Where on earth have I landed this time? I hear you think. If this were a million euro question, the Netherlands and Belgium would be primarily populated by millionaires. It's the Efteling, of course - a ginormous theme park located near Tilburg. Now I'm not really one for theme parks, but this one is in a category of its own. In fact, the term 'theme park' doesn't really do it justice. The Efteling is a phenomenon of sorts, a part of every Dutch (and Belgian) person's childhood; in fact, I would go as far as to say it is part of Dutch cultural heritage. Its fairy tale forest (Sprookjesbos) was originally designed in 1952 by famous Dutch artist Anton Pieck and since then architects and artists from far and wide have lined up to leave their mark on the place.
Last week we decided to take a break from DIY to take the children to the Efteling for the day. It's a good hour's drive from Delft and the kids were terribly wound up all the way - actually, if the truth be told, I was terribly wound up all the way - and by the time we arrived they/we were bursting with the excitement of it all. We first went on the Pirana, a river rafting ride, which was not the best thing to start with, perhaps, since S and I got soaking wet. Thankfully the weather was warm, so we dried up fairly quickly as we headed out to the fairy tale forest.
I don't know how it happens - it's a bit like magic, I suppose - but whenever I step through the gates of the fairy tale forest, I am transported back to my pre-New Zealand childhood days. Days of family outings to the Efteling with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, enjoying the wonder of it all. The enchanting thing is, the fairy tale characters actually seem to be alive. Snow White actually lies in her glass coffin, well, breathing. Little mice run around playing. The wolf really is at the door, menacingly close to the little goats playing games at the kitchen table whilst their mother is cooking dinner. Children stand outside the glass windows peering in, shouting warnings at them, hoping to keep the wolf at the door. Stuff really goes on in fairy tale forest; it draws you in, invites you to play along. There are dragons defending chests of gold. Hansel is locked up in the dungeon of the sugar-and-spice house whilst his sister Gretel tries to free him. Little Red Riding Hood is at the door of her grandmother's cottage as the wolf lies in her grandmother's bed... breathing. And let's not forget Long-neck, who is able to oversee the whole forest by the stretch of his neck. And, of course, there's the fairy tale tree, who tells the children stories, all the while moving his face as well as any human can.
S and N announced they would be quite happy living in fairy tale forest and seemed to settle quite quickly into a huge mushroom house, whilst the lady next door was doing the laundry. May I invite you to click on the photos for a closer look?
Is there a special place that holds fond childhood memories for you? I would love to know.