I love museums, but I’m fairly picky about which ones I visit. Art museums can’t capture my attention for more than a few minutes, but anything to do with history or pop culture and you can’t pry me away. I’ve been to a lot of museums around the world, but here are a few of my favorite quirky museums.
1. Frietmuseum, Bruges – The Belgians take their food very seriously, and this is seen especially with the art of the French fry. Not just the soggy potatoes one sees so often around the world, the Belgian fry truly is a revelation in the world of culinary science and this love affair with the spud is on full display at the Fry Museum in Bruges, Belgium. The museum is well thought out and much larger than I expected. The guest is led through the history of the fry, from the first cultivation of potatoes in South America, to its introduction in Europe and the day of days, when the fry was invented. A combination history museum and assemblage of artifacts and curios make the experience fun and interesting. After spending an hour or so learning everything there is to know about the fry, it’s logical to want a taste. Luckily the folks at the Frietmuseum thought of this and at the end of the tour is a small fry cafe where you can taste crispy Belgian fries for yourself.
2. Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb – When I first heard of this strange sounding museum, I thought it would be a novelty and little else. I was surprised though when I walked out moved and inspired by the exhibits. The concept for the museum started when two Zagreb based artists broke up and joked about starting a museum with objects from their love affair. A few years later this joke turned into an actual exhibition that traveled the world and quickly became immensely popular. Using donated items from people around the world; the museum is a lot more than just a look at failed relationships. It captures the essence of the pain and loss that is inherent in every relationship, broken or not. Walking through the museum was a deeply moving experience because I, like most of you I imagine, could relate to many of the sentiments shared. We’ve all loved and lost and the Museum of Broken Relationships captures those emotions brilliantly.
3. Carpigiani Gelato Museum, Bologna – The Italians take their food seriously, logical since they invented some of the best dishes in the history of man. Chief among their culinary delights is gelato, the creamy cold dessert you can find almost anywhere in the world. It all started in Italy though, and at the Gelato Museum in Bologna you can trace its roots; and get a taste as well. The museum is the result of years of work and collection and is meant to not just highlight the Carpigiani brand of gelato machines, but to share with the world the entire history of gelato production. Since it’s new everything is still shiny and bright, well organized and interesting. Plus, you know, you can eat some gelato afterwards.
4. Old Ghan Heritage Railway and Museum, Alice Springs – The town of Alice Springs in the heart of Australia’s Outback is a decidedly quirky place. It makes sense then that the tourist offerings are just as odd. One of the best in town though is the Ghan Museum. Construction of what we know of today as the Ghan began in 1878 in Adelaide, South Australia. It wasn’t until the 1920s though that train service extended to Alice Springs, prior to that the final leg of the journey had to be made by camel. The Ghan didn’t extend all the way across the continent to Darwin in the north until the 1980s, when Australia’s railroads were all standardized. For whatever reason, Alice Springs is home to both the Ghan Museum as well as the Road Transport Hall of Fame. The Ghan Museum is housed in a former train station, and is also the final resting spot for strange bits of railroad paraphernalia, from full sized locomotives, to random bits of iron rusting away. The museum itself though was clean, well organized and infinitely interesting. I found myself reading through mid-century travel posters and gazing longingly at proper dinner service sets, a remnant of a more civilized era of travel. The museum isn’t large and is a little dusty in areas, but if you love trains like I do then this is a must visit attraction.
5. In Memorium: Zentrum fur Aussergewohnliche Museen or ZAM (Center for Unusual Museums), Munich – Although this extremely strange and quirky museum is now closed, I have to include it for its sheer audacious randomness. Located in the heart of Munich near the touristy Hofbrauhaus lies an innocuous little townhouse that housed not one, but six different museums. The collections finding a final resting place, almost like the Island of Misfit Toys were the:
- Chamber Pot Museum;
- Toy Pedal Car Museum;
- Easter Bunny Museum;
- Padlock Museum;
- Museum of Scent;
- And The Sisi Museum (Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria).
I’m not sure why or how an individual would ever begin the process of collecting such useless and disparate assemblages of junk, but the curators, and I use that term as loosely as possible, were quite serious in their organization of these artifacts. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to experience the sheer joy of witnessing the oddities at ZAM, but sadly this misfit museum closed in 2006. With its closing, visitors to Munich have one less chance to experience their own strange travel moment and instead are relegated to the more conventional tourist attractions. Scores of these institutions exist around the world, but as they fail in the face of homogenized tourism, the world becomes a little less interesting.
What are some of your favorite quirky museums?
3 thoughts on “Five Quirky and Weird Museums I Love”
That breakup museum is too funny! PS Your captca code drives me craaaaaazy! :(
I once went to a Penis Museum in Husavic, Iceland. I’m not sure if I would say this museum fits into the “quirky” category, but gross, definitely. Basically, the owner, who takes your money, stands there and watches you look at his animal penis collection. And get this, there is even a picture of a man who is planning on donating his penis to the museum after he dies. The whole thing kind of creeped me out – just plain bizarre!
I loved the Frietmuseum – if only it had free samples though. Some other ones you should try to visit are the Sex Machines Museum in Prague (I went with my parents…can anyone say awkward??) and the butter museum in Cork.
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