05 May 2011

Verkershaus Der Schweiz

The Verkershaus Der Schweiz complex (otherwise known as the transportation museum) is the most popular museum in Switzerland. It's easy to see why. The exhibits are beautifully designed, interesting and engaging. We spent more time there than at any other museum on the trip, I think, and had a blast.
One of the immediately captivating exhibits is the one on cars and motorcycles. The vehicles are displayed in a huge, automated-parking system of shelves. A viewing station is set up where people can vote on the next car to be taken down and brought close. It was endlessly fascinating to see the huge trays slid in and out of their slots.
Trains, of course, took up a whole hall. There were a lot of people there just for the this section of the museum, if the number of conductor hats was any indication. One locomotive had been cut in two down the middle so that the inner workings of the steam chamber and engine could be seen. This "chocolate car" was pretty and was dwarfed by the larger carriages around it.
Being a Swiss museum, there was a whole floor of one building dedicated to ski lifts. A few gondolas, trams and t-bars were set up.
There was also a whole shipping building, a flight building and a large outdoor space where they had a 747 and some bungee trampolines. In the airplane hall, two flight simulator machines were drawing a crowd. We waited almost half an hour to fly the fighter jet thing, which spun upside-down and backwards and made us laugh harder than we expected it to.
One of the cooler things there, though it was slightly tangential to transportation, was a large room with a highly detailed map of Switzerland on the floor. Kids shuffled around in slippers, looking through microscopes at Bern and Luzern and the Alps. The image was put together from satellite photos taken of the country, and was pretty cool.
The whole museum was great fun: it seemed like every exhibit was surprising and put forward in a wholly new way. The curatorial work was more impressive, I think, than the collection, and that wasn't a bad thing. If you have an afternoon in Luzern, it's certainly worth tearing yourself away from the waterside to check out.


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