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The tiny world of Swissminiatur

The tiny world of Swissminiatur

You can feel like Gulliver! Not in Lilliput, but in a mini-Switzerland, which you can cross on foot in a short time. You can watch mini-trains passing by, marvel at a mini-waterfall, have a ride on a tiny steam locomotive, feed some bread to Japanese carp and then take a photo of an old heron ― a real bird, not a miniature ― in the Swissminiatur exhibition complex. 

Tourists from Switzerland and all over the world eagerly visit this park, located at the foot of Monte San Giorgio, a UNESCO natural heritage site. Dominique Vuigner, the Swissminiatur’s director and owner, reveals how his family created this charming toy world, what the most attractive things are and what new models there will be in 2017. Mr. Vuigner is the best person to answer these questions as he has dedicated his life to the miniature park. 

Pierre Vuigner established Swissminiatur in 1959, photo © SwissminiaturPierre Vuigner established Swissminiatur in 1959, photo © Swissminiatur

- Mister Vuigner, could you describe the history behind Swissminiatur origins?

- Inspired by the Madurodam miniature park in the Netherlands, my father Pierre Vuigner founded Swissminiatur in 1959. My father had to drive all over Switzerland to find a place for his miniature park. He chose the town of Melide, which lies near Lake Lugano, Italy and the Malpensa International Airport. It is a convenient location with a wonderful view over Lugano, Mediterranean flora and a mild climate ― my father loved it all, so our family moved to Ticino from the Canton of Valais.

The park finally opened after several years of hard work. Surviving was difficult during the very first years, initially, the park housed a no more than ten models with the first visitors coming from Italy. Italians made trips to Switzerland in order to buy cigarettes, coffee, sugar and chocolate ― due to the lower prices in Switzerland, so they often stayed in Melide for a picnic. Years passed and numerous new models have appeared in Swissminiatur. Now we have more than 120 models, a restaurant and attractions for children, although the main idea behind the park is still the same. We want our visitors to feel happy and cheerful when they come to us!

The Swissminiatur Park in Ticino, photo © SwissminiaturThe Swissminiatur Park in Ticino, photo © Swissminiatur

Tourists from many countries of the world come to Swissminiatur, photo © Giulia IlinaTourists from many countries of the world come to Swissminiatur, photo © Giulia Ilina

- Everyone enjoys being here; you are certainly doing an excellent job! Over the years, the clientele has changed drastically: now people visit the park from all over the world …

- Yes, sure. Many people from other Swiss cantons come here, as well as tourists from many other countries ― China, India, Russia, the USA and the Middle East. We are constantly taking part in international tourism events held by the Switzerland Tourism Office. Of course, our desire to create a comfortable place for leisure, fun, tourism and other cultural activities yields excellent results. The park blends harmoniously with the pristine natural landscape of the alpine foothills.

The visitors enjoy the works of our artists and craftsmen that take them back to the past for a couple of hours ― resting from the modern hectic lifestyle. This “little world” is immensely popular among foreign tourists, especially those from densely populated countries like India or China. It is a true delight for them to see the miniature Switzerland, its beautiful lakes, wooden chalets, old castles, green fields and grazing cows. 

2016, presentation of the Museum of Asphalt under the Mymuseum.swiss project, photo © Swissminiatur2016, presentation of the Museum of Asphalt under the Mymuseum.swiss project, photo © Swissminiatur

- A couple of words about the park’s cultural events...

- In 2016 we designed the Mymuseum.swiss educational project. Switzerland harbors plenty of small regional and multi-themed museums. These “mini” museums, tiny Swiss worlds, are valued by international tourists, locals and young people alike. They reveal local culture, traditions, history and wildlife; they connect people to local communities. Little museums are very cozy and sometimes you can discover amazing things there. Last year, in the course of this project we introduced the Museum of Asphalt, situated in the Val-de-Travers municipality of Neuchatel canton. We even carried out a tasting of ham baked in asphalt! Now the model of this museum is installed in the park.

We also actively collaborate with local museums; with the museum of Sergio Main, a famous artist from Caslano. With their help we plan to organize a series of visual arts exhibitions in 2017. We took part in the project of Kodra Swiss Foundation and Alex Doll, named “The Sunny Children Art-project”. The artist Alex Doll brought the drawings made by “sunny children” ― that’s how children with Down’s syndrome are called in Russia ― who stayed at the Russian educational-developmental center Solnechnie Deti [Sunny Children] in Orenburg. Through the Kodra Swiss Foundation we were able to organise an exhibition of these drawings in our showrooms. 

The Piazza Grande of Locarno model, photo © Luis CruzThe Piazza Grande of Locarno model, photo © Luis Cruz

- What new things will Swissminiatur offer to its visitors in 2017?

- This year the Canton of Ticino celebrates an important anniversary ― The Locarno Film Festival is 70 years old. We had to take part in the celebrations: in April, we presented a 1:25 model of the central square of Locarno, Piazza Grande. It is on this square the films of the festival are shown in the open air. We are proud to show the best things Switzerland has to offer ― architectural and cultural monuments, extraordinary sites. When our visitors see our models, they think - “I haven’t been there; I must make a point of visiting it soon!” This summer our guests will be treated to new surprises and models, but we will not disclose our secrets just yet, please follow the news from our park!

Giulia Ilina, Melide, Swissminiatur

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