By Eric Chau
After spending a few hours at the Porsche Museum, we started the 6 km drive into Stuttgart to the Mercedes Museum. As I mentioned in the last article, it was the last weekend for Octoberfest– well, it turns out, Stuttgart has a competing event to Munich out on the riverfront which is where Mercedes headquarters is located. On the riverfront, there is also a large football (soccer) stadium adjacent to the HQ, the museum and one of their assembly facilities. Of course, this particular Sunday there was a football match. Needless to say, our 6 km drive turned into one blocked off road after another until finally, after an hour and a half, having been thwarted at every turn to get into the real parking lot, we parked illegally in one of the Mercedes company car parking lots.
As an aside, a football event in Germany is a significant undertaking. Like the US, spectators come dressed in their team’s livery and a general air of anticipation. Contrasting this are large numbers of police armed with batons and sub-machine guns patrolling the train stations and thoroughfares. This is to maintain calm amid the potential for German soccer hooliganism. Also there is a generous flow of beer at the soccer game available both inside the stadium and also outside on the street – as a result, the potential for disorderly conduct is there and worse – any public place can become a bathroom! Takes a bit getting use to if that’s even possible.
We trudged through the crowd and made our way to the Museum.
As with all things Mercedes, it is absolutely a class act. They make the Porsche Museum feel like a glorified garage (albeit a fabulous one). The Mercedes building is 8 stores tall and has a heart shaped cross-section. Admission costs 8 Euros, as does the Porsche Museum, but with it come a Mercedes Museum lanyard for keeps and a hand held recorded playback device in the language of your choosing. These are available at the Porsche museum also but at an extra charge. Upon entering into the huge atrium, you make your way towards the elevator, an art deco spaceship looking one, to go to the top floor.
You first meet up with a horse. This begins your journey through Mercedes history spiraling down the 8 floors of the museum. The original vehicles, cars and boats, and engines from 1900 are displayed on the top floor. You walk through the years of history as you make your way from floor to floor. From the old vehicles that resemble mechanical carriages with wooden spoke wheels to the classic vehicles of the 1920s, 1930s; these are all laid out in displays and stands. Not as accessible as the Porsches, understandably so, but still unobstructed and available.
As you make your way past 1940s the displays become topical – the commercial trucks, the limousines, the sports cars. As you make your way through to the modern era, there are displays of the race cars, the concept cars, the supercars. All laid out elegantly and purposefully.
One of the more special aspects of this museum, interlaced with the history of Mercedes is the history of Germany through these years. They do this with a great deal of candor, they make mention of the Nazi times, the forced labor, the obliteration of the factories by the US bombings, the reconstruction, and the rise back to premier luxury status. This makes the story more compelling and poignant.
Tips on visiting, plan on spending easily 4 hours at this museum. The depth of the history and the enormity of the collection are worth the time. Bring a tripod – even though the sunlight streamed through the huge glass windows, still not enough light to do high quality pictures. Check to see if it is a football day – parking could become problematic. The museum is closed on Mondays except on special holidays.