An immersive Grimm fairy tale – visiting the Märchenwelten in Hamburg

You cannot imagine my excitement when I heard that in Hamburg an immersive experience with plenty of interactive projection art dedicated to the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm would open. Having only opened in September, pre-booking is highly advised and as with most pre-booked events in Hamburg (no matter if a theatre or musical show, opera or museum visit) getting there and back is included in the entrance tickets – the one and only time I experienced this outside Germany was during London’s Paralympics over seven years ago.

Set back in Hamburg’s new harbour area the Märchenwelten (literally Fairy Tale Worlds) are in a big grey concrete box – far away from an enchanted castle but it matches the rain which is so bad that no venue picture comes out acceptable.

Inside it is warm and dry though with coffee and cake available to purchase and I wait in the lounge area for my companion. When she calls fearing she will be late I ask at the ticket desk if our visitor slot can be moved but the next free slots are available only two hours later – there is a boy’s birthday party waiting (someone’s 12th birthday I guess), couples, seniors groups of friends of any age. Against our expectations we make our booked time slot, receive wristbands with which we register on a screen and pick one of six symbols each. Because I am mid-way in the Grimm Reading podcast episode The Three Spinners, I decide for the spinning wheel (please check out this podcast – it deserves so much attention and I get excited every time a new episode comes out). It turns out that the symbols stand for values also fairy tales represent: love, wisdom, diligence and so on.

Our group moves from a room introducing these to us via a library through a deep well (not a rabbit hole, remember: these are Grimm fairy tales) and suddenly a landscape surrounds us as menacing as a demonic mill and as the forest in Disney’s Snow White where fellow visitors become Lotte Reininger paper cut figurines. The voice of a young woman leads us through most of this adventure and the purist in me wonders what they effect were if she was a witchy storyteller or crone. Another forest scene is narrated by the majestic German voice of Jack Nicholson (Joachim Kerzel as you asked) and here our wristbands come to use when defending our chosen values against their negative counterparts.

The visual storytelling is beautiful and clever and while the hour spent here is truly immersive, it does not feel overwhelming. In the last room Grimm publications from the last 150 years are exhibited, historic and special editions and many romantic illustrations – not of everyone’s interest after the adventure we have just been through and defending the Fairy Tale World against evil sorcery. With translations of everything into English I feel in literature heaven though.

The rumour has it that Hamburg will get its own TeamLab exhibition – it sounds like it will find a good neighbour here when it arrives from Tokyo.

**** out of 5 stars

Tickets are 20 Euro for adults and 15 Euro for children

Märchenwelten is located in the HafenCity: Grandeswerderstraße 5 / Baakenhafenbrücke, 20457 Hamburg

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