With its distinctly grim history and its multifaceted underground culture, there is no place else like Berlin, making it much like the lovably quirky aunt in the family of Europe’s capital cities. With all their spellbinding oddities, these unusual museums capture the essence of this truly unique city.
There is no denying that Berlin has had its share of tumultuousness over the past century, moving from the grips of one totalitarian regime to another. Today, we have to hand it to the city for its phenomenal job of commemorating these ugly and uncomfortable times in its history. There are many monuments and museums dedicated to various facets of Nazism and the Holocaust as well as those that explore what life was like behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin. Berlin’s DDR Museum, for example, features several interactive exhibits and installations that capture the everyday lives of people living under strict surveillance in isolation from the rest of the free world. At this museum, visitors are invited to rummage through cupboards in a reproduction block housing estate and drive a Trabi simulator.
Many cities have museums dedicated to understanding the histories of various artistic movements, but few can boast an entire museum dedicated to the history of puppet theatre. The Puppentheater-Museum Berlin offers a compelling look at how relevant and pervasive this art form is in influencing theatre and modern media. Established in 1986, the Puppentheater-Museum sheds light on the astounding craftsmanship behind puppet making. The collection itself features puppets of all kinds from throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. The museum also offers changing exhibitions and puppet theatre performances, making it appealing to both youth and adult audiences.
People are unlikely to find another culture that honors and celebrates sausages the way Germany does. Amongst many other tasty treats like Berliners, schnitzels, and döner kebabs, the currywurst is probably one of the city’s most iconic dishes. The zany Deutsches Currywurst Museum chronicles just about everything a person might want to know about the origins, history, and cultural significance of the currywurst. The museum is particularly fun because most exhibits are entirely interactive. Oh, and there is an enormous sausage sofa for lounging. Finish a trip to the Deutsches Currywurst Museum by sampling the many varieties of currywurst sold at the snack bar.
Many of the museums featured on this list struck us as unusual for their obscure subject matter just as much as for the way it is presented. The Buchstabenmuseum is remarkable for both of these reasons. According to the museum’s website, its goal is to preserve and document letters. It is the first museum of its kind, and it actually captures an important niche of cultural and urban history through its conservation of typography. The museum specifically focuses on the presentation of three-dimensional signs and their histories. The Buchstabenmuseum is quirky, contemporary and marvelously vibrant.
Monster Kabinett is a bar and museum with a steam-punk vibe. It is covered in graffiti and filled with mechanical monstrosities and contraptions of all kinds. The man behind the monsters is Hannes Heiner, and he creates the monsters from scrap metal and other recycled materials. Heiner explains that each monster has a name and a backstory, too. Monster Kabinett is the perfect spot to get a taste of Berlin’s true underground culture with all its idiosyncrasies. Pass under the arched gateway, cross the enormous courtyard and enjoy a drink at the bar before embarking on this eerie, atmospheric experience.
Design Panoptikum is a museum of surrealist industrial objects. On the historical side, the museum contains a collection of tools used in the realms of medicine, industry, sports, construction, and medicine. The museum, however, does little to describe these items’ significance in the conventional sense. Instead, they are arranged together on antique furniture and illuminated under the dim glow of an equally odd collection of lamps to form a series of installations. The museum also contains a myriad of human-machine hybrids where metal pieces are attached to replicas of human body parts. These are meant to serve as an exploration of the relationship between man and machine throughout the industrial era.