Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who Was Niels Bohr?

While Wally was at the stamp exhibition and I was wandering around Copenhagen, I went to see Christianborg Palace, which serves as Denmark’s capitol, where parliament meets. I don’t remember much about the building, except after a fire old floors were replaced with shining, polished American hardwood from Oregon.

A canal, like a moat, circled around the plaza in front of the palace. On the street facing canal and palace (the most prestigious residential street in Denmark) was a row of majestic townhouses. In Italy each of them would be called a palazzo. One of them had a bronze placard marking the birthplace in 1885 of Niels Bohr.

I knew almost nothing about Niels Bohr until I read his biography before Wally and I went to Denmark with the stamp collectors. According to Wikipedia, he was “one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century.”

His father, Christian Bohr, was a professor at the university, where he met Niels’s mother, Margrethe Norlund, while she was a student. Her father was a prominent Jewish banker, and the future scientist was born in his grandparents' home. The house is impressive, with no portico but tall white marble columns standing against the facade.

Young Niels was a prodigy who “made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics.” He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932.

Germans marched into Denmark in April, 1940, and tried to enlist Bohr to help them develop an atomic bomb. He refused. When the Nazis started to arrest Jews for deportation to death camps, Dr. Bohr got into a small boat with his wife and son and fled to Sweden. From there the family flew to London, then on to New York, and finally to New Mexico. At Los Alamos he worked with the finest group of Novel Prize winners ever assembled in one place. Instead of helping the Germans with their bomb, Niels Bohr helped us build the atomic bomb we dropped on Hiroshima.

After the war he returned to Denmark. His research institute attracted scientists from all over the world in developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Bohr died in 1962, so he did not live to see his son, Aage Bohr, receive a Nobel Prize in 1975.

At the end of the big stamp show in Copenhagen, Wally and I took an extra week to travel around Denmark. In Roskilde, as we stood beside cathedral, we saw in the distance across a green valley, the twin pear-shaped towers of the nuclear plant which creates energy to light Denmark’s homes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shopping in Copenhagen

I don’t shop. I hate shopping for clothes. Having the ugliest body in all of Texas, or maybe the World, I wear ten-year-old spaghetti-stained blouses and avoid looking in the mirror. When I go to the mall to buy new clothes, I can’t find anything to conceal my bulging tunny. I always end up in the housewares department admiring elegant dishes.

At home I resist the temptation to buy Royal Doulton, even if decorated with little periwinkles. In Denmark I found Royal Copenhagen.

I inherited a broken set of Royal Copenhagen china from my late, unlamented mother-in-law. Unable to love her, I loved her blue and white dishes, a version of Dresden’s “onion” pattern.

When my mother-in-law and her husband left Denmark to go to Chicago, her mother-in-law gave her a complete service for twelve, including platters, bowls, and little sauce dishes. Wally’s mother used them every day and managed to smash all the cups and saucers and most of the serving pieces. I inherited eight plates (some of them chipped), a long dish, a little square dish, and a charming leaf-shaped dish.

On the walking street in Copenhagen, I found the porcelain factory’s outlet shop. I took the little (two-person) elevator up to the third floor where “seconds” were for sale at a quarter of what they cost at Marshall Field’s in Chicago. I bought eight cups and saucers.

That should have ended my shopping.

Another day, without any destination in mind, I walked leisurely along a narrow canyon of a street in the oldest part of Copenhagen. Through centuries of paving and re-paving, the level of the street was several feet higher than the shops. I stopped beside a narrow building and looked down into a window filled with blue and white Royal Copenhagen dishes.

I stepped down into the shop and was met by the shop owner, who told me he specialized in antique blue and white Royal Copenhagen. This tiny, elderly man looked like an antique himself, with thick glasses and whips of white hair. I could not resist. I bought a bowl and several little pitchers to take home as gifts.

I asked the man his name, and as I filled out the traveler’s checks for Mr. Rosenberg, I commented, “That looks like a Jewish name.”

