Germans aghast at 'Holy Disneyland' plan

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The Independent Online

Brunch in the Tower of Babel, a stroll round Noah's Ark or a big-dipper splashdown in The Flood are experiences that will shortly be available to millions of Germans if a controversial biblical-themed park near the ancient university town of Heidelberg is given the go-ahead.

The Swiss development company Genesis Land is attempting to raise €25m (£20m) for the project, which its detractors have dubbed "Holy Disneyland".

Offering 40 biblical attractions spread across the equivalent of 70 football pitches, with a shopping centre built inside a mock-up of ancient Jerusalem, the theme park is due to open in 2012.

"We would like to transmit the story and the message of the Bible in an active and exciting way," said Gian-Luca Cariget, the founder of the Zurich-based Pro Genesis organisation which is behind the land development company.

Genesis Land subscribes to "creationist" beliefs. Followers interpret the Bible literally, claim the world began 6,000 rather than 4.5 billion years ago, and think that dinosaurs and humans co-existed. The project is modelled on American religious theme parks such as the Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida.

Genesis Land reckons it needs to attract about 600,000 visitors annually to break even, and insists it will be non-profit making. Mr Carigiet says his negotiations with potential backers have been positive, but admitted that his plans had been met with "total rejection" in some quarters.

Jan Badewien, a spokes-man for the Protestant church, said: "Many stupid ideas have been stopped because of lack of money." Theresia Bauer, a Green MP for Heidelberg, said the region's reputation for academic excellence could be made to look "ridiculous" if the park got the go-ahead.

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