Miniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway, was hands down the family’s favorite stop on our recent trip to Hamburg, Germany. This may seem obvious when you consider my husband’s enthusiasm for and my three-year-old’s obsession with trains. (See also: our trip to the world’s largest railway museum and our day out with Thomas.) But, you know, I was there, too. With the baby.
If you, like me, aren’t a model train enthusiast (you aren’t?), there’s likely no way you can imagine what this place is like. It’s 14,000 square feet of model train. That’s about 7-10 houses’ worth of track, roads, (fake) rock, trees and grass, covered with miniature train stations, houses, apartments, office buildings, warehouses, sky scrapers, casinos, hospitals, hotels, castles, restaurants, factories, festivals, carnivals, stadiums. Tunnels, caves, lakes, rivers, mountains, canyons and bridges. With trains (930, to be exact) quietly chugging along and car and truck lights glowing everywhere you look.
There were construction sites. Accident scenes. Concerts. Ski slopes.
Every 15 minutes dusk fell, then night, showcasing the approximately 335,000 lights.
THERE WAS A WORKING AIRPORT.
A water-filled harbor with a WORKING CRUISE SHIP. Even a space shuttle launch!
It all just kept going and going, taking you from Switzerland to Germany to the imaginary Knuffigen then America and Scandinavia. The world itself was marvelous. (And it’s expanding!) Of course my guys were all in awe of the trains and moving parts.
And that was just the setting. I found the penny-height people to be the most fascinating. The 215,000 figurines that populated the miniature world provided fuel for stories. Where are the passengers going? What deal are the office workers in the midst of? The people are what make the world realistic and fantastic. The concert-goers, holiday-makers, emergency responders, workers.
Activation buttons throughout the exhibit allowed you to light up vignettes, like this underground lab at Area 51, or set small features like a bungee jumper or weather balloon in motion.
I was delighted to discover the little winks from the creators throughout the Wunderland. The worker spilling a vat of chocolate in the chocolate factory (that actually dispensed little Lindt chocolate bars!). The couple schtupping on a desk on the top floor of an office building. The strong man lifting a car in a traffic jam. The bank robbers just moments away from being busted. The “lovers” in a sunflower field that made everyone who spotted them blush. The unicorn on the hillside. The scuba-diving cows.
The thought that went into the creation of Minitaur Wunderland is deeply impressive. It did take 580,000 hours to build, after all!
While the baby enjoyed watching the trains, trucks and planes whizz by, nearly as much as his brother, lunch time approached quickly. We could have eaten at the on-site restaurant, but we had our hearts set on a nearby crêperie. There are many details I missed. I would love to return after some expansion is complete. Italy is currently under construction. France, Great Britain and Africa are planned (through 2019). If you have a chance to visit, don’t miss it. It really is astounding!