“Of course”
“Were you here before World War II?”
“What did you do?”
“I left, of course.”
“And after the war you came back?”
“Yes. This is my home.”

Germans occupied Denmark for four years during World War II. When they started to round up Jews for deportation to death camps, the Danes smuggled their Jewish friends across the narrow channel to Sweden. The Nazis captured very few Jews in Denmark.

Which reminds me of Niels Bohr and one of the most amazing stories of World War II. I’ll tell you next week.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Discovering Something Old

Everywhere I traveled I found something unexpected. In Copenhagen it was in the cathedral.

Not the usual Gothic cathedral like the ones I saw in photos and for real in England and France. Instead, on the walking street in Copenhagen, I turned my head to the left and saw a Roman temple.

Churches that looked like Roman temples were common in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Baptists, in their determination not to resemble Catholic churches, built many churches in the “classical” style.

As a child in Fort Worth my family attended one of those. Behind tall fake marble columns was a “sanctuary” with rows of dark wooden benches. The windows were ugliest stained glass windows I ever saw: rectangles of garish colored glass, sickly red, bright orange, and bilious green. Years later in Turkey, I saw mosques with beautiful tile work interiors. But when I visited a poor village, the mosque was a simple, unadorned cube. I saw a definite resemblance between that mosque and the Christian church of my childhood.

In contrast, the interior of Copenhagen’s Lutheran cathedral had a traditional long nave. Standing in arches in the side aisles were tall marble statues representing the twelve apostles. If you think of Jesus’s apostles as giants among men, go to Copenhagen. Each statue was ten feet tall. Done in the classical tradition, each man was accompanied by his symbol, St. Andrew with his X shaped cross, St. Peter with his keys.

At the end of the center aisle, behind the baptismal font, was a ten-foot statue of Jesus, with his hands outstretched as if to urge people to come forward for his blessing. After so many churches were Jesus hangs on the cross suffering for mankind’s sins, I liked the Danish Christ where Jesus stood tall and erect, extending his hands in a joyous welcome.

The statues were by the Danish sculptor Thorvalsen. Maybe you’ve heard of him. I hadn’t. Google never heard of him either and could not tell me if I spelled his name correctly. He was famous a hundred and fifty years ago.

Inspired by the cathedral, I went to the Thorvalsen Museum, devoted exclusively to his work. A large hall was filled with marble statues, all skillfully executed in the classical style. I bought a poster picturing his coyly posed Venus. She could have been dug up on some Greek isle.

That kind of sculpture is not fashionable in these days when such “moderns” as Rodin, Moore, and Modigliani (another one Google can’t find) have been replaced by the strange shapes sculpted by David Smith, Stella, and others who are paid millions for objects with no recognizable form.

Isn’t it nice of the Danes to remember unfashionable Thorvalsen and keep his work on public display, not only in the cathedral, but also in his own museum?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alone in Copenhagen

Wally heard about the only tower from the Middle Ages left standing after Copenhagen's ramparts were torn down in the 1800's. Inside was a spiral ramp, wide and tall enough for a man on horseback to ride all the way to the top. The Danes did not explain why anyone would want to take a horse to the top of a 300-foot tower.

One morning, as he left for the philatelic exhibition, Wally said he wanted to climb the tower. He asked me to meet him there at 3 p.m.

I spent the day wandering about the old city. I walked between buses waiting to take people to the newer sections of the city and crossed the large square in front to the town hall. I entered the narrow, cobble stoned “walking street” (closed to automobiles) with its old houses converted into shops and restaurants.

After a half mile or so, I crossed the square with the Chinese restaurant, where Kierkegaard’s home had stood, and where I watched young hippies in blue jeans and tee shirts relaxing on the rim of the fountain.

Continuing on the narrow walking street, like going from a pond into a small stream, I side-tracked for a look into the neo-classic Lutheran cathedral. At the windows of Bing & Grondel and its next door rival, Royal Copenhagen, Danish porcelain manufacturers, I paused to admire blue and white bowls and dark blue Christmas plates.

