By Mike Gluth
How do you add to a vacation in the Alps after visiting the centuries-old Ettal Abbey (and brewery), touring the Oberammergau Passion Play Theater, and all without traffic jams? You head over to the Erwin Hymer Museum in Bad Waldsee, Germany! I have to admit, I’m a sucker for museums and historical monuments, but when you merge a museum with our favorite way to travel – count us in!
How did we hear of the museum? My wife and I live just outside Frankfurt, Germany and were channel-surfing one evening. We saw a show on old RVs and how Germany embraced camping over the decades. Several older trailers and a few motorized RVs looked suspiciously clean, just like museum pieces, so we waited for the credits and, sure enough, “Vielen Dank Erwin Hymer Museum”. We’d never heard of it but decided to hit the road.
Parking is free and plentiful for both large and small RVs. Admission will run adults 9.50 (Euros) and for children 4.50 (again, Euros). The museum restaurant offers meals starting at 10 Euros.
Erwin Hymer was born in 1930 and after WWII he continued his education, eventually assisting Claudius Dornier in developing Germany’s first post-war aircraft in Spain. He brought his engineering talents home to Bad Waldsee, a beautiful area with rolling hills and pastures, where he started his Hymer factory. He is remembered as a very people-oriented man whose talents for marketing and networking resulted in sales all over Europe and knocked on the door of the US market just before his passing in 2013.
The museum is gorgeous! Airy, brightly lit, air-conditioned, modern and welcoming. There are no stairs to climb, but if the ramps to and from the 2nd floor are a challenge, there is an elevator. Those who have traveled to Europe may have noticed that not many facilities are handicap-accessible.
The museum sets the vehicles by North, South, East, West, American, former East German and India. Turn the corner behind the reception desk and trailers, tow vehicles and campers await. The first display is a Split Window VW Kaefer (Bug) towing a small camping trailer. It just gets better from there.
There were several original vehicles from Hymer’s early productions, including a home-made mini-bike when he was a young man. The trailers from the 1920s thru the 1960s range from incredibly small to very well appointed. The first raised roof trailer is presented. The raised roof was designed because his wife was a painter and needed more sunlight for her hobby.
The former East German trailers are quite small. Their engines were anemic, at best, and couldn’t tow much. An East-German Trabant 601, 26 Horsepower is on display with a rooftop tent. This was a very popular setup during those pre-unified days. There is an Edsel parked in front of a 1970’s Airstream trailer representing the U.S. This is a great museum, especially if you are visiting Lake Constance, just an hour away. For our UK friends, it is 600 miles from Calais, France. One side note – Signage is in German, but even if you don’t speak the language, this museum is well worth the visit.
Visit the museum’s website here.
About us – Mike Gluth and his wife Elisabeth currently live in Germany and own a 2005 Fleetwood Tioga 31-foot motorhome in which they have traveled throughout Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Holland. The RV is currently in North Carolina as they prepare to return stateside. Their favorite trips were to Normandy (twice) and just about anywhere with wide roads and good beer.