Warning: I went crazy with my camera tonight, taking well over 500 photos, filling a memory card and draining a battery – as well as waking up with a very stiff and sore wrist the day after. I did my best to cull the photos as much as possible, but I grew so attached to all the stories. So, there is going to be a LOT of photos.
Our friends (and our guidebook) suggested that we book tickets in advance to avoid queuing. This was my first hint that it was more than just a bunch of model trains. Since we don’t really know where we’re going to end up, I had to wait until last night to book the ticket – which meant that the first available entry was at 5:30PM. This gave us time to wander around Hamburg first. There wasn’t much of a queue when we arrived, but it still seemed to move quite slow – and we were able to walk straight inside.
After passing through the enormous gift shop, making our way to the bathrooms, we were both already impressed by the cafeteria that mocked being on a train.
We passed by one of the workshops, and it appeared that they were working on something from The Walking Dead – though, it could just be our imagination based on a calendar. It was a shame not to see anyone working there – nice that they have a work-life balance and can leave by 5:30PM.
When you purchase tickets, it asks where each guest is from. It was awesome that they actually shared this information with you. I was honestly surprised at how many Australians had visited – more than Japan. I also wondered if there were really 5 people from Vatican City. This should have been a clue that there was going to be lots of scouring for hidden things – like which country had the smallest population visit.
Then, when I got to the bathroom, I was sold on this place. There were tiny displays in photo frames, just showing a single scene, and they were hilarious. I honestly spent about 5 minutes looking at all the different stories that were on display, enjoying finding the small hidden details – there was a queue for the women’s bathroom.
We finally made our way upstairs and got our first views of the miniature wonderland, and I realised just how crazy several of my ideas were. Firstly, I thought we could do this and then go out for dinner. Secondly, I thought it was just a heap of model trains.
We started in U.S.A, and we proceeded to pick apart every inch of the model, finding as many little details and stories as possible, like Eliot flying with E.T.
We also got our first taste of it changing into night time, which at first was an awesome experience, with the lights fading to pink/red, and then the deep blue of night, before another warm morning glow, and the bright white daylight. It completely changed some scenes, with small towns transforming into twinkling Christmas scenes, or Vegas and Miami glowing with the neon lights.
It later got a tiny bit annoying, as you were busy scouring the scenes, only to have it suddenly go dark. But, some of the best hidden scenes were only visible at night, so it paid off. I’m skipping ahead, but the office block with the crazy workers inside awesome. People bowing and praying to Coffee, crazed work parties with people photocopying their arse, and so many adult movie shoots!
Other favourite night scenes included a rock band and their after party, with the SWAT team in the floor above, as well as countless other more adult scenes with dominatrices and video cameras – but I’m getting out of chronological order.
It was now, after about 15-minutes of pure amazement that we started to notice the crowds. There was still enough space to walk around, and generally get close to the miniatures, but there was still quite a lot of pushing – especially from the kids. Thankfully they left after an hour or two, giving us much more space to enjoy the masterpieces.
The best way I could describe it is a three-dimensional Where’s Wally. There were even a few hidden characters listed to try and find, like lovers in a field of flowers, or a floating body, or Superman to find. While we didn’t intentionally search for these, it was great when we spotted them, feeling some kind of achievement – though, really, the biggest achievement was stamina and determination.
I was now starting to notice the other details, like the incredible automation that these towns have. We’d already noticed the nice transition from day into night (and back), but it was all the tiny details that went along with it, like streetlights that flickered as they lit up, or cars that now turned their headlights on. And, speaking of cars, it was incredible to see them turn on brake lights as they approached intersections, and then blinked their indicators as they turned corners. Actually, getting to the basics, it was really cool to just see cars driving around a city.
We had just finished the America section, and the scale of this place was just beginning to sink in. We still had so much to see. I suddenly felt exhausted at the thought of what lay ahead.
Of course, Hamburg was represented, but not being intimately familiar with the city, I couldn’t pick out too many things that I recognised – but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the details.
I was a little more familiar with Scandinavia, but there was still so much new to us – and an absolute feast of details to find, like dragons deep inside caves filled with gold.
Germany was great, though, I’d struggle to say one that wasn’t. We loved the Oktoberfest under Neuschwanstein Castle, the tractor racing, and the prostitutes working hard in their little motorhomes.
