Whilst attending a recent conference in Konstanz my colleague and I took the opportunity to explore a little and arranged visits to the Zeppelin Museum and the Dornier Air Museum, both in Friedrichshafen.
A fifty minute speedy trip by catamaran (which provided excellent photographic opportunities and a very decent cup of cappuccino) delivered us to the door of the museum which is literally at the water’s edge. The building itself has a 1930s ‘art-deco” look about it from the outside but is very spacious once you get inside.
The Zeppelin Museum is unique in Germany in that it houses the world’s largest collection on aviation. In addition, it is the only museum in Germany which combines technology and art.
The museum was (re)opened in 1996 in its new home – the Hafenbahnhof (harbour railway station). Since then, 3.5 million visitors have come to see its permanent collections and special exhibitions.
We arrived about 11.00am and by then it was already busy but because of its size and the layout of the exhibition it was easy to get around and see all of the exhibits without having to “fight our way to the front.”
There is some wonderful contemporary art on display and of course the centre piece of the exhibition the remains of the “Hindenburg” airship which crashed so spectacularly.
The Hindenburg disaster took place on Thursday, May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, which is located adjacent to the borough of Lakehurst, New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board] (36 passengers and 61 crewmen), there were 35 fatalities. There was also one death of a ground crewman.
The disaster was the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, photographs, and Herbert Morrison’s recorded radio eyewitness reports from the landing field, which were broadcast the next day. A variety of hypotheses have been put forward for both the cause of ignition and the initial fuel for the ensuing fire. The incident shattered public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship and marked the end of the airship era.
The other outstanding item on display is the Maybach Zeppelin car which was built in 1938 in Friedrichshafen. The car weighs 3.6 tons and achieved a maximum speed of 170 km/h.
Its engine has twelve cylinders with a total stroke volume of 8 litres and a capacity of 147 kW (200 h.p.). The engineering design for this car was based on the Maybach engines for the airships LZ 126 (1924) and LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (1928). It is a magnificent looking piece of engineering.
After a look around the shop in the museum (and purchase of obligatory mementos) we set off for the Dornier Museum. We decided to ask advice in the Zeppelin museum about how to get there only to be told it was not “a short walk away” which I had estimated but a good 30 minute bus journey and buses only ran once every hour……………so we abandoned our plan, went to the local square and found a very nice Italian restaurant that served very good lasagna and excellent beer.
Around 4.00pm we caught the catamaran back to Konstanz and sat for nearly an hour at the back of the boat just taking in the lovely scenery on a beautiful day.
The museum is very well worth a visit and the entrance cost (8 Euros) is inexpensive compared to UK places of historical interest.