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Sunday, 31 May 2009

Where dreams crystallise

Last summer I was lucky to enjoy a visit to the sensual kaleidoscope of the famous showrooms of Swarovski crystals in Austria.
One of my all-time favourite movies, Sound of Music, was shot in many locations in the country — Schloss Mirabell with its splendid gardens where Maria and the children sang Do-Re-Mi, the church where Captain Von Trapp and Maria were married, and so on. This movie kept me dreaming about the Alps for a long time.
My longing to be in the lap of the Alps came true last summer.
Nestled amid alpine serenity and superb beauty, the crystal kingdom in Wattens was too good to believe.
All that glitters...
In the crystal kingdom, a subterranean landscape made of thousands of crystals, be prepared to embark on a journey that drifts between dreams and reality, where you will meet fairytale characters and mystical creatures.
The underground Chambers of Wonder that were built under the aegis of multimedia artist André Heller in 1995, houses a collection of fantastic installations and glittering works by great artists.
Since its opening, the Crystal Worlds have enchanted young and old from the world over with sparkling installations.
You can also find the crystal replica of Indian maharaja Rana Pratap’s legendary horse Chetak’s armour.
Jim Whiting’s mechanical theatre
This is a mysterious and magical movement that is synchronised with music and light to captivate the audience. Clothes, figures and other everyday items are brought to life as if by magic.
This macabre and surreally beautiful show combines many magical transformations with the artist’s love of mechanical precision.
Crystal Dome — nature reflected
What’s it like to be caged inside a crystal? Experience this feeling while stepping into this dome with a million mirrors.
Here, a thousand beams of refracted light dance around the faceted walls to the sound of music by Brian Eno.
This sea of mirrors gives the impression of a space that never ends. Standing in the crystalline Chamber of Wonder, with its geodetic dome made up of 595 elements, is like standing at the very heart of a giant crystal.
As soon as you step inside, you find yourself in a deep blue chamber, far removed from everyday life.
Crystalline works of art by Keith Haring, Niki de Saint Phalle, John Brekke, Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol surround the centrepiece of this space, the Centenar — at 300,000 carats, the largest cut crystal in the world.
A wall of crystal, 42 metres long and 11 metres high, leads to a wonderland of even more mysteries.
Silent light — a winter dream
Freshly fallen snow couldn’t be more beautiful. Designers Tord Boontje and Alexander McQueen have made winter dreams come true with their sculpture Silent Light, which is made of hundreds of crystals.
A moment of complete stillness can be so very healing. Just lean back and gaze at the ever-changing crystal formations reflected in the 440 facets of the largest kaleidoscope in the world.
Crystal calligraphy
The poetry of light can say more than words ever could. This blue-green fantasy, written in light, was created by the American glass artist Paul Seide, who dedicated it to the Expressionist poet, Georg Trakl.
Crystal theatre
The space presents an iridescent as well as magical scenario by stage and costume designer Susanne Schmögner.
Your imagination can roam free in this world, with scents created by Jane Haidacher. Here angels are made of flowers, the sun dances with the moon and there is even a crystal devouring plant.
Ice passage
Trust your intuition to guide you along Oliver Irschitz’s dark Ice Passage. Each step creates light, sparkling crystals appearing beneath your feet. You create the trail as you follow it!
The giant’s magical story
A giant travels around the world, but he’s not alone; he carries with him a walking stick, a ring, his gloves and a gigantic accordion.
And who is this giant? Why is he here in Swarovski’s headquarters? The guide explains: “The story is that the giant is believed to be guarding the precious crystals.”
Poseidon’s puzzle — Expressionism of the deep
Brilliant colours and crystalline geometry pay tribute to Expressionist art.
Glittering pebbles and beautiful undersea creatures appear and disappear between floor-to-ceiling panels, allowing visitors to enjoy the play of light and sound.
A diva makes a special guest appearance
In the Crystal Dome, by the light of Swarovski crystals, world-famous soprano Jessye Norman sang Thy hand, Belinda, which is the final aria of the opera Dido and Aeneas.
Visitors can enjoy her performance in the Chamber of Wonder, where a second star, a giant mountain crystal from Madagascar, stands next to the artiste, unfolding its secretive layers of power.
Virtuoso interaction
A collection of names from the world of artistic creativity of the last two centuries is represented here in paintings, photographs, drawings and prints by Marc Chagall, Erté, Gustav Klimt, Peter Kogler, Joan Miró, Walter Navratil, Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol and other artists from the Swarovski Kristallwelten collection.
A gallery for temporary exhibitions presents works from the contemporary art scene.
55 Million Crystals by Brian Eno — the transience of artA place that feels like music, this is Brian Eno’s artistic intention.
In 55 Million Crystals, Eno has captured the transience of music in a video installation. This is music for the eye of the beholder!
Crystals for a bargain
Needless to say, shopping for jewellery in these showrooms is a must when you are here. I bought a crystal bracelet with edelweiss strung together in memory of the song in Sound of Music.
Art in the park
What would the Giant kingdom be without his garden? An aesthetic park landscape, with sculptures, installations, the famous green labyrinth in the shape of a hand and an adventure playground, is the place to make discoveries.
Driven through the Alberg Pass — the highest point of the Austrian Alps — which was covered in snow was anther high altogether.
Bus ran through the tiny independent principality of Liechtenstein and arrived in Switzerland, in the lap of another alpine beauty at Engelberg.
Go there ... Swarovski headquarters
From the UAE ... From DubaiInnsbruck is the closest airport to Swarovski headquarters in Wattens.
Austrian Airlines flies daily via Vienna. Fare from Dh3,460

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