By Jorge Dastis
Bad Tatzmannsdorf, Austria, Dec 8 (efe-epa).- Once upon a time, there was a little Austrian girl with a dream: to build a Christmas amusement park in her backyard. More than 30 years and half a million lights later, Sabine Gollnhuber is the owner of the “Christmas House”, a kitschy paradise that reopened this year despite the pandemic.
Every winter, thousands of visitors come to admire the illuminated garden at Sabine’s home in Bad Tatzmannsdorf, a small town about a hundred kilometers south of Vienna.
Inside is the largest private collection of inflatable dolls in Europe: 180 figures scattered throughout the grounds, mostly with a Christmas theme, but also superheroes and film characters.
Nearly 600,000 little lights hanging from the trees and the roof of the house were carefully arranged by Sabine and her family during the months leading up to the opening of the attraction in the first week of December.
This year, the pandemic has forced strict safety measures for visitors, such as wearing masks, registration of contact information and limits on capacity.
But despite the restrictions, Sabine’s childhood dream is still very much alive.
A GIRL’S DREAM
Sabine has a permanent smile on her face and is always laughing. Two earrings shaped like Christmas decorations hang from her ears.
“When I went with my parents and my sister to Disneyland, in Florida and in California, that was a special place that stayed in my heart,” she explains to Efe during this year’s opening of the “Christmas House”.
That is where the idea of setting up a kind of Disney-inspired Christmas theme park in her own backyard was born.
At first she started with just a few lights and figures for the family. But as her collection of inflatables grew, Sabine began to open up the site to the public free of charge, although she also collects donations which she donates to organizations like the Red Cross.
Today, Sabine’s family welcomes guests disguised as popular children’s characters: SpongeBob, the Grinch and the Minion Stuart walk around the lighted garden while the children point at them in surprise.
“When a child comes to you who thinks that Santa Claus or the baby Jesus is sleeping in your house, you have done a good job,” Sabine says proudly.
This month marks 10 years since the Christmas paradise of Bad Tatzmannsdorf began to welcome visitors.
It has since become a famous attraction known throughout Austria, but Sabine expects that fewer people will come this year because of the restrictions and public fear generated by the coronavirus.
But Sabine accepts that the reduced capacity limits and other restrictions are appropriate as fewer visitors means better chances of helping overcome the health crisis.
“This year our families have to be smaller,” Sabine summarizes, echoing official guidelines.
To adapt to the health safety requirements, the Gollnhuber family has implemented a series of measures that allow the public to view the attraction safely.