Switzerland has a new addition to its ever-growing maze family in the shape of a three hectare square corn labyrinth in Muri in canton Aargau. It joins a list which includes another corn maze in Steffisburg near to Lake Thun and Europe's largest permanent maze in Evionnaz in canton Valais.
Muri's maze was the brainchild of a local farming couple who decided to transform one of their fields full of corn into an amazing maize maze.
The maze has a double purpose - it acts as an adventure playground for adults and children in summer and when it comes to the autumn the crop is harvested and fed to the farm's pig herd.
"We saw maize mazes in books from the United States and we thought it was a good idea," says Iris Frey, one half of the couple who own and run the farm, "then we heard about a farm in Germany which had a maize maze and we contacted them to find out how to do it."
Using satellite technology
The farming duo have had the maze for the past three years and each year Iris Frey designs the labyrinth's layout herself. During the winter, she pours over the details of where paths should lead and how many dead ends should be included.
The task of cutting out the intricate pattern from the maize field is left to her husband, Lukas Frey, who uses state-of-the-art satellite technology to carve out neat and even paths in the maze.
"My husband knew about Global Positioning System technology (GPS) and he thought it must be possible to cut out the maize maze with this system," says Iris Frey. "We contacted the GPS firm and they programmed my design into their system and then bounced it off a satellite to the cutting machine which cut out our maze pattern here in Muri."
Each year the maze has a theme. Last year visitors went on a sensory journey tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing and feeling their way along its paths. This year, the theme is more traditional with visitors being transported back to ancient Greece where the passion for labyrinths began.
Myth of Theseus
At the maze entrance, visitors are greeted by three wooden boards which tell them about the myth of Theseus, the brave Greek hero, who killed an evil maze-dwelling minotaur on the island of Crete.
The legend says that Theseus went into the labyrinth to win the hand of the fair Ariadne, who had asked him to slay the beast to prove his love. Ariadne fearing that her betrothed would be killed by the animal gave Theseus a ball of string which he unwound as he ventured deeper into the labyrinth. After he killed the monster he was able to find his way out following his string trail.
Throughout the maze there are many surprises connected to the ancient Greek theme. At each twist and turn another element of the myth is revealed until you reach the middle where actors perform the tale every hour on the hour.
Elsewhere in the maze, would-be-adventurers have to deal with trolls, dragons and dark, thick hedges.
At one turn, trolls dive out of the corn to give directions to lost visitors, but it's well advised to take their navigational tips with a pinch of salt if you ever want to find the exit. At another, a giant dragon, soldered together from pieces of scrap metal sits happily at the bottom of a dead end guarding its corner of the labyrinth.
Finding your way around the maize maze takes about an hour but for hardcore labyrinth fans there's always the 2.5 metre high hemp maze with it's confusing narrow paths and thick, jungle-like vegetation.
For the fainter hearted there's a fairy tale path which leads you to storytellers ready to share their favourite magical tale.
by Sally Mules
The maze, closed for the season, is due to open again next summer.