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Would you travel half-way around the world to visit a museum? If you've answered "yes" or "maybe," then we like you already, and perhaps you'll enjoy this first-person tale of a trip for exactly that purpose.
Part 1: Checking off the Zeppelin Museum
Part 2: Heading into the Zeppelin HQ and hangar
Part 3: Maybe never leaving?
In April 2011, Retronaut posted a series of vintage color photographs of the infamous Hindenburg airship. In mid 2012, I discovered there was an entire museum dedicated to it. Needing only one good reason to justify any of my travels, it was only a few months later I walked through the doors of the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany and climbed into the belly of a 1:1 scale model of the LZ 129 "Hindenburg" Zeppelin.
You may remember the Hindenburg from the tragedy of May 6, 1937, the one which forever impressed the phrase "Oh, the humanity" on, well, humanity. For all intents and purposes, that is the day the Zeppelin died, as flames engulfed the airship while docking at NJ's Lakehurst Naval Air Station and squelched any hope of a future for airships as reliable commercial transportation.
For a time, these hydrogen-filled, diesel-powered balloons were, nonetheless, the wave of the future...above the waves. They had novelty and stability on their side; whereas an ocean crossing could be a prescription for one week of mal de mer, a Zeppelin sailed along smoothly at a few thousand feet up, free from the motion of the ocean.
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The skies are gray. The building is gray. The airships are gray. Waitairships?! Yeah, we just said airships.
It's in the 40s here in Friedrichshafen, Germany, but we've taken this detour to the southern edge of the country for a few reasons that don't care what the weather forecast says.
For one, it's the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship, way back when Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin decided to get in the balloon business. Perhaps you're most familiar with the Hindenburg (cue "oh the humanity") as that was a Zeppelin craft, though technology means they're built far safer and better these days. At the Zeppelin Halle near Friedrichshafen-Bodensee Airport, the dirigibles still take passengers up on the same route over Lake Constance as the Count's 1900 maiden flight. In town, there's that Zeppelin Museum we've previously written about.