The best selling Swiss author, Erich von Däniken, has taken another step closer to realising his dream of creating a theme park outside Interlaken to showcase what he calls the "Mysteries of the World".
Visitors to Interlaken will soon be able to journey back in time to ancient Egypt or the Mayan kingdom, or travel to Mars.
At a ceremony at a disused airfield outside of the resort on March 1, von Däniken and his partners laid the foundation for the "Mysteries of the World" park. They say they have overcome most financial and legal obstacles, and if all goes according to plan, the park will open its doors to the public in the middle of next year.
"We have permission from the authorities," says von Däniken. "We have raised SFr30 million and we now hope to receive commitments for a further SFr20 million; that still leaves SFr30 million but we're confident because we have letters of intent. I'm sure we'll have the rest of the financing within the next eight months."
Whereas Disneyland takes visitors through a world of make believe, von Däniken hopes his theme park will provide new insights into some of the world's unsolved mysteries that he has spent a lifetime writing about. His first book, Chariots of the Gods, which brought him worldwide fame, was based on his theory that there is ample evidence on earth of extraterrestrial visits.
"It's imagination and curiosity. Every intelligent being is curious. And we have a lot of mysteries on the earth, under the sea and in outer space, which haven't been solved," he explains.
"I have the impression sometimes that our scientific community makes out that we know everything, but that's not true. Many questions haven't been answered. We'll present these riddles in the most modern way."
Built to resemble the solar system, the park will take visitors through transparent passageways into domes and replicas of pyramids where they'll be taken on an interactive journey to the sites, which have puzzled archaeologists and fascinated von Däniken for decades.
There will be simulated flights over Nazca in Peru, where kilometre-long straight lines resembling airstrips were found covering the arid ground. Or visitors can try moving a five tonne granite block similar to those used to build the Pyramids of Giza.
Von Däniken says he wants visitors to enter the park with an open mind, and insists he won't push his belief that the pyramids and Nazca lines, as well as many other unsolved mysteries, were the work of extraterrestrials or our ancestors attempting to communicate with them.
There has been no mystery about his success so far. "We're a small group of men who've known what we've wanted since the beginning and we know how much money we have," he says. "The project is financed solely through private investors. There is no public funds or bank financing. It's an interesting investment."
Despite his belief in UFOs, these are down-to-earth words of wisdom for the organisers of Switzerland's planned national exhibition, Expo 02, which has been beset by financial problems.
In Switzerland at least for the time being, the future of Expo 02 has become a greater mystery than von Däniken's Mysteries of the World.
by Dale Bechtel