Exploring Germany: Mühlenplatz (Or, Visit Every Important Building in Germany in Fifteen Minutes)

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

We biked 60 kilometers that day.  It had rained as we set up our tent (after 14 km in the rain between train and camp, my phone falling repeatedly onto the concrete, the gps failing).  It had rained during the Trendelburg Mittelalterfest.  If the water from the overflowing creek beside our tent hadn’t been louder than raindrops, I would be able to tell you that it rained all night.  Our tent was missing pieces.  Our sleeping bags were too thin.  We spent the early mornings hiding in the heated laundry and wash room, drying our shoes on the radiator and drinking instant coffee out of a thin aluminum mug while Winter played in the sink.  It had been summer when we left home, but when we arrived in Trendelburg, it was fall, if only in spirit.

We had plans—castles to visit, places to bike—but the rain, the fucking rain.  When the sun came out on Friday, we lapped it up, hungry dogs.  We got onto our bikes—Winter and I on one, Tea on another—and took the Märchenstrasse (Fairy Tale Road) bike trail to the north.  Suddenly, our little weekend vacation felt perfect.  We should have been at home getting ready for the chickens we were planning on getting, but on a whim, we packed up our bikes, a borrowed tent, and nothing that would be remotely warm or waterproof enough, and took a train to a station outside of Kassel instead.  We still haven’t gotten those chickens.

The bike trail was gorgeous, first following the Diemal and then the Weser rivers through the type of German forests that remind me of Pennsylvania.  The beginning of our trip had been miserable.  Jovial, but cold and uncomfortable and damp.  Now the sun was shining, and its absence during the past two days made its warmth on our skin, the light on the river and the trees, our bikes, the existence of the path, the sun, the air, the sky, all of it, feel like magic.

I love German bike trails.  So well marked.  So well maintained.  You can get anywhere in this country by bike, absolutely anywhere.  There are over 200 bike trails covering something like 70,000 kilometers.  Want to bike from Frankfurt to Berlin?  It’ll take a while, but you can do it, possibly without ever having to get on a road with cars.  Don’t like hills?  Bike along a river.  The bike trails are one of the first things I think of when people ask me whether or not I ever plan on returning to America.  No, no, I say, couldn’t stand to say goodbye to those bike trails.

Bike path along the Weser. Germany

By chance, I had read about Mühlenplatz in a flier detailing the local sights and a circular bike trail that could bring a body to a number of sights along the Fairy Tale Road. Mühlenplatz is an outdoor museum containing miniature models of many of Germany’s most important castles, buildings, and mills. It sounded slightly weird—in that roadside stop, “See the Biggest Rubberband Ball in the World” kind of way—and looked like the kind of thing I would like taking pictures of and a two-year-old would like running around.  Correct on both counts.

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

It was a strange and wonderful little place. Admission was an easy-to-part-with 2 euro for adults, nothing for kids under 5 years old.  The mills were fenced off, but the rest, well let’s just say that two year olds can’t read signs.

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

And in Germany, isn’t there always a sign?  (Translation: Please don’t touch the models.) Ah well. She didn’t get us kicked out, even when she took off her shoes and threw them in the creek. Even when she tried to climb Neuschwanstein. Even when she tried to open the windows off all the little houses.

There is something magical about miniatures.  As a child, I loved to imagine the tiny villages that wood fairies might inhabit in the forest or to read about little people who could sleep in a match box and use a needle as a spear.  Beside its weirdness, layered around it, Mühlenplatz has some of that magic, the magic of looking in on another world, one frozen by your gaze, one that will spring back into life when you turn your back. Especially on a sunny day after a long bike ride, seen over the top of a quickly melting ice cream cone.

Mühlenplatz, Oberweser, Germany

9 Comments on “Exploring Germany: Mühlenplatz (Or, Visit Every Important Building in Germany in Fifteen Minutes)

  1. This is so great! I didn’t realize Germany had a thing for miniature models until I visited Miniaturwunderland while in Hamburg. Multiple floor of a huge building, all full of miniature models of cities, airports, everything. I’m fascinated by the fascination, and also couldn’t stop taking photos of all the mini little things.

  2. My husband and I have been trying to decide where in Europe we most want to expatriate (sometime in the next five years or so), but the news that one way or another, you can get ANYWHERE, even between cities, on bike trails may have solidified my top choice at the moment. I should start learning German now.

  3. Hey Nikki,

    I love this post so much – biking and miniature towns – what a perfect time! In November I’m going to run a series of stories and essays inspired by David Byrne’s book The Bicycle Diaries. I know you are an extremely busy person, but would you like to write a short something about your bicycle adventures for my blog, Je Suis Une Monstre? If you’re interested, drop me a line by email and I’ll tell you more 🙂
    Warm hugs from Berlin.
    Katie. X

  4. I am so so so happy you figured out how to keep posting! I waited all summer clicking to find you. And here you are! I love reading your adventures and about your little one and your little house and what you are reading.

    welcome back! (since moving from germany at the end of 2012, i recently told pittsburgh to fuck itself and took the kids to move back to chicago first into a friend’s attic and then into a different friend’s parents little apartment and restarted an acupuncture practice and celebrated some kids’ birthdays and tried to make some kid underwear)

  5. Hmm is anyone else encountering probles with the
    pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my
    ennd or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

    • Love your writing and so interested in tiny houses, sight seeing in Germany and bike riding. I was in Germany for 9 days years ago. Lived in a castle those nine days in Munich. Visited Austria as well. So interesting. So beautiful. Way too short of a visit.

  6. Miniatures are so much fun! I’m with your daughter — I’d definitely be tempted to open the windows! Gotta see if there is in fact actually miniature people in there as well 😀 Glad you got a bit of sun at the end. Yeah, biking and camping in the rain can be miserable.

  7. Whoa – that’s so cool and your photos are lovely! I shall put it on my ever-growing list of places to visit in Germany haha 🙂

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