It goes without saying, but we love trains. Fast and slow, big and small. At Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, you can see the globe’s biggest display of tiny trains in magnificent, diminutive form.
Since opening in 2001, Miniatur Wunderland has been steadily growing, with over 500,000 working hours and nearly 9 million Euros spent to make this tiny replica of towns and landscapes a monumental reality.
A Man and a Dream
Frederik Braun was a dreamer and a lover of model trains. His twin brother Gerrit was both perfect business partner but also his deepest adversary. One brother, optimistic by nature, the other emotional and short tempered. Together, they made magic – beginning with Frederik’s dream to own the world’s largest collection of Mickey Mouse comic books. Upon selling their vast compilation, they bought a successful nightclub, to Gerrit’s approval. But Frederik wasn’t satisfied with being a nightlife impresario in his old age, and that’s when he decided it was time to fulfill his lifelong passion for railroads. And lucky for the world, his brother bought in.
Not only can you view this incredible display of workmanship, you can also head behind the scenes to see master modelers and technicians honing their craft. Wunderland is almost too difficult to describe in words. Most of the time you’ll just see wide-eyed children and adults mouth, “Wow!” “Big!” “Amazing!”
By 2020, this model railroad will feature 1900 signals, 4000 switches, 6000 buildings and bridges, and over 500,000 lights. For now, you will have to contend with the seven sections currently on display.
The Harz is one of the oldest landscapes in Miniatur Wunderland. It was built together with Austria and Knuffingen during the first construction phase and has become an important milestone in the renaissance of modeling. This section is also home to the ICE high-speed route and more than 130 trains.
Knuffingen is the oldest part of the model. This city of 10,000 inhabitants, idyllically situated between the Harz and the Alps, is one of the largest cities in Miniatur Wunderland. Knuffingen is known for its innovations and has a worldwide reputation for its automobile industry.
The Alps in Austria are by far not as high as the Alps in Switzerland, but no less impressive. With countless tons of plaster, modelers formed peaks with a chisel. Wanting to illustrate authentic mountain life, typical attributes have been integrated. In the Wunderland Alps, all four seasons are mixed up. Besides skiers and figure skaters, there are also climbers and hikers exploring the fantastic green mountain pastures and rocky slopes
Hamburg is the hometown of Miniatur Wunderland and the largest as well as the most densely populated city of the entire Wunderland, with nearly 250 inhabitants per square meter.
About a quarter of the 50,000 inhabitants gather in the HSH Nordbank Arena to watch the local team of HSV beat the city rival St. Pauli by a pinch.
The city of Hamburg has been created on 200 square meters, including all of the city’s most famous details. More than 1,500 trains, with Wunderland’s people from Scandinavia, Knuffingen or Switzerland arrive at Hamburg Mainstation daily.
American section was opened in 2003, with Las Vegas as its most luminous spot. More than 1/10 of all its 300,000 lights are installed in this small Sin City. There are also more natural landscapes to take in, like the Florida Keys and Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore.
The layout part of Miniatur Wunderland is Scandinavia, and technically the most challenging to execute. The northern Baltic Sea is filled with 33,000 liters of running water, with 25 ships crossing the ocean. Currently, the ships are manually navigated, but engineers are working on developing an autopilot system. There is also a simulation of high and low tide every 30 minutes, and is considered a groundbreaking achievement in modeling.
Behind every corner there’s a new surprise and perspective at the Miniatur Wunderland. Sweet stories, incredible panoramas and even high-speed trains whizzing by. It’s just a tiny example of one man’s big dream.
Hamburg: The Wealthiest City in Germany and a Hot Tourist Attraction
Think of Hamburg the way people like their burgers cooked – some like it juicy, others a bit more cooked. Hamburg tempts visitors with a taste of both.
With a population only exceeded by Berlin, Hamburgers have been, well – burnt, for much of its 1000+ year history. Nearly destroyed during World War II, the city has come back better than before.
At the Speicherstadt is where Wunderland is housed. But you’ll find much more here too. Like the largest timber-pile warehouse district in the world within the HafenCity quarter of Hamburg. Lying directly on the city’s port, the warehouses are still in use, and handles one-third of the world’s carpet production. Interestingly enough, there is an Afghan Museum on the premises as well, which seeks to bring the authenic and traditional aspects of the culture to life (including, rugs).
And now, for the juicy bits. The Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district is Germany’s answer to the “Red Light District.” The street is lined with night clubs, bars and restaurants. As well as a landmark called Davidwache, a police station located on the south side of the street at the cross street Davidstraße. Here, street prostitution is legal during certain times of the day.
For family fun, head to the DOM, a month-long fair in March, July and November. This is classic fun you’d find in Any Town, USA. But it’s much cooler to have a burger in the food’s namsake town.
How to Travel from Berlin to Hamburg
Hamburg has five major stations: Hauptbahnhof (central station), Altona, Dammtor, Harburg and Bergedorf. From Berlin, the journey takes one hour and 39 minutes onboard ICE. Tickets start at $106 in Economy and go up from there. If traveling with a German Rail Pass, you’ll need to book a reservation for this trip, which is only $11.
ICE Train: Germany’s High-Speed Train
The Inter City Express travels to and from most major German cities, and there is usually hourly service to most destinations during the daytime.
ICE trains adhere to a high standard of technology: all cars are fully air-conditioned and nearly every seat features a headphone jack which enables the passenger to listen to several on-board music and voice programs as well as several radio stations. Some seats in the 1st class section (and some in 2nd class) are equipped with video displays showing movies and pre-recorded infotainment programs.
Each train is equipped with special cars that feature in-train repeaters for improved mobile phone reception as well as designated quiet zones where the use of mobile phones is discouraged. The newer ICE 3 trains also have larger digital displays in all coaches, displaying, among other things, Deutsche Bahn advertising, the predicted arrival time at the next destination and the current speed of the train.
An electronic display above each seat indicates the locations between which the seat has been reserved. Passengers without reservations are permitted to take seats with a blank display or seats with no reservation on the current section.