There’s an intrinsic corpse-like sadness hanging over what remains of the Velling Koller Fairy Tale Gardens near Bryrup, Denmark. What was once a vibrant fairy tale theme park is now a ghost of its former glory, set within a lawn surrounded by a few pigs, ducks, a pony, and some playground equipment.
In 1956 Holger Rohde, a conservator-restorer by trade, was inspired by Disneyland to set about building a fairy tale theme park to attract visitors. The Fairy Tale Gardens opened in 1962 and was an immediate success. In the mid-1960s, it was only surpassed in visitor numbers by Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Rohde populated the place with rides and mechanical tableaus telling the recorded tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. For good measure, he also threw in some of Space Age excitement in the form of aliens, robots, rockets, and the story of Yuri Gagarin.
The Danish cowpunk (country punk)/comedy band DAD shot the music video for their signature song, “It’s After Dark” on the grounds, showcasing its creepy, shiny mannequins and oddly proportioned interpretations of Disney characters.
The Fairy Tale Gardens never officially closed, though after its heyday in the ‘60s it fell into disrepair. The grounds remained open as the garden slowly fell apart. The wooden birch men rotted away, more and more recorded fairy tales fell silent, and swan boats were turned into planters. Rohde sold the place and retired in the late 1980s.
Only two breeze-block castle structures and one of the open wooden sheds that housed a fairy tale tableau remain. One of the castles served as a rabbit hutch for a while, but this now stands empty. The other is connected to the main building and is home to a damp and depressing ball pit decorated with an abandoned attempt at a mural of a Hans Christian Andersen scene.
Update July 2018: The site has been converted to a camping site. The main gate and rabbit castle still remain, but are now integrated in to the camping’s offices. The playground has been updated and restored and the place is often brimming with campers.
Know Before You Go
Be careful if you use the playground, some of the homemade equipment features sharp metal edges that may leave impressive souvenir scars.
The surrounding woods are worth a hike, with a beautiful view at Vellingkalv and the remains of a robbers den to the east.