Austria may be known for its glittering snow-topped Alps – but, as the warmer months draw in, there’s another sparkling sight to behold.
Enter Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Tyrol, Western Austria: a dazzling, interactive attraction, made up of part park, part art museum.
In a culture where immersive experiences are starting to become increasingly popular – take for example Dopamine Land and David Hockney’s Lightroom exhibition, both in London – the attraction is, quite literally, a hidden gem of the Alpine region.
Swarovski Kristallwelten, as it is known in German, opened in 1995 to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the company’s founding.
It was built under the vision of jeweller Daniel Swarovski, who was said to have viewed crystal as not just a material, but an inspiration.
The Crystal Worlds were intended as a ‘homage to crystal’ and as soon as I stepped into its vast grounds in Wattens, near Innsbruck, I was struck by the sparkle immediately.
From the leafy head of a giant looming over a green lake with water pouring from its mouth, to a forest of glittering trees which catch the light attractively in the wind, there are crystals in every direction you could possibly look.
Stepping past the giant’s head out of the sunlight and into the attraction, it felt like I was entering some kind of secret glistening grotto.
It was a bit like what I would imagine an episode of The Crystal Maze to be like – and when my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I was confronted with a huge, beautifully clear gem.
So I’d seen a massive crystal by now – what else was there to see? It turns out there are 18 ‘Chambers of Wonder’ to explore in total, each with a different theme, idea and signature scent.
And explore them I certainly did. Every single room left me absorbed in a completely new world – from celebrity costumes to huge chandeliers trailing strings of crystals.
The sheer number of shining crystals in different forms were, of course, breathtaking – but it was some of the more creative and obscure features that left me thinking about them long after leaving the attraction.
Some of the rooms are interactive, such as a moving ice passage which followed my footsteps as I walked along. Others evoke thought, such as the ‘Heroes of Peace’ chamber – which has life-sized holograms of Nobel Peace Prize winners, who you can, virtually, reach out and touch.
The most bonkers room has to be one called ‘Ready To Love’ with Punjabi music, neon lights, dancing hearts and rainbow declarations of adoration. Following this, I was greeted to snow flurry in ‘Silent Light’ – a chamber with a crystal tree designed by Alexander McQueen, which sees temperatures fall to as low as -10°C – and enchanted by a stunning model railway set.
One called ’55 Million Crystals’ left me feeling as if I’d had a completely unique experience, where technology was used to slowly merge together hand-painted drawings. The exact same pattern is only estimated to repeat once every 200 years or so.
My favourite piece was the ‘Chandelier of Grief’ by popular Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama, creating the illusion of leaving me in an endless space where I could see myself from dozens of different angles, and wondering if I’d ever be able to escape. Another edition of this artwork – of which there are three – is currently on display at the Tate Modern in London.
Don’t leave without investigating what feels like an endlessly-stocked jewellery shop at the end of your visit, sampling some gemstone chocolate pralines from the restaurant and taking a ride on the carousel outside, making you feel like a child again.
It’s more than just a museum or art gallery, and the photos you take will never do what you saw justice, but you’ll be left feeling sparkly inside long after you leave.
Swarovski Kristallwelten is open from 9am to 7pm daily. Tickets cost around £20 for adults and £6 for children.
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