So typically my Orlando visits culminate in theme park trip or two. Or three. However, having experienced just about every single ride currently available and the dearth of new attractions, I decided to save my precious tickets until Harry Potter’s Diagon Ally and a slew of new rides open next year.
So with a spare morning what to do? Well, one attraction that seemed to have a lot of press in theme park journals recently is the The Holy Land Experience, which aims to give travelers a taste of “Jerusalem in 1st century Israel”. It sounded interesting so I jumped in the car and headed off.
Arriving you are confronted with a huge line of animals lined up 2×2 to get in the Ark. This nicely juxtaposes the huge line of humans linedup 2×2 to get to the ticket booth. There comparisons with Noah stopped abruptly as we were forced to fork out $40 to enter. My line also seemed to consist uniformly of a single mammalian group wearing bright, identical XXXL t-shirts with hilarious slogans such as “iPray”.
After getting my ticket I followed the crowd past the tightly controlled entrance, in to the “Jerusalem Street Market” – where the street “merchants” in sackcloth were selling plastic religious tat – very 1st century. From there it just got more and more preachy and tacky, with a nice cardboard cutout of Jesus and huge crowd clustered around a “real” Jesus, who was busy blessing a woman in a wheelchair – she did not get up. I had been expecting interesting exhibits and perhaps a ride or two.
I wondered in to the “Last Supper Communion” – a cramped room where guests participate in a reenactment of the last supper with Jesus (the bloke I had just seen outside) and his disciples (of which only 10 turned up). My options from there were not exactly extensive. An impressive model of Jerusalem helped keep people lingering in the gift shop, but I headed over to the Scriptorium, which is designed to show the history of the written word.
Naturally, it was not the written word per se, but the written word of the Bible. Behind the peachiness, it actually hid some interesting exhibits including examples of Lutheran, Guttenberg, Tyndale and Coverdale Bibles. However, the 1 hour long guided tour was pretty soporific and the voice over track was a bit too evangelical. I skipped several of the exhibits only to be trapped in the final room, where we were forced to sit and listen to the introduction of some of the “main characters of the Bible” – they were revealed one by one behind curtains like some 1970s peep-show.
From there it was either another holy communion (performed every 15 minutes) or a wax works exhibit of key scenes from the Bible. I went for the wax works, which, in my view, made a bit of mockery of many classic scenes. Jesus ascending to heaven looked, unfortunately, a bit like bad drag act directing traffic, but I did spot an excellent sign “This way to the Last Supper” incongruously tacked to a wall with a fire extinguisher.
Running out of time, I headed to the supposed highlight – “the Church of All Nations”, which turned out to be a theatre where the live drama “Legna – A Light-hearted Look at Where Heaven & Earth meet” was playing, and boy did it hit the heights of preachy. Not only that, once the doors were closed there were bouncers stationed at all the exits to “encourage” people to sit through the dross. I must admit, it did not tickle me in any way, shape or form, so feigning a phone call, I managed to tiptoe round the bouncers to escape to the parking lot.
It certainly was an experience – never again to be repeated.
Ian, Just read this ‘Postcard from the Edge of Preachey’. Hilarious – you have a future as an author. This is day 2 today of my chemotherapy and you have been my bright spark setting me off on the right foot for the rest of the day. And in keeping with the theme of your blog, “Bless you” XOXO