Sunday, 10 August 2014

A world of wonders






















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.



21 comments:

  1. You forgot to mention that the Efteling is not only part of every Dutch child's memories, but also of every Belgian child...
    I must agree, the Efteling is unique. Nothing can compare... The Efteling is pretty, it is enchanting, it is cute... Completely the opposite of all those commercial parks...
    Your photos brought back childhood memories... I really need to go there again, it has been way too long since my last visit !

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    1. You're absolutely right, Ingrid - every Belgian child's too. I have corrected it in the text! xxx

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  2. Yep, I giant part of my childhood as well! So fun to see these pics! :-) (big smile on my face)

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    1. When I was still living in NZ, I loved seeing photos of the Efteling. It would almost make me cry!

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  3. This looks truly magical - much better than Disneyland Paris which I hated when we took my daughter there when she was little. I wish I'd know about this then.

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    1. Lots of Brits were there last week and couldn't believe their eyes. One said to me: "I've never seen anything like this before - wow!"

      Disneyland doesn't appeal to me at all; far too commercial.

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  4. it looks wonderful. we went to a theme park in New England called Storyland, it was a little like this, the opposite of commercial. just lovely x

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  5. Looks like a truly amazing place. I very nearly went to it, years ago, with my sons but didn't because we thought it would be a sort of Disneyland. They were a bit old for it by that stage I suppose.

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  6. I would love to go there someday! We have a section of our botanic gardens here that is made into a children's fairy tale garden, with giant fruits and vegetables they can climb on and through, toadstools to climb on, etc., but I love the look of the little house in that park, I could spend all day walking around there. I don't really have a place like that from childhood myself, but I did enjoy walking around the mansions on the Hudson River, near where I lived, which had once been owned by 19th-century captains of industry and political figures as their "summer cottages". :)

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  7. It looks amazing, truly beautiful and some lovely pictures. The boys are too old now but I will bookmark this page for my friends with little ones x

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  8. Wow!!! I have never heard of this place, but it looks as though it is amazing. The tree that you showed is wonderful, and so is the little cottage. It must be a wonderful place to visit with children. xx

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  9. I want to move into the spotty toadstool house please, right now x

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  10. How amazing, what a fantastic place to spend the day. The look on your children's faces says it all.

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  11. Fairy tale forest - fantastic! My kids would love that too. My special childhood place would be north-eastern Victoria where my mum's family lived - featured on the blog today as we've just had a get-together. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Wow what a beautiful place to visit. It actually made me think of Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree which was my most favourite book when I was a little girl. Your photographs transported me to that beautiful magical place all over again. Thanks so much!!

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  13. What a magical and fun place to take your children!

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  14. I would just like to saythat you are never too old to enjoy the Efteling, that any child or adult of any age will fall in love with the magic of the place.

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  15. Looks a super day out. I bet my girls would love it!

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  16. How whimsical! The blinking tree-person reminds me of the Ents from the Lord of the Rings.
    ~Sophia
    http://plaidismyfavouritecolour.blogspot.com/

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  17. Hi Isabelle! I I just found your blog and the post about Efteling. In fact I have often read about it, because we spend at least one week every year in the Netherlands, in Ouddorp, a little town south of Rotterdam. When we're there we alsoi like to visit Delft, it's such an nice town. We always thought about making a trip to Efteling, but I always hesitated because I hate this kind of parks. But your pictures persuaded me to give it a try next time we're there. Thanks a lot for this post. I will follow your blog from now on, if you like you can have a look at mine, as well (www.colourcrochetlove.blogspot.com). Have a nice sunday evening, Viola

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  18. How awesome is that place? Goodness I would love to see that... maybe one day I'll get over there again :)

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Thanks so much for taking the time to visit. I love reading your comments so please feel free to leave one (or more, if the mood so takes you) in English and/or in Dutch.