Last week I was in the Flanders region of Belgium travelling through Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp. I was pleasantly surprised by Brussels which has a reputation for being a grey and stodgy city. And there was a really cheesy attraction that I thoroughly enjoyed- Mini Europe, a theme park near the Atomium filled with scale replicas of famous landmarks from across Europe.
Mini Europe has about 350 models, giving you a kitschy whistle stop tour of Europe in a day! This project which began in 1987, had art historians selecting the buildings to be represented. All the models were created on a 1:25 scale. They were all painted in one site in Brussels, so that they were consistent. That’s not all ...they have trains, boats , water and characters complementing the buildings. And the attention to details is amazing- all the names on the Arc de Triomphe, for example, correspond to the actual names of officers and battlefields on the Parisian original!
There are models of both ancient buildings like the Viking Camps in Denmark and the stone temples of Malta as well as the modern TGV train! And every model has a push button which you can press to listen to the strains of the national anthem. At the touch of a button, you can bring down the Berlin Wall or set off a rocket! And talking about details- the plants and vegetation next to each model are also in-theme, like lavender from Provence! A comprehensive printed guide is provided at the entrance so you can follow the whole trail picking up trivia like why Venetian gondolas are black or that the Brandenburg gate in Berlin was modelled on the Acropolis in Athens. You can have a lot of fun combined with learning and even take your picture as a British guard. And I noticed that adults enjoyed the experience as much as kids, some even crawling to the level of the model to have their photographs taken and perhaps fool their friends on Face book!
It was really a great experience to re-live the places that I had already visited and put others on my ever- increasing wish list:)
This visit spurred my research on other such mini- cities around the world and would love to visit some of these in the future! It’s a small world after all....
1. Bekonscot Model Village and Railroad - United Kingdom
2. Window of the World, Shenzhen China
3. Madurodam, Hague, Netherlands
4. Swiss miniature park, Melide on the shores of Lake Lugano
5. Cockington Garden, outside Canberra, Australia
6. Mini Israel near Tel Aviv
7. Miniuni in Ostrava, Czech republic
8. Catalunia in Miniature near Barcelona, Spain
9. Tobu World Square in Nikko, Japan
10. Forbidden gardens, Katy, Texas.
And I wish we had miniature parks in India- the Tajmahal, the temples of South India, The Qutub minar all pint sized...