Some people collect stamps – I collect museum tickets. The more eccentric the better. Often the smaller and stranger museums are the ones which the most personal attention has gone in to. They are not designed from the point of view ‘what would people like’ but ‘what would my neighbours like’. B once visited the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb; and a few years back I had the opportunity to see the Icelandic Phallological Museum in Húsávik. The website states it has moved to Reykjavik since; which I find a little sad in a way? Before it was a kind of weird place to find, in a small fishing village; now it is more of a sensationalist tourist attraction anyone with a layover to the US can visit. Then again, I can only applaud increased accessibility to such a treasure, right?
So, the other day I was entering ‘local-village-name + museum’ into Google, in an attempt to make weekends more exciting. It took a while, but eventually I had a hit on Baiersdorf. From March till November, on Saturdays and Sundays, they open their Horseradish Museum. Entry is 2 EUR, and comes with a small sample pot of Horseradish puree. What is not to love!
Of course every information sign is in German, and, correct me if I am wrong, but the museum lady looked very surprised to find foreigners coming for a visit. I got to practice a lot of my German vocabulary! Anyway, if you do not speak German, do not let it stop you. There are lots of images and artefacts, plus interactive exhibits, so it is definitely understandable without the language. The first part of the exhibit explains about the way in which horseradishes grow, and horseradish agriculture. Then there was a section with history. It all kind of begins with Schloß Scharfeneck; this magnificent-sounding building was destroyed and re-built 3 times between the 14th and 19th century, before they gave up, and it is now a ruin. Apparently one ‘Johann the Alchemist‘, who lived there, planted the first then-exotic horseradish in the 15th century. It was a massive hit and things kind of exploded from there. By the beginning of the 19th century it was the biggest source of income for the town. There were lots of businesses based around the little root vegetable, but the most successful of them, set up by a man named Schamel, is still going today and of course runs this little museum. Exhibits included a live horseradish field, horseradish grating, and videos with the history of horseradish production. If you were ever wondering anything about horseradishes, this will surely satisfy your curiousity.
Museum Lady was very keen on us leaving a message in the guestbook, and she sounded a little disappointed when I declared I wrote it in English. I really should have had a look at the other entries! Sigh I will cycle back some time. It was basically lunchtime then, so hunger probably blinded my inquisitiveness. I mean we have to go back either way, because I have to find the ruins of Schloß Scharfeneck now. There’s not all that many ruins in the area so cannot leave a good one like that alone!
On a side-note: Baiersdorf is one of the bigger villages around here. It has an S-Bahn station. And three supermarkets. And a pharmacy. And a Greek restaurant. And a pizzeria. And supposedly, an ice-cream parlour! Imagine all the summertime fun that can be had there. There are probably a dozen churches there as well (they are really into Christianity in the Bavarian countryside) including a tiny little St. Nicholas church. Being Dutch, he is my favourite Saint of course. The sign on the outside announced that worship of St. Nicholas first began in Baiersdorf in the 12th century. Then there is the usual sequence of building church, getting destroyed, re-building, and so forth. It is still possible to detect some nice Gothic arches though.
All things put together, that is a good itinerary for one small Franconian village. Horseradish Museum, ruins of a grand Schloß, and a Medieval church. Choice between Greek or Italian, or of course one of a handful of excellent bakeries. I still think the Bavarian countryside was a fantastic place to come to write up my PhD thesis, because nothing ever happens and everything is closed on Sundays. But possibly not as boring as it first seems?