Just a quick post this time, feels like a while since I have last blogged. Will hopefully get back into more of a habit soon!
This post is about the Zeppelin Museum in Friederichshafen in southern Germany on the coast of Lake Constance. Zeppelin as in airships. It is not a Led Zeppelin museum. I think though, that I would find it very pleasing if some long haired rock fan accidental did turn up there, blasting “Whole Lotta Love” out of their headphones only to be presented with the story of lighter than air travel…
But if that long-haired rocker did arrive, he shouldn’t actually be too dissapointed as the museum is a fascinating one, (albeit seemingly half of it was being refurbed during my visit) and besides, the only fact anyone needs to know about Led Zeppelin is that Robert Plant is a Wolverhampton Wanders fan, and thus a man of impeccable taste.
The museum is right by the bus station and harbour, in the old harbour side railway station, which is an interesting looking building its own right, that looks far newer than its actual 80 odd years would suggest. Friederichshafen is just over two and a half hours by bus from Munich. To an English person this sounds like quite a distance, but in reality it was a pleasant trip. The coach was non-stop and it was only 5 Euro’s each way which is ridiculously cheap. It even had free wi-fi and the outward trip for some reason seemed to come with a free pretzel.
The museum is 8 Euros for entry, and for another 3 Euros you can get an audio guide in English. As they were redoing parts of the museum I got the audio guide for free, although given the museum was being redone it wasn’t always obvious what I was supposed to be playing and where. I don’t feel I can fully judge the place given the work that was going on but I certainly saw enough to think that when it is all open it would be well worth the visit of any aviation history fan who happens to find themselves in Munich with a day to kill. Because nothing like them exists today it can be very difficult to quite to quite comprehend what they must have actually looked like, or the size of them. Exhibits such as the remains of an engine car from the Graf Zeppelin and a 6 meter diameter spare propeller from the Hindenburg did something to help better picture these behemoths in my mind. There are also numerous models of different types of airships, although there seemed to be a lack of a general narrative tying the evolution of the designs together, I’m willing to hope that this was just as a result of the work being done at the museum. The development of the trans-Atlantic passenger routes is much better covered and there are also a number of from the destruction of the Hindenburg. Including rather grim ones such as the uniform belonging to the wireless operator from the Hindenburg, complete with burn marks and specks of melted aluminium. The wireless operator later died from his injuries. There is also a summary of the main theories behind the airships infamous demise and fascinating newsreel footage from the various news agencies of the day. There are also some bizarre artefacts on display, such as a special lightweight canoe from the Graf Zeppelin’s scientific voyage across the arctic wastes of northern Siberia. Unfortunately because of the way exhibits had been moved around I didn’t know at the time what it was so didn’t take a photo of it.
The centrepiece of the museum though, and a major reason for me going, is a life sized recreation of a large section of the passenger quarters from the Hindenburg. Being able to go up the boarding ladder as an airship passenger would have done over 70 years ago really was quite fun. (Ok I’m easily pleased). It was fascinating to see the passenger cabins, which looked very similar to my sleeper train accommodation although only sleeping 2 to a cabin, and to be honest did not seem particular luxurious compared to what might be available on an ocean liner. On the other-hand the recreation of the observation lounge really did give an idea of what it might have been like to be able to travel about, floating across the sky in luxury.
All in all it didn’t take me too long to get round the museum. I would recommend a visit, but I wouldn’t go especially for the experience without first checking that the museum is back to being fully open. As for Freiderichshafen itself, its a very nice littler town by the lake. The weather was glorious when I visited, which allowed me to indulge in ice-cream and it was great to get a view of the distant alps across the lake in Switzerland. It also turns out that the town has a Dornier Museum as well, but as I wasnt aware of this until I arrived I did not have time to visit, but for those who do, it is by the airport which is itself a short bus/train ride from the Zeppelin Museum and harbour.
In short, with planning, and good weather I would think it might make quite a good getaway. It should be quite cheap too as I believe Ryanair fly there direct from the UK. (although they probably claim its Berlin Airport…)