Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Porsche Museum Tour: big toys for big boys

I have been putting off the Porsche Museum as I heard it was not so exciting and one car museum a year is probably about my limit. Still, in the interests of The Tour of All Tours I felt obliged to make it over to the Porsche Museum as it is a major tourist destination and they do offer tours. 

The lobby was very slick looking, polished white and groups of men in suits standing around waiting for a tour or talking over coffee at the bijou cafe. The people who entered when I did were all wearing name tags, they looked like this was their treat and afterwards they'd head back to the conference centre.

This calm however was abruptly broken when a school party of French teenagers spilled into the museum, their teacher trying to herd them towards the audio guides. This was the type of tour I too was to get: an audio guide that relates something about the object in front of you when you tap in the corresponding number. The guided tours are reserved for groups I learnt. 

And I was off! One attractive car followed another. Unlike the Mercedes Benz Museum there was little or no effort to contextualise, it was enough to show the car itself. What's more the commentary had a unintentionally funny sound to it. They had hired an American actor to read the script and he was overdoing it badly, so much so that in places it sounded like a trailer for an action movie. The script he was reading from was rather smug and kept coming back to "what a great company we are" and, "see how our cars are the best!"   

The disturbing thing about the commentary was that, it was in a certain sense, somewhat true. The cars, like this 911, are indeed very attractive. This got me thinking that the people who produce desirable things are not themselves necessarily desirable. 

There was one moment when they made a short demonstration of a car by revving up the engine. If you look you'll see the sort of people who were watching: middle aged men. This whole museum is completely toys for the boys. In that sense, it is sort of dumb as a museum but it is sure to be a hit all the same.

This will probably be the only time in my life I'll sit in the driving seat of a Porsche so I asked a fellow tourist to take a picture of me. I suspect there must be 250 pictures like this taken every day.

Finally, I noticed they had the sketch in which Mr Porsche (it is a family company) first laid out the logo. It is significant how Stuttgart is central to the logo: both the name of the city and the city's emblem: the black horse rearing up.

When I was finally released and was looking around the city centre I noticed a nice location where I can introduce the Porsche tour. First of all there is this attractive little toy car for children to play on, this brings in the car theme and toys for boys subtext. Then, in the background, there is a public toilet on which the city emblem of the horse is displayed. That's all I need to get started on the Porsche Tour.

I then took a second tour, this one of the Landesmuseum Wurttemberg's musical instrument collection. This again was an audio guide tour. The device was relatively simple, they didn't need to show off their tech credentials like the car museums, but it worked just fine. You hold it up to the ear, press play and listen.

It made some sense to have an audio tour of this collection as it made the instruments come alive, the tracks were of the instruments being played. They had most of the conventional classical instruments you'd find in a modern orchestra and some rather unusual historical ones too as well as early mechanical music devices, such as a primitive pianoloa and an Edison wax cylinder player. They too offer guided tours from time but not anytime soon. 

Finally I was looking into the shopping tour and I kept seeing this sign popping up: Global Blue tax free. Now I see how some of the uninspiring yet large chain stores manage to become attractive to visitors. With tax removed the prices must surely make these stores become beacons to follow, lighting the way along the shopping tour.

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