Best-selling author Erich von Däniken has opened a theme park in Interlaken, enabling mere mortals to have close encounters with his fantastic theories.This content was published on May 24, 2003 - 14:00
Housed in replica pyramids, Indian temples and golden planets, "Mysteries of the World" showcases past cultures and their possible contact with extraterrestrials.
Von Däniken's books, including "Chariots of the Gods", argue that knowledge gained through contact with aliens enabled the ancient Egyptians, for example, to construct their giant pyramids.
However, the author told swissinfo: "This is not a UFO park."
The aim of the park, according to the 68-year-old author, is to expose people to some of the world's great mysteries - people "who have neither the time nor the money to travel to the original sites themselves".
The pyramids, temples and other pavilions at the park are arranged in a circular manner to resemble planets revolving round the sun.
Visitors move from "mystery" to "mystery" via glass corridors connecting the buildings.
Von Däniken told swissinfo the intention of "Mysteries of the World" was to spark curiosity and not to provide answers to the questions behind Stonehenge or how the ancient Maya developed a calendar more accurate than the one used today.
But the exhibits tend to propagate the conclusions of the author. The findings of archaeologists are downplayed at best, and von Däniken admits that he does not think much of their orthodox opinions.
"Archaeology is a conservative science and archaeologists do not ask stupid questions, but Erich von Däniken is not afraid to ask stupid questions," he said.
Built on a relatively modest budget of SFr86 million ($67 million), the park has none of the extravagant or interactive attractions of a Disneyland.
Most of the exhibits in Interlaken are limited to films, a few special effects and modest recreations of ancient objects.
Despite its shortcomings, the opening of the park has received massive media attention in Switzerland, and is expected to provide a boost for the stagnant local economy.
The park has created 120 new jobs and the company expects to attract half a million people a year.
The forecast is considered realistic since Interlaken counts 3.5 million visitors a year, and the park is the first large scale "rainy day" attraction in the region.
swissinfo, Dale Bechtel
The park is based on the "mysteries of the world" and the extraterrestrial theories of Swiss author Erich von Däniken.
He has sold more than 60 million books worldwide.
It is located on the outskirts of Interlaken and is open year round.
Entrance to the park costs SFr48.
The park is divided into seven themed pavilions:
Vimana - space shuttles for ancient Indians.
Orient - the construction of the great Cheops Pyramid.
Maya - a tribe of ingenious astronomers.
MegaStones - Stonehenge, a time machine for high priests.
Contact - initial contact, culture shock or inspiration?
Nazca - pictograms for the gods.
Challenge - are we alone in the universe?
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