Packaging Museum Heidelberg

Packaging Museum Heidelberg

Folks usually end up in Heidelberg, Germany, in awe of the medieval castle looming over the city, tasting regional wines, and wandering narrow winding cobblestone streets. And we’re writing about a Packaging Museum?

Yup. You can read about all the other stuff someplace else. Add this Packaging Museum to your to-do list in the tiny tourist town of Heidelberg! But keep your eyes open or you’ll miss it since it’s at the end of a narrow alley off the main street (Hauptstrasse 22, to be exact). All that’s there is an arched opening and a sign, in German: Deutsches Verpackungsmuseum (German Packaging Museumwww.verpackungsmuseum.de).

It’s small but worth an hour of your time if you have any interest whatsoever in branding, marketing, retailing, logos and their development, consumer products, packaging or history. We wandered in on a whim at the end of a cool drizzly winter day, taking the dapper older man at the desk a bit by surprise she thinks. But we ended up with a personal tour of all the goodies in the cases in the old church building. Long story short, the museum is the only one of its kind in Germany or in Europe. It is supported by dozens of brands and used for school groups to show packaging and branding history over the last century-plus with brands most will recognize: Nivea, Bahlsen, Knorr, Nestle, Siemens, Dr. Oetker, Maggi, Brandt, etc. The brands also use the location as a place to bring guests, hold seminars and do business meetings.

There is old machinery that did the wrapping of chocolate squares – one that still works and is kindly demonstrated, with all getting a little chocolate afterward. There is a glass showcase with dollhouse-size store replicas that show how shops 100 years ago sold goods – to help youngsters understand the reasoning behind some types of packaging or how it developed.

Heidelberg Packaging Museum Display 2014-01-16One story the man told us: The German word for cookies is “Keks,” which is pronounced “cakes.” Turns out the cookie and baked goods company Bahlsen made up that word! In the early 1900s, German cookie packaging actually had the English word “cakes” on it, but then came the war and the Germans didn’t like the English very much. Bahlsen, in its wisdom, knew it could not totally change the word; instead, it created a new German word that was pronounced nearly the same. (Always skeptical, we checked out his story in the all-powerful German Duden dictionary and, lo and behold, there is the world, created in 1915 from the word “cakes!”)

Be sure to check the hours since they are limited. At the time of this writing in early 2014, the museum was closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and only open 1-6 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. The man who is on site speaks some English although signage is all in German. No matter, you’ll still enjoy the exhibits.

HITT Tip: Now, you’re in need of a great dinner of regional specialties and wines in a small, cozy, cellar-like restaurant that’s a few hundred years old, right? Well, of course! Avoid the main strip and head down the narrow street called Bauamtsgasse, a rather dark alley-like passage to Schnitzelbank (www.schnitzelbank-heidelberg.de) at No. 7 There aren’t more than about 40 or so seats, it’s filled with locals, and although basically illegal, there is a back “club” room with a tightly sealing door where they retreat from the tiny dining room for a smoke. Get there early or book a table, or you can forget getting a seat. The ceilings are low, the chairs and tables are carved up with names and dates by dozens of decades of students in the university town, and the food is hearty and inexpensive. Expect sausages, “spätzle” noodles and cheese, hearty pork roasts or venison goulash, red cabbage and just the stuff you come to Germany to eat. Yes, yes, if you must they do have a couple of rather plentiful and delicious salads too. Gourmet? No. Good and authentic? Absolutely. Take the local wine from the barrel (“vom Fass”).

Heidelberg Schnitzelbank

HITT Tip: With a belly filled with dumplings, pork roast and cabbage, you’ll want a walk or perhaps a run the next day. Cross the Old Bridge and head up, up, up “Schlangenweg” stairway to Philosopher’s Way (Philosophen Weg), across the river from the old town. Head eastward, enjoying the view. Want more? When it ends, drop down to the river and keep going along the riverfront. You’ll be on a narrow path in less than mile where you may get lucky and see boats going through the locks along the river. Suddenly, you’re away from town and people and out in the forest! Runners and long-distance walkers can easily get in 7-10 or more miles round trip.