|Ancient farmhouse at Seurasaari in Helsinki (wikipedia)|
In so-doing, Hazelius created the first outdoor museum on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm, Sweden. Within two short decades, there were nearly 20 more open-air museums scattered throughout northern Europe.
|Ballenberg horse-drawn carriage|
The experiment to preserve rural life among rapidly growing industrialized societies was a resounding success as traditional customs and occupations that might have disappeared into the annals of history were saved for future generations to enjoy.
Most American visitors miss these outdoor treasures in their never-ending pursuit of guidebook attractions, but a traveler should experience at least one or two in order to bring the picture of our own heritage into focus.
Here are some of the best open-air museums in Europe in alphabetical order.
|Swiss farmhouse at Ballenberg near Interlaken (wikipedia)|
Ballenberg (Switzerland): The Swiss took longer than usual to open their outdoor museum known as Ballenberg near Interlaken. Featuring more than 100 rural houses and farm buildings from all over the country, the structures could not be maintained in their natural environment so each was carefully dismantled and then re-built at Ballenberg on 165 acres of land.
Dwellings contain farmhouses, workers quarters, alpine huts and stalls, barns, store-houses, wash-houses and drying ovens along gardens, fields, pastures and meadows that have been arranged according to traditional historical models.
Ballenberg is a living museum where master craftsmen work with traditional tools to create exhibits and provide insights into the early history of the country. In addition a few hundred domestic animals on the property give it an animated ambiance as life was hundreds of years ago.
Though the Swiss had discussed the concept much earlier, it did not come up for serious consideration until 1963 when the Swiss Federal Council set up a commission to explore the idea. Fifteen years later, Ballenberg became a reality as one of the newest outdoor museums in Europe.
|Half-timbered house at the Freilichtmuseum in Germany|
Black Forest Open Air Museum (Germany): In German the word for Open Air Museum is Freilichtmuseum or “Free Light Museum.” The
focuses upon six fully furnished farmhouses with the centerpiece being the Vogtsbauerhof which was actually
constructed on the site in 1612. Travelling craftsmen perform exhibitions
inside the house on a regular basis. Black Forest Open
Hotzenwaldhaus dates from 1756 in Hotzenwald and is used for demonstrations of
Dairy and livestock farming are on exhbition at Falkenhof which came from Dreisamtal and was built in 1737.
|Old German storage house|
Woodworking demonstrations are conducted in the 1730 building of Schauinslandhus from Schauinsland.
The oldest building in the park, built in 1599, is Hippenseppenhof from Furtwangen-Katzensteig features costumes and clocks from the region.
Finally Lorenzenhof (1608) was brought in from Oberwolfach in the Kinzig valley for forestry management, glassblowing and a collection of regional stone and minerals.
The museum is open daily from the end of March until early November. It is said to be the most visited open-air museum in
welcoming some 13.5 million
visitors since it opened in 1964. Germany
|Unusual farmhouse from early Sweden (wikipedia)|
Norsk Folkemuseum (
Oscar II’s open-air museum near opened
in 1881, making it the first of its kind. Initially the plan was to display 8
to 10 building styles from Oslo,
dating to the Middle Ages, but the king eventually lost interest because of the
cost of the project. Norway
King Oscar’s influence however, was instrumental in making Scandinavia a haven for similar projects and the
is a thriving
enterprise today. Oslo
|Early Swedish village at Skansen in Stockholm (wikipedia)|
you only visit one open-air museum in your life, Skansen in is the one to see. When King Oscar
gave up in Stockholm Norway, Artur
Hazelius carried the idea to fulfillment in opening the world’s first
open-air museum in 1891. Sweden
Skansen is more than a park. Rather it is a miniature historical rendition of the country represented in buildings ranging from farmsteads in Skåne in the south to the indigenous Sami (Lapps) of the north.
Venues range from the early 16th century to the first half of the 20th century and the park features domestic and wild animals, folk music, dancing and costumed performers who demonstrate the social conditions of each period.
|A day at Skansen |
Only three of the roughly 150 building are not original, but those were painstakingly copied from examples that were found.
Oddly enough, the oldest building in Skansen comes from Telemark in
A fun way to reach Skansen is by the funicular that has been operating since 1897 on the northwest side of the property. It’s approximately 650 feet in length with a rise of about 115 feet.
|Stable at Seurasaari in Helsinki, Finland (wikipedia)|
Finland): The Finnish
contribution is an island in
consisting mainly of old wooden buildings from other parts of the country. What
makes Seurasaari different is that it is situated in a heavily forested
landscape inhabited by an abundance of wildlife. Helsinki
The island is most popular on Midsummer’s Day when people gather throughout the park to celebrate the longest day of the year.
A bride is chosen to be married at the chapel in the park, and then she and her new husband are rowed in longboats to a small outcropping of rock at ten o’clock where they light a bonfire of longboats standing on end.
American travelers. For something new and different, take a deep breath and savor the open-air of the Continent.