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July 2000

On The House

Freilichtmuseen-Touring some of Bavaria's oldest homesteads

Long, long ago, in a land devoid of such modern-day conveniences as cellular telephones, electric stoves, autobahns, milk cartons and indoor plumbing, life moved at a slower, simpler and definitely more difficult pace. A typical day in the picturesque, mainly rural and deeply Roman Catholic region of Bavaria often began in the wee hours before dawn and ended long after sundown, when the flickering flames of crude oil lamps and candles were finally extinguished. People’s daily lives were more self-sufficient then. Even seemingly simple chores, such as baking bread and washing clothes, were all-day endeavors requiring more than one set of hands to complete. Houses were timbered, rustic and unheated — except for the kitchen, where cooking was done over an open flame or atop a wood-burning stove, and the Stube (main gathering room), which was warmed by a Kachelofen (tiled oven).

It was a time when the Müller (miller), the Schäffler(barrel maker) and the Schmied (blacksmith) were vital craftsmen in any town or village. Hired workers called Mägde (maidens) and Knechte (farm laborers) were necessary to keep a farm running. It was common practice for entire families — parents, children, grandparents and any unwed aunts or uncles — to live together under the same roof.

It is against the backdrop of this historical, everyday reality that Bavaria’s Freilicht, Freiland or open-air museums offer visitors a unique opportunity to tour old homesteads — bedrooms, kitchens, workshops, farms and cellars, most of which were built between the 16th and late 19th century. Unlike conventional museums, which present their collections inside the confines of gallery walls, open-air museums are outdoor collections of regionally distinct, well-preserved and re-erected historical buildings, structures and houses, which are carefully restored to their original splendor and displayed over many acres of grounds. Inside each structure are period-specific furnishings, clothes, bedding, utensils and accessories of the days of yore. Outside, guests can revel in the flowers and elaborate vegetable or herb gardens, as well as typical crops, orchards and livestock.

Whether you’re a history buff, a student of architecture, tracing your German roots or even someone with a passing interest in Bavarian culture, the romantic, peaceful settings of these charming, outdoor exhibitions provide a welcome respite from a hot summer day in Munich.

Moreover, when viewed collectively, the museums present a fascinating perspective on the different lifestyles led in Bavaria’s uniquely diverse, constituent regions.

The Freilichtmuseum an der Glentleiten, situated on over 60 acres in the scenic foothills of the Alps, offers a charming look at Oberbayern, or Upper Bavaria, a region that lies between the Danube, Lech and Salzach rivers and encompasses the Bavarian Alps. On display are a fascinating variety of rustic farms and homesteads, a general store and several working mills, as well as a fine collection of traditional tools. Farmhouse rooms replete with antique Bavarian furnishings. From the fluffy down duvets in the bedrooms to the socks “hanging to dry” from a Kachelofen, the magic of this place is in the details. A fisherman’s hut, a traditional lime kiln and clusters of alpine Almhütten (mountain huts) — complete with the living and working quarters of a Senner or Sennerin (milkman/maid) — add to Glentleiten’s distinctive and picturesque atmosphere. Regular demonstrations of such age-old handicrafts as rope making, weaving, barrel making, whetstone production, pottery and forging help complete a visitor’s journey back in time. Special exhibitions and festivals are also held throughout the year. Located near the towns of Murnau and Kochel am See, north of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the museum has been in operation since 1976.

Moving west toward the Allgäu Alps, the Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren has been open since 1955 and touts itself as the oldest open-air museum in Bavaria. Exhibitions, demonstrations, music programs and other special events held throughout the year illustrate life in Allgäu-Bayerisch Schwaben, the southwest part of Germany’s southern state. With half-timbered houses and roofs of split board, reed or thatch, the varied architecture is representative of the region, which stretches from Oberstdorf and Schloss Neuschwanstein north to the walled town of Nördlingen im Ries.

Of particular interest are a fire brigade’s house with its small tower where the fire hoses were dried; a large collection of coaches, wagons and sleds; forestry equipment and gadgets to produce ice. The onsite Schwäbisches Schützenmuseum (shooting museum) features more than 6,000 artifacts dating as far back as the Middle Ages. Specially planned “Museum Days” examine a variety of themes, such as bread baking, washing laundry, food storage and the process of transforming flax into linen.

Located near the ever-popular walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the Fränkisches Freilandmuseum is devoted to preserving the cultural heritage of Franken, or Franconia, which includes the areas of Oberfranken, Mittelfranken and Unterfranken, as well as the Altmühl Valley. Open since 1979, it is one of the newest museums of its kind in Germany and comprises more than 70 buildings over an area of about 100 acres, at the southern end of the town of Bad Windsheim. Here, an intriguing array of timber patterns on the Fachwerk (half-timbered) houses, as well as the richly painted wall decorations inside some of the structures, promise to impress.

A shepherd’s cottage from 1744, sandstone masonry pigsties, a tobacco-drying shed and a vintner’s house built in 1668, and two separate complexes of Franconian houses and structures from the Middle Ages are among the other inviting exhibits. As Franconia is famous for its small breweries, it seems appropriate that a working municipal brewery can be found on the museum grounds. Along with a series of festivals and music events, special Handwerker days — during which demonstrations of such things as a grain mill, hand weaving, beer brewing and work in the fields with teams of horses and oxen — are staged at the Freilandmuseum.

