© Ingo Wandmacher

Oh what a beautiful Christmas

Peter Belli - One of the faces of the Christmas city of the North

One special location which has excited the smallest visitors to the Christmas markets for generations, is the Fairytale Forest at the foot of St. Mary’s Church. It first opened its doors in 1962 and since then it has put a smile on children’s faces every year at Christmas time. The fairytale motifs originally served as shop-window decorations for the Karstadt department store almost 60 years ago before they were moved to the St. Mary’s churchyard as a pre-Christmas attraction for families with children. The cherished tradition of the Fairytale Forest now includes 23 “berths” where the finest fairytale figures of the Brothers Grimm and others can be found — from King Thrushbeard and Cinderella, via Hansel and Gretel and the Sleeping Beauty to Pippi Longstocking, Jim Button and Max and Moritz.


One person who has been there from the beginning and who is particularly fond of the Fairytale Forest, is travelling show artist Peter Belli who was born in 1963. Even as a small boy, he helped his parents at their sweet stall in the Fairytale Forest, was allowed to take care of the fairytale figures, inspected tickets for the children’s merry-go-round with his two brothers and did his homework in the last carriage of the children’s railway. “I was rocked backwards and forwards and every time the carriage went over the sleepers, it shook — and there was no way to keep your writing neat.” He went to school in Lübeck from Grade 4 onwards but only from November to March when the family set up its winter camp on Volksfestplatz. Otherwise, this family of travelling show artists moved from funfair to funfair right across the country, and little Peter went to a different school every week with the other travelling show children. It didn’t do him any harm, “I always had lots of friends”, the 56-year-old happily recalls, but when it came to his two daughters and his grandchildren, he always set great store by a permanent school and good training. He would have liked best of all to be a car mechanic but the family business was more important, and so Peter Belli learned all the manual skills from his father and in the end took over his parent’s business. “There’s nothing a travelling show worker can’t turn his hand to”, he explains with a grin. “And if there’s something he can’t do, he keeps trying until he can.” No sooner said than done — and so this likeable travelling show artist with his heart in the right place is today a genuine self-made man. Crêpes, fishing for ducks and pitching at cans make up his business with the addition of doughnuts and the children’s railway in the Fairytale Forest.


When the Fairytale Forest Association “Pro Lübeck e.V.” ran into financial difficulties at the beginning of 2000 and there was a threat of the forest being sold to Denmark, Peter Belli took over the chairmanship of the association and bought up the fairytale figures and their berths at a stroke. “The Fairytale Forest is quite simply part of Lübeck, otherwise there’s something missing in the Christmas market”, he states in justification of his commitment which continues to this day. “It’s simply a part of our childhood — not just for me but for generations of Lübeck residents.” The association is regularly dependent on donations in order to fund the restoration of the mobile fairytale figures and their wooden berths and to construct new ones year for year. Brockensammlung Lübeck, for example, recently adopted Mrs. Holle and Pippi Longstocking. “Without our supporters and sponsors, the Fairytale Forest would not be able to survive”, says Peter Belli. “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks for this commitment.” His own dedication goes without saying for him even if it takes up a lot of his time and work. He takes charge of almost all the repair work himself, “although my wife and some volunteers sew the clothes for the dolls, that’s not really my bag.”

© Ingo Wandmacher


Anyone who would like to support Lübeck’s Fairytale Forest and adopt a figure, can contact Peter Belli from the Association Pro Lübeck e.V. on his wife’s email address elke.belli@yahoo.com.


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