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Deep in a dark forest near Ljubljana, you can find one of the most unorthodox escape games in the world. Forget about cellars and chambers: Gozdne's puzzles are elegantly incorporated into the forest. Visiting this wonderful place is a must for enthusiasts. We learned more about the project from Marijana, who is one of the founders.
When you think of escape rooms, images of cellars, burned-out inner-city buildings and creepy towers pop into your head. The whole concept of these games has always been associated with small, dark chambers. However, there is always someone, who swims against the current and creates something unusual in the process.
A boring day job leads many people to the exciting world of escape games, where you can forget about the annoying daily problems, even though only for an hour or two. Sometimes, you just want to leave the noisy, crowded city behind. In a Slovenian forest near Ljubjana, a team of enthusiastic people created a place that is a wonderful example of creativity.
In an age where high-tech escape rooms are on the rise and sci-fi themed games are extremely popular, the creators of Gozdne chose another path. What about taking the tech accessories away from the game and using the existing natural elements instead? That's exactly what these smart guys did when they created one of the most original games we've seen.
Just a stone's throw away from the busy airport of the capital, Gozdne offers a unique experience to advanced players and children as well. Here, you don't have to face brick walls: give the size of the area and the unusual setting, you better use logic and team-work in order to solvethe puzzles and complete the quests in time.
For adults (more experienced players) there are three different games available. In "Save the Bird", participants have to free a bird in time, while in "Forest Escape in the Rain" your team has managed to deflect the enemy's most recent attack and has retreated behind the frontline,into the safe embrace of the forest. You're wounded, exhausted, and wet. Only a special first aid kit can save you and of course, you'll have an hour to find it. "Moonlight Forest Escape" is the third game of the series, where your mission is stab a sharp knife through a vampire's heart.
One of the many missions of Gozdne is to turn children away from the computers. Their two quests for kids between the ages of 8 and 13 are full of fun elements: there are oodles of animals,fairies, gnomes and even pirates living on the branches, between the roots and in hollow trees that will help the kids explore the forest by presenting them with interesting puzzles.
We talked with Marijana, one of the founders of Gozdne. She told us about the beginnings and the exciting process of building up an escape game in the middle of a forest.
Escape-rooms.com: Marijana, what an unusual project! We have visited lots of escape rooms in a number of countries but we've never seen a game like yours before. The concept definitely adds some spice to the already colorful community of escape rooms. Where did the idea of creating such a game come from?
Marijana: Well, the idea came quite spontaneously. The founders are three friends, Nataša, Barbara and Marijana. The all of us are forest engineers and we all love the forest immensely. Of course, we also like to play. So, we tried and played escape game a couple times in escape rooms in Slovenia. We liked the game, but we didn’t like the place. Too claustrophobic! So we thought that maybe we are not the only one who prefere nature and especially forest over the rooms (which are usually even without windows). And we also thought about kids, because we didn’t find nowhere (on internet) any escape room games especially for kids.
Escape-rooms.com: To put things into context, let's talk a bit about the Slovenian escape room scene. A small country with a lot to offer. How did the industry set foot in the country?
Marijana: Slovenia is really a small country, but soon are later we always find out if there is something new going on worldwide. Now there is about twenty-five rooms in Slovenia, most of them in Ljubljana.
Escape-rooms.com: Was the 'Gozdne' project something that was supported from the get-go? I wonder if there were any difficulties with authorities when it came to forest laws or nature protection given the rich natural heritage of the country.
Marijana: Actually we didn’t have any difficulties because in Slovenia according the law of forests there is a free access to most of our forests. We don’t cut the trees or make any other damage in the forest. We just come in the forest, we bring all the equipment, the players play the game, and after the game we take everything with us.
Escape-rooms.com: Some of our interviewees have gone through tough periods during the construction of their games. What are your experiences like? I can imagine that setting the whole thing up in the middle of a forest was quite a challenge. Did you have a big team for?
Marijana: No, we are just three of us, very ethusiastic an with a lot of joy to work. And our families (together we have three husbands and eight children) support us and help us.
Escape-rooms.com: You have to be truly enthusiastic about Gozdne and nature in general. Have any of you (the three founders) done something similar before? What is your background?
Marijana: No, we had practically no experience in working in turism or something similar, but we worked in forestry for many years and still do.
Escape-rooms.com: Are the elements of the game handcrafted or you've bought materials elsewhere?
Marijana: Some elements were bought on flea market, other are habdcrafted by us.
Escape-rooms.com: How did you incorporate these materials into the forest?
Marijana: We chose things from natural materials and things connected with forest.
Escape-rooms.com: It is more of a physical game, at least you have moved things in that direction. Escape rooms of the world, however, have gone high-tech. For many, the fierce competition between business is a motivation to always bring in new elements, innovative ways of adapting puzzles. You seem to be uninterested in these trends. A somewhat bold but successful move. Could you please tell us more about your perspective? What are your thoughts on the industry in general?
Marijana: I think it is always good to be different and to make something like no one does. So we will always try to do something in our own way.
Escape-rooms.com: Escape rooms are not only businesses, but also a form of entertainement. You support a great cause: turning kids away from the screens of TVs and computers. Have you managed to do so? How do you see kids in this environment?
Marijana: Kids really enjoy in the forest, they develop their imagination and have fun. By the way they also learn a lot about the forest, nature.
Escape-rooms.com: Obviously you have designed games for the more advanced players as well. We would love to hear some fun stories! Surely, there have been experienced players that had never played in a forest before...
Marijana: We think that the funniest situations come in the moonlight forest escape, because some people are afraid of forest but even more they are afraid of a darkness in the forest. And there is also the vampire called Bloody Mary in a coffin...
Escape-room.com: Who are your guests? People from the capital? Given the uniqueness of Gozdne, we are sure that many from abroad are visiting you as well. Do they find it a difficult puzzle to solve? Generally, what are the feedbacks like?"
Marijana: The guests are people not only from Ljubljana but also from other parst of Slovenia, because they can not find something like that in their nearby and also turists who come to Ljubljana. It is interesting to observe different kind of people solving the problems. Sometimes it is very helpfull to have at least one very young person in a team, because he has a lot of fresh ideas . he thinks out of the box. That helps!