Made in China: an Austrian village

Mon Jun 4, 2012 9:51am EDT
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By Venus Wu

HUIZHOU, China (Reuters) - A $940 million Chinese clone of one of Austria's most picturesque villages, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hallstatt, recently opened its doors to visitors in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong amidst some controversy.

In a nation known for its skill in manufacturing knock-offs ranging iPhones to Hermes Birkins, the replica village is perhaps the most ambitious attempt at Chinese reproduction yet.

The "Made in China" version of the lakeside European village known for tourism and salt includes an exact replica of its church clock tower, European style wooden houses and other properties that will be sold to investors.

The project, conceived by a Chinese mining tycoon, initially sparked outrage and surprise among some Hallstatt villagers, who weren't at first aware of the attempt to copy their unique, centuries-old home.

Half an hour's ride away from the gritty city of Huizhou, close to China's "world factory" of the Pearl River Delta, China's Hallstatt hopes to become a new tourist attraction.

Disney-themed photo spots are scattered around the village's main plaza, which is modeled after Hallstatt's marketplace.

"The moment I stepped into here, I felt I was in Europe," said 22-year-old Zhu Bin, a Huizhou resident. "The security guards wear nice costumes. All the houses are built in European style."

Taking up one million square meters (yards), cranes and construction sites spread across barren hills above the gabled houses, promising an expansion of the current town.   Continued...

Women walk at the Chinese replica of Austria's UNESCO heritage site, Hallstatt village in China's southern city of Huizhou in Guangdong province June 2, 2012. Metals and mining company China Minmetals Corporation spent $940 million to build this controversial site and hopes to attract both tourists and property investors alike, according to local newspaper reports. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu