Oh it was fun. This summer the Swarovski Crystal Worlds collaborated with the Circus Roncalli and I went there soon after the season opened. They didn’t simply erect a circus tent in the garden – the format is more like Artist-in-residence. Therefore, visitors get to see and interact with the circus artists as they touch up their makeup or perform by the wagons. To add a cherry to the cake, a super chic fairground carousel has been installed, and visitors are invited for a ride!
The Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens has two areas, namely the vast garden and The Giant galleries. Each has its own gate, and therefore you’ll need to keep hold of your ticket to swipe at each entrance.
Where to start? I usually decide according to the weather. On this occasion, the pleasant morning sun summoned us straight to the garden.
The Show Begins in the Swarovski Crystal Worlds
After taking dozens of pictures of the Crystal Cloud and the Mirror Pool, we found this lovely circus wagon which is a hundred years old. The clown Devlin Bogino and the acrobat Geraldine Philadelphia were getting ready for the day. At the back of the wagon, there were beams for visitors to test their sense of balance.
The performances take place every day between 10:00 and 19:00 (in July and August 2019) and there is no fixed schedule. There was no loudspeaker to announce the beginning of a show, either, probably in order to not disturb the elegance of the garden. Instead, the impresario Thomas Thompson approached visitors to inform us that the next show would begin in 15 minutes by the big tent.
People tend to think that circus is a family business. The very flexible “Snake-Woman” Lili Paul-Roncalli is indeed the younger daughter of the circus director Bernhard Paul. Although the Circus Roncalli is founded in Germany in 1976, Mr. Bernhard Paul actually comes from the Austrian state of Niedösterreich – Lower Austria.
After Ms Lili Paul-Roncalli’s stunning performance, there was a break. We then boarded the adjacent Café-Wagen and found the nostalgic interior really gorgeous. The wagon itself was built in 1923, and was refurbished with reclaimed carriage seats of early-20th-century Paris Métro.
Twenty-first Century Circus
Circuses are inseparable with the glorious mood of nostalgia, but they actually also have to keep developing innovative ideas to amaze the audience. Over the last decade, more and more measures have been taken to prevent animal cruelty too. The Circus Roncalli, for example, has become an animal-free circus and the first in the world to introduce holographic animals to the programme in 2018.
Elephants, lions… how about rabbits? Illusionist Galina Hayes‘ magic trick with the bunnies was hilarious. She must have more magic in her hat. When you are here, try talking with the illusionists. Their art is seemingly simple yet effectively unforgettable – especially when your hands are involved.
Travelling Showman’s Living Wagon
The illusionists can be found next to this British showman’s wagon in the garden. Originally used by travelling showmen in the early 19th century, this kind of horse-drawn wagon became the favoured housing of British Romani people from the mid-19th century to early 1900s. This exquisite wagon was made about 150 years ago, and the Swarovski experts concluded that its etched glass panels are original. As many Romani wagons (“vardos”) were burned at the funeral of their owner, these painstakingly crafted wagons are fairly precious if they’ve lasted ’til today.
Visitors to the garden cannot enter this antique wagon, so here are some pictures to show you the view from inside. Following illusionist Thomas Thompson, we entered the wagon from the front. As expected, the space was tight but the wagon was equipped with compact cabinets, built-in seats and even a stove/oven. At the far end of the wagon, a bed was installed at 90 degree to the direction of travel. We were told that this wagon could have easily been the living space for a family of five. However, when it came to bedtime, the tall ones had to go outside and sleep under the wagon!
This Showman’s Wagon was thoroughly decorated and in places gilded with gold. I saw many carved lions, horses, doves, and plants, but was surprised to find snakes under the wagon. Even the ladder – which I think is a much later addition – had serpents to match the feature.
Above the Crystal Cloud
After a visit to the unique Playtower, we bumped into friends who pointed out that the tightrope artist Freddy Nock had started his Skywalk! The whole walk was 300 meters long and the rope was suspended up to 25 meters above ground. Casually but steadily, he walked on the rope across the garden wearing no harness, but a lot of crystals. Once I spotted him, I couldn’t quite take my eyes off him. This unusual live event was gripping and thrilling!
The Designer Carousel
Mr. Freddy Nock walked beyond the Playtower and that was the direction we were heading, too. Who wants a free ride on a friendly, cute and ubercool merry-go-round? This carousel was designed by Spanish designer Jaime Hayon (what a lucky guy) and the monochromatic style looked extra contemporary. We know that the circus will have to leave after August, but this carousel will stay. I hope it stays forever!
The Wonder Continues in the Giant
We started the garden tour from the Giant‘s right shoulder, and the tour concluded at his left. Time to go in!
In addition to the permanent exhibitions in the various Chambers of Wonder, there were shimmery circus costumes in the Blue Hall, plus Manish Arora’s Carousel Dress – Katy Perry once wore a version of this dress to the MTV European Music Awards. In show business, a dazzling outfit really helps to stand out!
In the shop, there were circus-themed installations as well as some ceramic products designed by Jaime Hayon. Before leaving the Giant, we also had a look at the exhibition of circus masters’ memorabilia.
Further Notes on the Swarovski Crystal Worlds
- ‘The Magic of Summer’ is held in the Swarovski Crystal Worlds from 1 July to 31 August 2019 (8:30 -22:00 daily).
- This is the third Summer Festival presented by Swarovski. Would you like to see what it was like last summer?
- The shuttle bus between Innsbruck and Wattens is really convenient. The return ticket of the Crystal Worlds Shuttle and the entry to the Swarovski Crystal Worlds are included in the Innsbruck Card.