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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Miniatur Wunderland

Tracy M describes how she turned a gray winter day into fun for her family by visiting Hamburg's huge model train wonderland in the Speicherstadt. Originally published in Currents April 2002, Children's Corner Column.

"It's raining again, Oh, no, it's raining again." Supertramp must have lived a winter in Hamburg when they wrote that song. There is nothing more horrible than a long, gray, wet Winter day in Hamburg unless it is a long, gray, wet Winter day in Hamburg with two young children. I wake up with the most horrible feeling of dread on these days and the only question running through my mind is "How can I entertain my kids on a day like today?" Their toys and books captivate them for only so long. Never fear!! I have found a solution for at least one of those dreaded days: Miniatur Wunderland.

Miniatur Wunderland or Miniature Wonderland is a museum devoted to model trains. One day lasts 15 minutes - and there is a lot happening in this quarter hour: as day turns to night and to day again trains run their regular routes, a fire brigade puts out a tractor-trailer fire and a gang of prisoners escape from the prison and highjack a ski lift down the valley. There are over 500 trains that run on over 5000 kilometers of tracks. The owners and their 25-man team have planned their world down to the smallest detail. Over 30,000 figures are displayed in everyday situations from soccer fan at the stadium watching a match, to campers spending their time at the beach. A mining company is displayed above and under ground and the merry-go-round at the carnival actually goes around and around. I lost count of the different scenes depicted: a country fair, a police crime scene, a ski resort, an ice skating rink, a city center complete with McDonalds, a winding mountain road with deer crossing and my favorite, the main train station. While trying to keep up with my girls calling out the wonderful things to look out, I realized that the trains could have been just an afterthought !

One of the neatest things though are the cars. Logically, the trains run on tracks and cars drive on the streets. The train tracks are obvious everywhere. However, the cars run on the streets without any visible tracks. I guess there are tiny drivers in their tiny cars driving on the tiny streets and highways. You will have to go yourselves to discover the trick !

Miniatur Wunderland is a super place to take kids and out-of-town guests of any age. It is large, covering over 500 square meters (that is just the display area) and you can visit the adjoining room where the team is working on the next phase - 100 square meters devoted to America. Another side room has a play area for children with a large close-range photo display of the scenes in the museum. The museum also offers coffee, tea, cake and ice cream and a bistro sitting area.

It is located in the Speicherstadt at Kehwieder 2, Block D, 4th floor, over the Hamburg Dungeon museum. Entrance Fee for adults is € 8 and children over 4 pay € 5. Time in the museum is unlimited. Parking is located directly in front of the building on the weekends, but not during the week.

I recommend avoiding the peak times at the weekends from 2-4 p.m. where the wait can be up to 40 minutes. When we arrived there was a long line in front of the building. However, a staff member quickly came around with a tray of mulled wine, hot chocolate and soft drinks. Shortly after that a bowl of toffees was passed around. We didn't wait for more than 10 minutes until the children were given a Mini-milch, a small vanilla, strawberry or chocolate milk ice cream. I am not an advocate of placating the masses with sugar, but I thought, wow, they are making an effort to make our waiting time a bit more comfortable.

At first I was a bit skeptical that this would be interesting enough for my girls ages 6 and 2-1/2, but they were just fascinated. Give it a try and I am sure you will be surprised how the time will fly. Heck, the sun might be shining by the time you leave the museum !!!

Check out their website at: http://www.miniatur-wunderland.de/html/top.htm.

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