Deutsches Museum

Museumsinsel 1, 80538 München, Germany

With more than 100,000 items in its collection, the Deutsches Museum is one of the most important science and technology museums in the world. Even though only around a quarter of the collection is on display at any one time, the breadth is nonetheless mind-boggling, ranging from the Stone Age to the present and touching on everything from cellular biology to atomic physics. Indeed, the holdings are so massive—and still growing—that they’re divided between several venues, including a hangar at Schleißheim airfield and the Deutsches Museum in Bonn. Specific highlights in Munich include the first motorized aircraft built by the Wright brothers, the first motorcar made by Karl Benz, and a U1 submarine. Also worth checking out are interactive displays that detail glass-blowing and paper-making, and the live demonstrations and experiments that take place each day. A dedicated children’s area with hundreds of activities caters to younger visitors, but, kids or not, plan to spend at least half a day here—and be pleasant overwhelmed.

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Coolest Science Museum Ever

Munich’s Deutsches Museum is the world’s largest museum of science and technology. My whole family had so much fun in this museum we could easily have spent the entire day here. Exhibits cover 50 fields including computers, electric engineering, hydraulic power, machine tools, power machinery, printing, transportation, tunnels, and more. If this sounds dry, trust me, the museum will surprise you. It does a stellar job of explaining-and physically showing-how these complicated technologies work on a large or small scale to improve our daily lives. Innovations that we might have taken for granted are given star treatment here. Stand in front of a camera and watch as facial recognition technology “reads” your mood and age (our family was in hysterics here); walk through the massive coal mining exhibit in the museum’s basement featuring recreated mine shafts, coal beds, mining tools, and tunnel building equipment to get a realistic feel for life underground; or watch a high voltage demonstration simulating lightning hitting a building at 800,000 volts. This museum is definitely worth a visit. It is educational and wonderfully fun.

The Curious Case of Mrs. Benz

In 1886, Carl Benz filed a patent application for a “vehicle operated by a gas engine.” He constructed his Benz Patentwagen, the first gasoline powered car in the world, out of bicycle parts and a 1-cyclinder engine. Top speed was 7.5 miles per hour. These are the kind of things you learn at The Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum in Munich, dedicated to the history of transportation. While Benz might have been a genius engineer, he was a bit of a slouch at marketing. Enter the wife. Bertha Benz wanted to see some kind of return on the family’s significant time and investment spent on the 3-wheel contraption. So without the knowledge of her husband or the authorities, she grabbed the couple’s two teenage sons and drove them 66 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim. Thus, she became the first person ever to drive a vehicle over any considerable distance, and the resulting fanfare immediately created a market for gasoline powered travel. The Benz Patentwagen is just one of thousands of exhibits inside the Deutsches Museum, and there’s something here that will turn anyone’s head. I like the 1925 BMW R32, for example, the first motorcycle ever produced by BMW. Others fawn over the elegant 1928 Bugatti Coupe Type 40—the pride of the Gatsby era.

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