A long walk after lunch in the sunshine, who could ask for a more pleasant way to spend a day?

The walking street ended in a “T” where I turned left. At exactly 3 p.m. I stood on a narrow sidewalk looking across the street at the entrance to the tower. It looked so odd: in that narrow street of 18th Century houses stood that massive, 12th Century stone tower.

No sign of Wally. It was Iceland all over again. My feet ached from walking all afternoon. I waited 45 minutes. Then, because there was no bus route, I turned to start back to the walking street.

I had only gone a few steps when a large, middle-aged woman, her round face flushed with distress, stopped me.

“Do you speak English?” an American voice asked.
I could not help it. I laughed. “Of course.”
“I’m lost,” she said. “I’m all turned around, and I have no idea how to get back to my hotel.”
“Where are you staying?”
“The Alexandria”
“That’s right next door to my hotel,” I said. “I’m going that way anyway. Let’s go together.”

Released from her panic, the lady relaxed. We chatted amiably as I lead her into the walking street. We came to a sidewalk café. I said, “I’m really tired. Would you mind if we stopped and had a cold drink?”

We sat at a little round table in the shade. Were we under a tree, or were we in the shadow of the cathedral? I don’t remember. I know I ordered a citron, and she said she’d have one, too. As we sipped our cold drinks, more strongly flavored than Sprite and non-carbonated, my companion said, “This is delicious! I wish I’d known about this when we were in Sweden.”

She explained, “My husband is a minister, and we’ve been touring with our church choir. Every place we’ve sang, the church gave a reception for us. All they served was beer! I don’t drink alcohol, and I didn’t know how to ask for anything else. I never thought we’d go to churches where they serve beer.”

Americans who go to Europe are always surprised to find places totally different from what they expected. But this American had a surprise for me.

She told me she and her husband were from Buffalo, New York. I told her that Wally and I were from Chicago.

“My daughter lives in the Chicago area,” she said. “She and her husband just bought a home in Arlington Heights, Illinois.”
“Wally and I used to live there.”
“My daughter’s place is on a little street called South Dryden Place.”
“That’s where Wally and I built our first home!”

I waited almost ten years before I persuaded Wally to buy a lot in the suburbs. He insisted on building a Chicago-style red brick bungalow laying the solid brick walls himself and with his friend Herb helping with the carpentry. Across the street was a row houses built years before on what had been the edge of town.

“Is your daughter’s house one of those two-stories with the bathroom half way up the staircase?”
“That’s it exactly!”
“Our house was the red-brick bungalow on the other side of the street.”

At a sidewalk café in Copenhagen, two middle-aged Americans shared their mutual interest in a short (about a block and a half long) street in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

When I got back to the hotel, Wally was lying on the bed reading some literature about stamp collecting. I didn’t bother ask where he had been or to tell him my afternoon. I was beginning to realize I didn’t need him as a traveling companion. I could go anywhere alone and find and enjoy my own adventures.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrate My Birthday

My birthday is March 17. People party on my birthday. I’ve been in Chicago’s Loop when dye dumped into the Chicago River turned the water bright green. I’ve lunched in a bar in Philadelphia when the bartender and all the patrons burst into Irish songs. I’ve stood on the sidewalk in New York watching 10,000 policemen march past in the biggest of all St. Patrick’s Day parades.

In New Mexico I lunched every day with a group of American Indians. On St. Pat’s day all the Indians showed up wearing green. A big burly Indian, in a suit with green shirt and tie, joined hands with Navajos and Pueblos in a circle singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

Then there was the time I was staying at a Hilton in Ishmir, Turkey. The hotel gave me a birthday cake. Never did I imagine getting a birthday cake from Conrad Hilton, above all being in Ishmir, Turkey.

