Land of Dead Giants

Before I get to the 23 metres long, 12 metre high brachiosaurus that towers over you in the Museum fur Naturekunde’s atrium like a supersized version of the Natural History Museum’s mascot Dippy,  I’m going to pause this adventure at the foyer.

Hehe I said “pause”. Sorry that will make sense in a few seconds, I promise.

Paws for thought

Berlin is famous for its bears. Since 1280 they have adorned the city’s flag and nowadays you can see statues scattered all over Berlin. There’s even a Bear Day celebrated on 22nd March! So obsessed the city seems to be by these awesome ursi, maybe we should call it Bearlin instead? You can almost hear JFK say “Ich bin ein Bearliner.” Actually when he says it, it actually sounds like “Bearliner.”


There was one bear who captured Berliners’ imaginations more powerfully than all the others. His name was Knut and he was the first polar bear born in Berlin Zoo to survive past infancy in more than 30 years. Poor Knut was rejected by his mother, but found a family with his zookeeper.

It’s the stuff media-crazes are made of. This one was called Knutmania.

Knut the Polar Bear
Knut the Polar Bear

Unfortunately Knut died on 19/03/2011, but from 16th February 2013 until the 5th May he was on display in the foyer of the Museum fur Naturekunde. After that, the museum will study him for a while until he goes on display again in 2014.

Land of the Giants

Back to that giant dinosaur I mentioned earlier. It’s the largest dinosaur skeleton on display in the world (eat your heart out Dippy). His name is Oskar. I’m not sure why.

World's largest brachiosaurus
World’s largest brachiosaurus

At the back of the atrium, there’s another important fossil. The most complete and beautiful archaeoptyrex lithographica discovered so far.



What makes it more impressive is the story behind the piece. Are you sitting comfortably?

“Once upon a time, there was a named Jakob Niemeyer who found a lump of rock with strange patterns in it. He traded this lump of rock for magic beans a cow worth about 150 marks. The rock’s new owner was a man named Johann Dorr, who sold the fossil to a man from Pappenheim for 2000 marks, making a tidy profit of 1850 marks. Eventually, a businessman called Werner von Siemens bought the specimen for 20,000 marks and gave it to the museum in the early 1880s where it has lived ever since.”

Maybe “lived” is the wrong word to use there, but you know what I mean.

Moving on, we discover the amazing wet room. I’ve literally never seen anything like this before. Yes, I’ve seen stuff in jars in museums, but this was something else entirely. Just look. (For more insight and better images see my friend Russell’s blog.)

A room full of a room of jars
A room full of a room of jars

Another cool piece in the museum was the gallery that explored the preservation techniques that had been used by the museum in the past. It was a really interesting look into the history of museums, and who doesn’t love bad taxidermy? Do you remember the monitor lizard who looks like Jack Nicholson? Do you think this one looks like anyone famous?

Terrifying Taxidermy
Terrifying Taxidermy

Other taxidermied highlights include this one. I think he’s my favourite, and I think he’ll be yours too once you read his label…

Alcoholic Rat
Alcoholic Rat

The Museum fur Naturkunde had some fantastic badges, check them out over at the Museum of Museum Badges.

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