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November 14, 2006

Salzburg's Haus der Natur

Whilst my parents were in Salzburg we visited for the first time the "Haus der Natur". We'd had it in mind to visit it since we arrived here, but thought we'd save it to share with my folks. And what a special treat it was. We enjoyed it, and at €7 each for a combined ticket to the main building and the special exhibition across the road, it was good value for money, but it also gave us a lot of laughs.

The first floor had a room devoted to dinosaurs which included a moving life-size allosaurus model, an aquarium, and a somewhat random exhibition about Tibet. The aquarium was larger than I expected, and had some interesting specimins including the inevitably shy octopus. It also had an electric eel tank which was rigged up so that you could hear the electricity. The random hisses, gurgles and the sudden crackles and pops of static made it sound not disimilar to some of my own abstract electronic music efforts. I must get back in there with a recording device.


The museum is a real mish-mash of the zooalogical, geological and anthropological. The first floor, for example, had an exhibition about thunder and lightning, lots of examples of different minerals and precious stones. Another floor featured an exhibition about Salzburg's other famous son, Christian Doppler, which with a mix of the German signage and my English explanation completely failed to convey to anyone apart from me what the Doppler Effect actually is.


There was a section devoted to man's ability to fly, which featured models of some early attempts to get airborne, up to models of the landers that took man to the moon. There was a sinister looking astronaut with metal hands, and also an Austrian flag which had been carried to the moon and back by Apollo 16, although it wasn't entirely clear for what purpose.


The building also includes a reptile house, with a selection of snakes, lizards, and a host of tortoises and terrapins that for me were worth the entry fee alone, and a rather bizarre section that we didn't go into about myths and monsters. We skipped it on the grounds that we were running out of time, but I think in truth none of us wanted to walk past the Scooby Doo-style monster who was guarding the entrance.


A whole section of one floor was devoted to the mammals that live in central Europe, which were stuffed and arranged for our delight in a variety of poses which induced increasing levels of hilarity as we went around. The centrepiece was a collection of bears, that was in semi-darkness. It was only when I took a photo we saw the true extent of how ridiculous it looked, with one of the bears in the corner in probably the least convincing "Grrrrrrr!" pose we've ever seen.


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