Not this year. I go to dialysis this afternoon. That wipes me out beyond caring for anything except getting home, hitting the button in my electric recliner, and putting up my feet while I watch dumb television programs (“Dog the Bounty Hunter” anyone?) until ten o’clock when I can go to bed.

I should be in a good mood. For nine months I’ve been enmeshed with problems in my arm. In June my “access” clotted. The surgeon put a “temporary” catheter in my chest. I continued to go to dialysis. On other days I’ve had doctors’ appointments, gone to the hospital for tests and three times for surgery. What a bore! Not a great deal of pain, but time consuming. I had little time to escape into happier days by writing about my travels on my blog.

I never thought I’d say, “I hope they stick needles in me.” For the last ten days I happily had dialysis through needles in my arm. Yesterday I lost another day in the hospital. But the surgeon took out the catheter. Glory Hallelujah! Dr. Cook says Friday evening I can take a shower!

If I learned anything in 82 years, I know to be grateful for small blessings. Standing in that shower and letting hot water pore down the back of my neck for the first time in nine months – that will be a celebration!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


On television I watched a U.S. Senator holding hearings. He ranted about terrorists infiltrating Muslim communities in the U.S. In the 1950's Senator McCarthy terrorized our country by accusing public officials of being Communists, even casting suspicion on President Dwight Eisenhower!

The news is so depressing that I want to ignore current disasters and retreat into the 18th and 19th Centuries. Read Jane Austen and enter a world of tea parties and dances where the main concern was finding husbands for all the young women.

Who would know, from those books about gentile life in that leisurely world, at the time Austen was writing her novels, her brothers were in bloody sea battles fighting Napoleon? Both became admirals in the British Navy. Austen, living in the peaceful countryside, knew nothing about fighting battles at sea. She wrote what she knew from personal experience. Or maybe, like me, she wanted to ignore the horrors of war.

Her brothers may have participated in the “first terrorist attack against a major European city in modern times.”

Who were the terrorists? The Brits!

Few will note in a few weeks the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Copenhagen. On April 2,1801, the British fleet under Horacio Nelson (then only a Vice-Admiral) met a Dano-Norwegian fleet at Copenhagen. (At that time Denmark and Norway were combined under the Danish king.) Historians call the Battle of Copenhagen, “Nelson’s hardest fought battle, surpassing even heavy fighting at Trafalgar.” The British sank most of their opponents’ ships and sailed away to fight in Spain. The Danes thought that was the end of the war for them.

Then in August, 1807, the British came back in a preemptive attack. This time their target was not the Danish Navy but the city of Copenhagen. Since the attack targeted civilians, it is rightly considered a terrorist action. The British ships bombarded the city with “Congreve rockets” containing phosphoreus, which cannot be extinguished with water, and many houses, which had straw roofs, burned to the ground.

Then the British landed 30,000 troops to surround the town of 60,000 people, including women and children. The city was destroyed. Over 2,000 civilians were killed.

Today the Danes and the British are allies in NATO. We need to take a long look at history and be careful whom we call an enemy. I remember when Germans and Japanese were real enemies. In my lifetime they became our friends.

We are angry about the Americans killed by radical Muslims in the attack on 9/11. Let’s not forget that those terrorists were 19 Saudis and one Egyptian. None were from Iraq. There was no Al Quedas in Iraq until we invaded. Also, none of the terrorists were from Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, or Indonesia, all Muslim countries. If we blame all Muslims for 9/11, we are in danger of turning Muslim friends into enemies. Do we want that?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Solitary Dane

Before I went on any trip, I tried to get maps to help in finding my way around unfamiliar cities and nations. Even using a map, I often was diverted by unexpected encounters with sights (often strange) and strangers (usually pleasant). If I got lost, a map showed me the way back to my hotel.

I unfolded the city map of Copenhagen showing all the streets in the city. Several large, pale green blank spaces were stamped “Kierkegaard” in black letters. I had just read the biography of the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard. When I saw his name on big areas of the map, I laughed out loud.