In contrast to the museums already mentioned, the focus of the Freilichtmuseum Massing and its sister museum, Freilichtmuseum Finsterau, is on the rural life of the inhabitants of Ostbayern. This region includes the pastured lowlands of Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria), the timbered heights of the Bavarian Forest and the wooded, sparsely populated area of the Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate). Established in 1969, the museum in Massing is home to a collection of charming regional wooden farmhouses furnishings, orchards, peacocks, poultry, an old Gasthaus (inn) and a hops field. Artesian wells and vaulted cowsheds add to the alluring atmosphere.

The Maibaumaufstellung (May Pole raising), Midsummer Festival (June 10-11) and Harvest Beer Festival (Sept. 24) are among the notable highlights on the museum’s yearly calendar of events. The museum in Finsterau, meanwhile, provides a look at the harsh realities of daily life in the Bavarian Forest, close to the Bohemian border, which suffers from a lack of arable land. An old highway inn, the workshop of a village blacksmith and modest farm dwellings provide the setting for festivals, markets and handicraft fairs.

All the museums have restaurants on their grounds, serving mainly Bavarian and regional specialties, in addition to bread that is baked on site in wood-burning stoves. Keep in mind when visiting these outdoor facilities that every effort has been made to reconstruct the buildings exactly as they were originally built. What this means for visitors is that the staircases inside the houses are often steep, and the bannisters and doors are low, so watch your step — and your head! <<<


Freilichtmuseum an der Glentleiten
-An der Glentleiten 4, 82439 Grossweil Tel. (08851) 185 –0, Fax (08851)185 11 Internet:
-Open: Tues.–Sun., Apr.–beginning of Nov., 9–18. Open Mondays too in July, August and on public holidays.
-Admission price: adults DM 7.50; Kids (ages 6 –15) DM 2.50; children under 6 are free; family DM 17; group rates.
Directions: by car: Autobahn A95 (Munich–Garmisch) to the Murnau/Kochel exit; by train: to Murnau or Kochel, and then by RVO bus to Grossweil, Schlehdorf (there are hiking trails from both), or directly to the museum.

Fränkisches Freilandmuseum
-Eisweiherweg 1, 91438 Bad Windsheim Tel. (09841) 6680 –0, Fax (09841) 6680 –99 Internet:
-Open Tues. –Sun., Mar. 11 –Oct. 8, 9 –18; Oct. 10 –Nov. 5, 10 –17; Nov. 7 –Dec. 17, 10 –16. Open on Mondays in summer.
-Admission price: adults DM 7; children under six are free; Family DM 20.
Directions: by car: Autobahn A3 (Munich –Nürnberg) north to A73 exit Langenzenn to Bad Windsheim/Rothenberg o.d. Tauber; by train: to Bad Windsheim and from there by foot (15 min.) or taxi.

Freilichtmuseum Massing
-Steinbüchl 5, 84323 Massing Tel. (08724) 9603 –0 Internet:
-Open Tues. –Sun.; Apr. –Sept. 9 –18; Mar. and Oct. 9 –17; Nov. 12 –16; Open Mondays during public holidays.
-Admission: adults DM 6.50; children DM 2.50; family DM 14; Group rates.
Directions: by car: Massing is located about an hour northeast of Munich, near Altötting. Take autobahn A94 to Passau, then B12 to Ampfing, in Ampfing go direction Neumarkt/St. Veit from there road signs show the way. by train: to Massing.

Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum Illerbeuren
-Museumstrasse 8, 87758 Kronburg –Illerbeuren Tel. (08394) 1455; Fax (08394) 1454
-Open Tues. –Sun.; Mar. 10 –16; April –Oct. 15, 9 –18; Oct. 16 –Nov. 10 –16; Open Mondays during public holidays.
-Admission: adults DM 6; children DM 2.50; children under 6 are free; family DM 12 ; group rates.
Directions: by car: Autobahn A7 from Ulm, exit Memmingen –Süd –Dickenreishausen –Illerbeuren. Follow the signs for the museum. by train: to Memmingen and then by taxi or bus from the train station.

Freilichtmuseum Finsterau
-Museumstrasse 51, 94151 Finsterau Tel. (08557) 960 60; Fax (08557) 96 06 66 Internet:
-Open every day; Dec. 25 –Apr., 11–16; May –Sept. 9 –6; Oct. 9 –16
-Admission: Adults DM 6.50; children DM 2.50; children under six free; family DM 14; group rates.
Directions: by car: Autobahn A92 to Deggendorf, then A3 toward Passau, exit Hengersberg then B533 direction Grafenau. by train: to Passau and then bus.


Freilichtmuseum Glentleiten
July 2 — Craftsman day. Shows from 10–13 and 14–17.
July 9 — A beekeeper will take this year’s honey from the hives.
August 3–6 — Bozener Market. 10:30–17:30
The Bozener Market was held in Mittenwald from 1487 to 1679. Today, in this market recreation, wares will be sold as they were more than 500 years ago.
August 10 — Museum workshop
For kids 8 –12, 13:30 –17:00 br>Find out how to manufacture things without electrical machines.
August 31 — “Smugglers, showmen and vagabonds” 14 – 17 For kids 8 –13. What was life like for people 100 years ago?

Freilichtmuseum Massing
July 23 — Potato Pastoral 14–17
For kids, preparing potato dishes, printing with carved potatoes and working with handmade paints.
August 2 — “Work and Play,” adventure day for kids.
August 20 — Massinger Arntbier sponsored beer festival. Freilichtmuseum Finsterau
July 16 — Early craftsmanship demonstrations. 13:00 –16:00
August 25 — Singer and musician meeting. 19:30

Fränkisches Freilandmuseum
July 22+23 — Museum festival featuring a handicrafts market, folk music and a beer garden.

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