'Flying cigars', 'luxury liners of the air', 'giants of the skies': ever since the invention of airships they have sparked people's imagination. People are also the main focus of the Zeppelin Museum at Friedrichshafen. Who was this Count Ferdinand Zeppelin sticking against all odds with the idea of a profitable airship aviation until his death in 1917? What did spur the engineers who conceived and optimised the airship's technology? Which tasks did the captains, radio operators and the rest of the on-board crew perform? Exploring the museum makes it easy to experience the enthusiasm of the early pioneers. It starts with a big screen showing original footage of historical Zeppelin flights. A 3D documentary provides an almost physical impression of the airships' tremendous size. Visitors who board a full-scale replica of the passenger cabins once built for the Hindenburg will marvel at the luxurious interior design of this flying hotel. Detailed models as well as films and photographs recount the history of airship aviation from its beginnings in the 18th century until today. Lastly, and importantly, don't miss the displays experimenting with basic physical issues of airship engineering - it's big fun!
The museums' 'Zeppelin chamber of marvels' is a vivid example of the success of the 'brand' Zeppelin: on-board tableware, Zeppelin models made of tin, Zeppelin sausages, Zeppelin alarm clocks, an ash tray in the shape of an airship - the merchandising seems to be unlimited. Yet, the company's beginnings were anything but promising. The "Lenkbare Luftfahrzug" (steerable airship-train) that Count Ferdinand Zeppelin first drafted in 1894 was followed by almost 20 years of disastrous setbacks. Until 1913 not less than 13 of 19 airships built so far were destroyed by accident. Each of these crashes generated a huge public interest and in one case even led to an unprecedented fundraising campaign fuelled by aviation enthusiasts, eventually totalling 6.1 million marks. Thus, the dream of the "foolish count of the Bodensee (Lake Constance)" finally became properly funded. The Deutsche Luftschifffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft (DELAG, German Airship Travel Corporation), founded in 1909, and the Zeppelin foundation paved the way for the successful civil, and particularly military use of airships. The years after World War I saw the rise of luxurious passenger airships. Highlights include the 1929 circumnavigation of the globe by the "Graf Zeppelin" and the construction of the "Hindenburg" in 1936, with its 254 metres in length the largest airship ever built. Its name is, however, linked to the most spectacular accident - the images of the Lakehurst fire disaster were seen around the world. The final seal on the former 'giants of the skies' is set by the Nazi regime in 1940: it ordered the scrapping of the last remaining airships and the blast of all associated hangars.
The museum that started as a regional museum in 1869, and installed a "Zeppelin Cabinet" for the first time in 1912 holds the largest collection of airship aviation exhibits worldwide, ranging from rigid Zeppelins of historic times to the semi-rigid ones of today. After several relocations the collection is now based in the listed and extensively refurbished Bauhaus-style former harbour station since 1996.
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May to October:
daily 9am-5pm, last admission 4.30pm
November to April:
Tuesday - Sunday 10am-5pm, last admission 4.30pm