The Danish word “Kierkegaard” translates to “Church yard” or “Cemetery.” Soren Kierkegaard was a depressing, solitary man. To me it is appropriate that his name means “Graveyard”.

In Paris after World War II, John Paul Sartre advocated Kierkegaard’s existentialism. The Danish philosopher became the rage among intellectuals. I did a paper on Kierkegaard while I was in college. The professor gave me an “A”, although I really couldn’t understand what the Dane was writing about. I wonder if my teacher did.

Like Hans Christian Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard was a very strange fellow. Andersen was famous throughout Europe when Kierkegaard was born in 1813. The child Soren grew up to be contemptuous of Andersen and his fairy tales. While Andersen was friendly and gregarious, Kierkegaard was morose and solitary.

Kierkegaard’s father was a wealthy merchant. Soren never had to work for a living. All his stress and suffering came from his emotions.

As a young man, while in seminary to become a minister, he proposed to a young woman. In Copenhagen I walked down the Vesterbrogard (westerly paved street) to the city museum, which has a room devoted to Kierkegaard memorabilia, including the engagement ring. What a rock! It must be more than a carat. Kierkegaard broke the engagement. The young woman married someone else. I don’t know whose heirs gave the ring to the museum.

From the museum I talked on the cobblestone streets across the center of Copenhagen to the old church near the harbor where young Soren preached several sermons while training to become a minister. I sat in a back pew and rested my feet as I quietly contemplated the life of Kierkegaard and wondered why people are influenced by the writings of this peculiar man.

Soren refused to be ordained and broke away from the state church. The official church in Denmark is Lutheran. Most Danes are nominally Lutherans. Emphasis on “nominally”. Soren’s older brother became a Lutheran minister and seems to have lived a fairly normal life.

Kierkegaard maintained that no religion could be “proved” by objective evidence; he was a Christian by a “leap of faith.” His writings stress the “single individual.” My daughter, knowing I was interested in Danes and all things Danish, gave me a book of Kierkegaard’s “Christian Discourses.” I tried to read it but always fell asleep after a few paragraphs.

Kierkegaard did not want to share his life with anyone. For the rest of his life he lived alone in the family townhouse, writing numerous books and articles expounding his philosophy. In his leisure time he ordered expensive meals and hired carriages to drive him -- always alone -- around the boulevards which replaced the ramparts that had hemmed in the center of the old city.

In the biography I read was a drawing of a cobble-stoned square, at that time the center of the city. On the corner behind the fountain was the Kierkegaard home, a handsome four-story townhouse. I found the square, looking just as pictured 150 years ago, with the fountain still shooting up little cascades of water. On the site of the Kierkegaard home was a Chinese restaurant.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Ugly Duckling

“Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen,” sang Danny Kay in a happy movie which purported to be based on the life of Hans Christian Andersen.

Copenhagen is wonderful. But not the sugar-sweet place we saw in bright technicolor on the big screen. The movie is a fairy tale.

I read reviews of a new biography of Hans Christian Andersen titled “The Ugly Ducking”. I’ve not read that one yet, but I remember the biography I read before my trip to Denmark with the stamp collectors. Both books tell the story of the poor boy from Odense whose father died when he was eleven years old.

After the international exhibition closed, Wally and I went to Odense. We visited the house where Andersen was born in 1805, two tiny rooms, each no larger than a 9X12 rug. The father mended shoes in his shop in the front room; the parents and two children crowded into the back room for cooking, eating, and sleeping. I don’t know how they lived that way.

Andersen had a half-sister about whom Wikipedia comments, “with whom he managed to speak on only a few occasions before her death.” She was a prostitute.

After his father died, the penniless boy fled to Copenhagen, looking for work in the theater. Andersen was a strange fellow: tall (over 6 feet), awkward, ugly. He had a big nose and enormous feet.

