Unfortunately, the first thing we decided to do in Hamburg was to go and see Miniatur Wunderland. It’s a scale model village type thing. It had good reviews, so we thought we’d pop in for an hour… we enjoyed ourselves so much, were there all day!
Miniatur Wunderland is situated in one of the old warehouses in Hamburg’s many docks. There are about 20 massive dioramas. Most of them are mini versions of cities or even countries, all in 1:87 scale, which is the scale of Hornby trains. Many of the scenes revolve around trains, they have of 15km of track! But that’s not the only moving parts of the scenes. Lots of vehicles move on rail-less tracks and everything is lit, which really brings it to life. There are lots of buttons that activate movements in the scenes, which are often quite fun. Or special events, like in one of the cities were a seemingly random building catches fire (smoke and light effects) and all the fire engines with their flashing lights and siren sound effects from all over the city scene converge on it, causing traffic gridlock. We watched this for about half an hour and it was a different fire every time.
A special mention goes to the airport. It has 52 planes, most of which can move. The planes appear at a pretty impressive speed through a curtain, elevated on stilts that retract as the plane scoots down the runway to land and stop. The stilts then retract and the lights on the runway light up to guide the plane along the taxiways to its gate. A trackless system then takes over so the planes taxi along to a gate. And as there are many gates, it will be the correct gate type for that plane. When it has reached the gate, over the next few minutes, service vehicles (of the correct branding for that plane!) appear for refuel, water, crew, cargo, passengers, or whatever is appropriate. The plane will then be pushed back and then taxi back to the runway to take off. The longer we watched this, the more details we saw. Like the whole system actually has a flight departure and arrival board. And occasionally the wind changes direction, so they land and take off in the other direction. And it’s not a linear thing, there can be several planes waiting to take off or be taxiing back to the gates at the same time. I got so geeked out that I wanted to volunteer to join their engineering team right there!
Across the whole thing though, the bit that really held our interest though was all the easter eggs, subtle or half hidden bits that take a while to spot that are a bit of a joke. There are lots of references to films, some political statements, and lots of plain comical bits. My favourite one was, again, at the airport where the Millennium Falcon would occasionally land, complete with its own sound effects and cause chaos.
After leaving Miniatur Wunderland, we had just enough time to rush to the nearest Starbucks so Joolz could get the obligatory city mug, then we rushed back to The Van just before our parking ran out. We had already decided that we’ll have to go back to Hamburg again, partly so we can go to Miniatur Wunderland again and spot more of the easter eggs! We also want to explore the rest of the city.
But for now we had to race west…