It was about now that we stopped for a small snack in the café, as we realised that there was no way we were going to leave before closing time – and if we didn’t eat, we wouldn’t survive until closing time. For about the fifth time this week, we grabbed some chips/sauce, though unsurprisingly, they weren’t as good as the ones in Belgium/Netherlands.
This was one of the largest areas, stretching across a truly enormous space. It was a recreation of the Hamburg Airport – which we didn’t visit in real life. There were planes from many different carriers docked and parked, fuel tankers and baggage carriers scurrying about, too. But, the big ticket was watching the planes take off (and land). They would approach the runway, the engines would spool up, and they would eventually lift their noses and take flight, disappearing into the cloudy grey sky/wall. Watching in reverse, it was incredible to see the tiny details as the planes landed, as they struggled with a cross wind, and squelched as their tyres made contact.
This was all interesting until we saw the MILLENIUM FALCON!!! (emphasis entirely mine) approaching the runway. Everything else was going to take a backseat until this was gone from view. It waited for a plane to land, then approached the runway. It lifted off the ground, with engines glowing, and then proceeded to speed down the runway to the great hole in the sky. If I wasn’t already in love with the designers here, I was now. We also saw (though firstly heard) other bizarre objects, like a giant bee!
There was also some of my favourite scenes surrounding the airport, like punks with their Lambourghini, the Three Wise Men with baby Jesus, shopping cart racing, overladen cars causing traffic jams at the entrance to underground parking, a wealthy Arab man with his lion and extreme luggage – and the above mentioned night scenes in the hotel windows.
Behind The Scenes
It was fantastic that they actually gave you a view into how this wonderland was run. You could see the traffic controllers, watching the giant screens showing the movement of traffic, as well as some cameras that showed a real view of the cities.
It was also amazing seeing the automation hardware (with miniatures playing with components, of course), as well as a recreation of this control centre with miniatures (and some nasty looking science taking place below ground – is that Honey I Shrunk the Kids?)
Evil Genius Lair
One of my favourite areas was a hidden bunker in the stairway between floors. We had Doctor Octopus helping on the Philadelphia Project, Men in Black, the film set used to fake the moon landings and so much more. It was tiny, but dense with details – and not overwhelming like some of the cities.
Switzerland had massive mountains (including the Matterhorn), beautiful villages, and torturous roads (with another bike race). I think it was around this point that we started hitting a wall of fatigue.
Having spent weeks and weeks travelling Italy, we were very familiar with Italy. It seemed to feature a Greatest Hits of Italy, featuring Pompei (complete with active Vesuvius, and erotic art in the Pompeii ruins), Truli houses, Positano, Cinque Terre, and San Gimignano.
It was pretty amazing to see a miniature Italian theme world, within Miniatur Wunderland Italy. Very meta and amusing – plus great fun spotting the buildings. I burst into laughter when I saw the men selling handbags, set up on small tablecloths, ready to run at the sight of police. Perfect.
It seemed that they were busy creating Venice, too.
Rome was enormous! It was also a Greatest Hits of the town, with the Spanish Steps, Altar of the Fatherland (complete with an evening light show), and of course, an enormous Colosseum.
Vatican City was equally impressive. I loved the Pope’s secret underground car park, filled with Hollywood classics (and Mario Kart). The monks giving the Popemobile a service was also a hilarious.
Just when we’d thought we’d finally made it to the end, we found a small, but truly amazing display of the history of Hamburg. It showed the same scene in many different eras throughout history, showing not just how the buildings progressed, but also how religion, punishment, society – even avionics and transportation – transformed. It was one of the best historic information displays that we’d seen, and honestly one of my favourite areas. My eyes were blurred, but I still wanted to see it all.
And again, I thought we’d seen it all, and we noticed what seemed to depict Berlin post WWII, starting with near total destruction, the separation of East/West, the wall and segregation, followed by reunification. It was really amazing seeing the small details, like the ethnic groups that made up the different areas changing over time, too.
We spent over 6-hours inside, yet somehow it felt rushed. Our brains were burnt out, and we were dangerously low on energy. Our bodies ached, and my eyes struggled to focus. I had to swap memory cards and batteries half way through, too. It was incredible, but it required serious stamina. Well, it does if you have a Fear of Missing Out like we do, and didn’t want to miss any of the incredible scenes.
It was one of the most incredible attractions that we’d visited. Though, I’d recommend arriving early, and taking a proper lunch break to survive a visit!