Leisure park, adventure playground, open air museum: at the Secret World of Turisedia in Zentendorf, near the German-Polish border, Jürgen Bergmann has spent 28 years creating a unique mystical world that is perhaps more widely known as Kulturinsel Einsiedel. Here there are treehouses built at dizzying heights, underground passageways, an enchanted castle and a world of adventure with theatre performances and shows. Fun for young and old alike, on both sides of the border. What’s more, Bergmann himself is in demand the world over nowadays – adventure parks and entire parkland areas are being designed in his distinctive style. Everything is still produced in Zentendorf. Around 150 employees, a third of them from Poland, make dreams come to life here in oak and robinia wood. The artist himself describes how well this friendship between people from two countries works in practice.

Mr Bergmann, where does your interest in wood art come from?

Wood is the material that trees are made of, and I believe trees are living things with a unique character that is reflected in the works we create. It’s a question of humility. I have always thought of myself as an artist and try to combine art and nature harmoniously in practical applications. Even as a child, I was fascinated by wood and I began to build tree houses.

What inspired you to create the Secret World of Turisedia?

After German reunification, many livelihoods were put at risk, with the creative arts and cultural industries being particularly hard hit. Most artists were no longer able to make a living from their work. We were fortunate and invested in new projects relatively quickly after 1990. That included building our log cabin gallery and organising our first major events. At some point we realised that it was turning into a leisure park. From that moment on, we consciously developed it as such.

So there is actually a serious mission behind all the fun and entertainment?

Yes, indeed. We have been researching the amazing history of the Turisedians for many years now. They were a people who lived on the floodplains of the river Neisse until the 11th century, but whose incredible cultural achievements are now all but forgotten. Together with my good friend Jurusch Gorlik, we are researching this ancient culture, carrying out excavations and resurrecting their empire, so to speak.

You must be doing something right as you attract an average of 100,000 visitors per year. What is it that makes your adventure park so appealing?

First and foremost, it’s the mixture of art, culture and nature. Normally you would only be able to find a world like ours in a computer game. But here everything is made out of genuine, honest natural materials – all your experiences are real. There’s no doubt that many people also find the unexplored world of the Turisedians very intriguing – it’s still waiting to be discovered and offers plenty of scope for the imagination. Then there is the immediate sensation of being out in the natural world, experiencing the wilderness. You might think that’s something that would appeal mainly to youngsters, but time and again we notice that it is predominantly the adults who are captivated by it all – perhaps because here they are allowed to be a child again.

You were awarded the German Tourism Prize in 2008, were picked for the Land of Ideas competition in 2009, and in 2012 you received the Tourism Innovation Award from the district of Görlitz for the dinner show in the Krönum theatre. What do these awards mean to you?

Of course, it’s great to have one’s work appreciated in this way. But what is much more important for me is what we can achieve for German-Polish relations. The Neisse connects two cultures; our floating Neisse café is like a permanent link between the two countries and we employ both Germans and Poles. And do you know what? Our Polish neighbours have always supported the project and put their heart and soul into helping to shape the future of tourism in this area, whereas unfortunately there was a lack of understanding from some people on the German side.

Finally, let’s take a look at the upcoming season of outdoor events. What can your visitors look forward to?

Crazy overnight adventures, such as in the “Turihallum”, with various indoor activities for rainy days. As ever, the highlight is the Folklorum, which is the Turisedian festival held on the first weekend in September. It features 12 stages on both sides of the border, lots of cultural events, a real treasure hunt and thrilling competitions like giant egg rolling, a three-way tug-of-war and skiing round the tree. We are always thinking up new ideas as well, such as the cross-border role-playing event on both banks of the Neisse which is held on the summer solstice. It’s an absolutely crazy event.

www.kulturinsel.com