I finally got round to visiting the potato museum. I’ve wanted to visit for ages, even though Laurel Robbins had told me it wasn’t all that. I went to see the Black Keys on Tuesday with my friend Lilian, and we finally planned our trip to the Kartoffelmuseum. It’s at Ostbahnhof, in a fairly inconspicuous building (I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe a giant potato statue outside, but no no, there’s nothing). The building’s marked with a sensible silver plaque.
We were the first (and I think only) visitors today, arriving at 1pm and waking up the security guard. Entrance was free, though we were warned to keep our handbags close to our bodies, so as not to knock any potatoes flying.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting that much from a museum all about potatoes, but they (“they” – the potato people) have put quite an effort into the entire museum. Boards explained how potatoes were used as mobile hot water bottles in the eighteenth century, with hot potatoes being carried to keep hands warm. We learnt the linguistic heritage of the word “Kartoffel” (it originates from the word “Trüffel”). We witnessed the popularity of potatoes, and how some potato fans had had potato jewellery made, or how some had made potato-shaped telephones.
The most bizarre potato-paraphernalia was an idea from Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky, who decorated a Christmas tree with golden potatoes in 1755, to encourage the potato to become a nutritional staple in Germany.
It’s a small museum – you can spend around half an hour wandering around. We spoke to the security guard, who confirmed that kids love it – and many school trips come to teach the children about potatoes – a guided tour costs 3 €, if you’re interested.
I was so taken with the Kartoffelmuseum that I went and bought a potato postcard.
If you spend an afternoon at the Kartoffelmuseum, I can highly recommend the Cafe im Hinterhof for a hot cup of tea afterwards. Unfortunately, it was ridiculously full when we arrived, so we headed to Cafe Haidhausen for a naughty hot chocolate with cream.