Way back when we first made up the list of not-negotiable places to visit, the top of The Farmer’s list was Minatur Wunderland. He didn’t care how far he had to travel (and that is a big deal for The Farmer who struggles sitting still for long) he needed to see the largest model railway in the whole world. As it turned out, Storm Herwart aside, it was no real hardship to fit in a visit to the place I knew better for being credited with honing The Beatles performance skills.
Firstly, it is worthwhile mentioning this was the first of our three German city stay in the same accommodation chain: Meininger. Billing themselves as affordable with the emphasis on travellers, we weren’t expecting much and were very pleasantly surprised. This is a definite Homestead recommendation; they’re close to the train stations, clean, quiet, comfortable, have good bathrooms and laundry facilities, and their breakfasts are amazing.
Having lost half a day of sightseeing opportunity actually getting there, we are not pretending to have given this very cool city anything like the attention it deserves. Our sightseeing consisted of catching the underground to the Speicherstadt
and wandering our way slowly but determinedly towards
the focus of much of The Farmer’s conversation of the past week.
Luckily there was a little outdoor cafe right outside the entrance, where we managed to persuade The Farmer that it was best to tackle this sort of experience on a full tummy. It must be recorded here that The Farmer, who does not have the most adventurous palate, was rounded berated for his meal choice. While the rest of us tucked into currywurst (as recommended by Rick Stein “it shouldn’t taste so good, but it does!”), he chose hamburger, or as he pronounced it when pointing our the injustice of it all: HAMBURGer. Whoops.
There are heaps of cafes like this: minimal indoor seating, heaps of outside tables which coming complete with cosy rugs to tuck around yourself. Lovely!
Then it was into the experience that is Miniatur Wunderland.
Every fifteen minutes, night falls.
The Farmer was in heaven. The airport where the planes taxi, take off and land; the port; the iconic miniature cities; and oh! the trains.
For those of us who subscribe to the “seen one model railway, seen them all” school of thought, the people watching was just as good as fighting for a space at the exhibits and getting to push the interactive buttons.
It was absolutely packed which made for interesting crowd-mentality observations (not that I was bored as such, you understand). We Kiwis are used to having a bit of room around us (15 people per square kilometre according to our last census) which had already come under fire in Paris (body contact queuing) and Amsterdam (literally 10 centimetre gaps between noses during conversations) but here we experienced a new phenomena: The Shoulder Pry. This is where the prier stands alongside you and very slowly but with increasing pressure inserts their body into the non-existent space between you and the balustrade of the scene you are viewing. It took us all a while to work out what was happening as one moment you are watching miniature DJ Bobo in concert and the next you are staring at someone’s back. Very clever and obviously totally accepted as we saw it happen a great many times, effected by all from child to grandparent…and not one punch thrown.
It was a surreal, amazing, mind-boggling place to visit and we managed to spend about eight hours there in total. A definite must-see for the train spotter in your life and I was delighted to see that most famous unlikely-train-spotter had already been there, done that.
I feel Sir Rod and our very own Farmer would have plenty to talk about were they ever to meet.