly endless population, and government able to undertake massive/risky projects, China catapulted itself onto the world stage.  By the late ’90s China had truly come into its own as an economic power.

A fourth historical factor essential to an understanding of the current economic crisis is the concept of world currency. In 1945 international currencies were pegged to the US dollar which helped secure US dominance and established the dollar as the world currency.  With the collapse of the gold standard in 1971 most of the world currencies were un-pegged from the dollar. Despite this, most international transactions were still carried out in dollars due to our position as the world’s economic superpower.

The Power of Currency

As the dollar has been the world’s unofficial currency, the United States has been able to operate as the central economic node through which most international business is carried out.  This poured money into the US and helped fuel our economy. The difficult trade off is that it also provided for a strong dollar which slowly made a lot of our industry unprofitable. As a result, our exports began to drop and our imports began to rise.  A brutal and difficult transition.  These decreases were, however, balanced by the thriving tech industry in the US. Our creativity, drive and forward-reaching thought provided the internet and new technologies which we were able to export and sell while re-tooling our economy to the early stages of the next wave: The digital revolution which replaced the industrial revolution.

As our exports continued to diminish, outsourcing thrived and the debate – which had picked up steam in the early 2000s – eventually came to a head around the time of the last presidential election. Outsourcing became a dirty word, unpatriotic and an affront to the American public. The administration decided something needed to be done to bring American manufacturing jobs back to the US and by George they did it. They began a series of actions which resulted in the gradual suppression of the US dollar.  A practice which is similar to what China has done to keep the value of their currency low and exports high.  The idea was to de-value the dollar to increase the price of imported goods while creating incentives to fuel American industry.  Ironically, this has worked.  Companies like Toyota, BMW and others have opened a number of plants in the US over the last year and a half, and industry has poured back into the US. Unfortunately,  not as fast as necessary. There are a few catches.

  1. Our standard of life has been based on living in a post-industrial nation. Our consumption rates, wages, etc. are all vastly different than those of the factory worker who fueled America’s 2nd industrial revolution and exponentially different than those of  the Indian and Chinese workers fueling their country’s current industrial revolutions.
  2. Technology and automation have drastically changed the way manufacturing and assembly jobs are executed, streamlining the process and reducing the demand for manpower.

Unhappily, both of these factors pale in comparison to the real catch. Our role in the global economy.  Unlike China, Japan, India, Mexico or any other foreign nation, the US is not truly an independent currency.  As the de-facto world currency, the US dollar is the central quay to which all of the world’s other currencies are tied.  When we began artificially deflating our currency we began destabilizing the world economy. Instead of offering a quay that the world economies could tie to, we quickly became a lead weight pulling them down.  We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be the world’s economic super power/global currency of choice AND at the same time be de-valuing our dollar to drive up exports.  This process began destabilizing the world economies and has, in my opinion, resulted in a lot of the credit and economic issues we’re currently facing.  It also helps explain why the US is suffering, but stock markets around the world are in equally – if not worse – shape.

The Stock Market & Housing

The common perception and discussion within the US paints the current stock market turmoil and economic trouble as being largely limited to/caused by the US. While it’s obviously hitting us hard and in many ways started with US, it’s not only a US  problem.  Further, the political dialogue has attempted to imply that the difficulties essentially stem from legislation established to put poor people in houses.  Poor people who are now defaulting on their loans and going into foreclosure. While this is, in part, true, it’s a small portion/side effect of the real issue.  It’s not the somewhat limited cross section of lower income Americans who were able to realize the American dream by purchasing a home that created the housing bubble.

In reality it is the fault of middle and upper class Americans who took out home equity loans and ARM loans to purchase 2nd and 3rd properties.   Properties which were purchased as investments in the rush to cash-in on the soaring real estate market. These were properties purchased with the expectation that they could be re-sold for profit in months or at the most a few years – all this to be done before the ARM’s interest rate kicked in and the price skyrocketed. These are the individuals who threw the dice and took a gamble every bit as risky as any stock market investment … and lost.  These are the individuals, many of whom are now faced with paying 2 or 3 mortgages in this bad economy who stand to lose both their speculative investment and their primary home.  Many in the the middle class made the mistake.  They jumped on the bandwagon and now we’re paying the price.

Back to Currency

I talked earlier about how suppressing the dollar doesn’t make sense/work. Consider that since July the Dollar has turned around its downward march and rebounded forcefully. To illustrate this point, consider the gains made by the dollar against the following international currencies:

  • July: 1.04 October: 1.44 – Australian dollars 28%
  • July: .63 October: .73 – Euros 16%
  • July: .50 October: .57 – British Pound 14%
  • July: 1048 October: 1390 – South Korea Won 33%
  • July: 79 October: 110 – Icelandic Krona 39%
  • July: 1.49 October: 1.79 – Fijian Dollar 20%
  • July: 10 October: 12 – Mexican Peso 20%
  • July: 1.59 October: 2.36 – Brazilian Real 48%
  • July: 1.01 October: 1.12 – Canadian Dollar 11%
  • July: 516 October: 611 – Chilean Peso 18%
  • July: 1924 October: 2281 – Colombian Peso 19%
  • July: 149 October: 187 – Hungarian Florin 26%
  • July: 1.31 October: 1.67 – New Zealand Dollar 27%
  • July: 5.07 October: 6.12 – Norwegian Kroner 21%

*Credit goes to Cody Paris for pulling this data/doing the calculations.

So, the question begs – what’s the macro message we should take away from this?  In the modern global economy nothing is quite what it seams. For my part, I’ll be watching the international markets every bit as closely as I watch the markets here in the states.

As always, I value your thoughts and feedback! Please, keep in mind that these thoughts are a summary of my observations and nothing more.  I’m not an economist – only a curious mind trying to make sense of things.