In spite of having no talent for acting, the awkward, ugly boy became the darling of society. A rich merchant, Jonas Collin, sent him to grammar school, paying all his expenses. The King of Denmark gave him a grant to travel to throughout Europe. The Collin family welcomed him into their home, where Hans Christian became friends with the Collin children, Louise and Edvard.

I walked around the old part of Copenhagen looking for plagues saying, “Hans Christian Andersen lived here.” The biggest thrill was in old street where the buildings stood right on the sidewalk. Tucked in between two townhouses, I came upon a long, high wrought iron fence. Looking between the iron bars, I saw a stretch of lawn and a handsome 18th Century mansion. This was the home of the Collins.

A small sign on the gate was printed with “Privit Gron” (private ground), a polite Deanish way of saying, “Keep Out.” I was glad, first to see it was still there, and second, that it was not a museum. I imagined that, behind those tall windows, Hans, Louise, and Edvard sat on gilded chairs enjoying lively conversation over the tea cups.

Andersen was only 17 when he published his first poem. He wrote long poems, short stories, and travelogues, which were collected and reprinted in books. He became popular throughout Europe, even before publishing his collection of fairy tales. With “Fairy Tales” he became rich and famous. The ugly duckling became a swan.

Here I imagine hearing the music from “Swan Lake.” Andersen’s life of the swan was a restless one. He traveled everywhere to acclaim, staying in hotels or with wealthy patrons. In England he once lived for five weeks in Dickens’s home. He never had a home of his own. .

A romantic, he fell in love with unattainable women. He wrote a letter to Jenny Lind, the famous singer, proposing marriage. She rejected him, as did all the others. He also wrote passionate, erotic letters to men, several of which survive. The men he loved also rejected his advances.

Andersen was 67 when he fell out of bed and was badly hurt. He lingered for three years before dying, as he had lived, in the Copenhagen home of friends, the banker Moritz Melchior and his wife.

His fame lives on. Wikipedia reports, “His poetry and stories have been translated into more than 150 languages. They have inspired motion pictures, plays, ballets, and animated films.”
Statues to him have been erected in New York, California, Slovakia, and Poland. In 2006 a $13 million theme park based on Andersen’s tales opened in Shanghai.

But does anyone envy such a life?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wandering in Copenhagen

While Wally was off with the stamp collectors seeing the international numismatic exhibition, I spent several days in Copenhagen wandering about on my own. That’s the way I prefer to go sightseeing, as long as I can meet someone at dinnertime to share my adventures. We were in the company of other stamp collectors, older men about as exciting as a convention of accountants. When we were with them, Wally willingly paid for a good meal. When it was just the two of us, he took me to cheap places to eat, but the talk was good. Wally was a good conversationalist.

Copenhagen has a delightful “walking street” in the oldest part of the city, a narrow, cobble-stoned street, closed to cars, and lined with old houses converted into pretty little shops. I am not one of those women who buys lots of stuff. Instead, I walked through the old city looking for places associated with famous men.

As soon as I knew we were going to Denmark, I went to the Woodridge library and asked for biographies of Hans Christian Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard, and Niels Bohr. They were the only famous Danes I’d heard about. Hans Christian Andersen, author of fairy tales. Soren Kierkegaard, the philosopher. Niels Bohr, the most important physicist of the 20th Century.

Woodridge, Illinois, is a small town with a small library, but the friendly librarian managed to get biographies of all three men through interlibrary loans. (To check the accuracy of my memory, this week I looked up the three on Wikipedia. More about them later.)

Another thing I did in preparing for the trip was buy a set of records to learn to speak Danish. The Swedes say Danish is not a language but a throat disease. I never did get the pronunciation right. Wally was too busy to listen to the records. Although his parents were from Denmark, he grew up speaking only English. When we got to Copenhagen, he was embarrassed to realize he could not even say his own surname correctly.

Some Danish words are like English shorthand: Mor for mother, Far for father, tak for thanks.

My mother was a McDonald and proud of her Scot ancestry. The people of Scotland always maintain that they are distinct from the English. I guess they are right. Some Danish words are similar to words used by the Scots which have disappeared from standard English: kirk for church, bairn for baby. Maybe those Jutes who came from Jutland, along with the Angles and the Saxons, left their mark on Scotland. Or was it the Vikings?

For all of us, ancestry is an accident of birth. I keep repeating: No one can choose their ancestors. Also, if we could untangle our family trees, most of us would be surprised by the variety of branches we would find grafted onto the old trunk. Because I was blonde, Wally’s mother believed my ancestors were Scandinavians. As far as I know, they were all British.

While most Scandinavians are blonde, Wally had dark brown hair. We wondered, was there Jewish ancestry somewhere? His grandfather was a pawn broker and changed his name to Gaarsoe because there were too many other Sorensens in business in Denmark. Maybe there were other changes in the past.

How many of us really know where we came from?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tivoli Gardens

Wally’s Mother always told us, “The first thing you must do when you go to Copenhagen is go to Tivoli.” So on our first evening in Copenhagen, we went to Tivoli. “We” being Wally, me, and two middle-aged stamp collectors. Right in the middle of downtown Copenhagen, the Tivoli Gardens were Walt Disney’s inspiration for Disneyland.

As a child, my brothers and I went to Saturday matinees at the Tivoli, the neighborhood movie theater on Magnolia Avenue on Fort Worth’s South Side. At that time I had no idea where the name came from. I doubt that Wally’s Mother knew why the Danes chose that name for their delightful amusement park.

The original Tivoli is a hilltop village in Italy, about 40 miles from Rome, where the Italians have gone to escape the summer heat for two thousand years. At the bottom of the hill the Emperor Hadrian vacationed in an enormous villa, the largest royal palace ever built, now a ruin spread over many acres.

At the top of the hill, just off the village’s main square, tourists enter a gate between 20-foot high marble columns and through the tall, heavy doors of a palace, built during the Renaissance by a Cardinal d’Este. From a great hall with faded murals on the walls, tourists step out onto a wide balcony (another traveler and I had tea there one afternoon in 2005) and look down over the marble balustrade at one of the most beautiful gardens in the World.

The Tivoli gardens in Italy are famous for their fountains. The Danish version is totally different. Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens are built around a lake. Lights from various pavilions on the shoreline are dazzling in themselves, plus being reflected in the water.

On that first night we ate supper in a restaurant specializing in open-faced Danish sandwiches. We had beef, shrimp, cheese (all Danish specialties), and some others I don’t remember, all with fancy garnishes. What I remember vividly was tiny Baltic shrimp mixed with a light mayonnaise, delicious and like no other I’ve ever tasted. It was not Miracle Whip.

Then we went to see a ballet on the Peacock Stage, a small outdoor theater. A fairy tale danced under the stars by the Royal Danish Ballet Corps. What could be more magical?

We climaxed the evening at the Conditerie (don’t know how to spell that). It is a pastry-shop, where you select your order at a counter, and a waiter in black tie brings your choice to a table on an open-air terrace. I had Danish layer cake, a four-layer white cake with whipped cream filling and topping. Like all the food at Tivoli, it was delicious and expensive.

In all my travels, this was one of the most delightful evenings, although tired from our early flight from Iceland, we did not listen to classical music in the concert hall or ride the ferriswheel in the carnival area. And we did not wait to see the fireworks.

I heard that every night at Tivoli ends with fireworks. While we were having our sandwiches at the restaurant, I asked the waitress, “Where are the fireworks?”

“Beside the sea,” she said.

“The sea?” I asked. Although Denmark is surrounded by seas, Copenhagen is separated from Sweden by a narrow channel called the Kattagutt. (Again, my computer’s spell checker never heard of it.)

“The sea,” she repeated and made a wide circle with her hands. “We have a sea here in the garden.”

She meant the lake. Warning: you and a foreigner may both be speaking English, but it is not necessarily the same language.