Vienna is justly famous for its museums. The Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the biggest in Europe and has huge galleries of Dutch and Italian masters as well as one of the best medieval art collections in the world. Other attractions such as the Leopold Museum showcase the art of Gustav Klimt and other important Viennese artists. Besides these major attractions, Vienna has many odd little museums that are often overlooked but well worth a visit if you have a special interest or some extra time. The Viennese are museum crazy! Here are five of the strangest they’ve come up with.
(above) A display at The Globe Museum in Vienna (Where is Your Toothbrush, flickr).
The Esperanto Museum
Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton? Do you speak Esperanto? It’s the world’s most popular artificial language, spoken by hundreds of thousands of dedicated adherents who believe that a universal, easy-to-learn language shared by everyone would help solve many global problems. You’ll learn about the history of Esperanto from its origins in 1887 and its spread across the globe. You can even see cartoons in Esperanto and take an interactive quiz that will show you just how quickly you can learn this universal language.
The Globe Museum
Upstairs from the Esperanto Museum is the Globe Museum, fascinating for globetrotters and the only one of its kind in the world. Vienna was one of the centers of early globe production as European explorers sailed around the world in search of wealth and knowledge. You’ll see some rare examples here such as the 16th century terrestrial and celestial globes made by Mercator.
In the early days of exploration, globes were luxury items and were often works of art. A visit here will enrich your understanding of how the world became a progressively smaller and better-acquainted place.
One ticket covers the Esperanto Museum, the Globe Museum, and the interesting but not particularly weird Papyrus Museum.
The Snow Globe Museum
The Austrians are big on snow globes. You see them for sale everywhere, especially during the Christmas fairs, so why not have a Snow Globe Museum? This exhibition space, associated with a snow globe manufacturer, has a dazzling array of snowy spheres that will make even the most hardened traveler smile with kitschy delight. You’ll even learn how they get the snow inside!
(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, “snowglobe” is "globo de neĝo" in Esperanto)
The Crime Museum
Lots of cities have a crime museum and I find myself attracted to their garish displays the same way that I slow down when I pass a traffic accident. (Don’t sneer, you do that too.) The Crime Museum in Vienna is the most extensive I’ve seen, and gets extra points for thoroughness and gore. A series of large rooms takes you through the history of crime in the city, from serial killers, assassins, pimps, missing persons, arsonists, and much more. There are also displays on police work and punishment. The section on crime and punishment under the Nazi era is especially gripping. You don’t think of such mundane things as shoplifting happening under the Third Reich. Unfortunately the descriptions are written only in German but the front desk will give you a summary in English, and the displays are pretty easy to understand in any case.
This is not the museum for the faint of heart. There are several graphic photos of murder victims, which are either educational or exploitative depending in your opinion, along with a few preserved body parts.
The Condom Museum
It’s one of those everyday, disposable objects we don’t think about much, but we owe a lot to the condom. Safe sex has arguably changed society more than, say, nuclear missiles, yet how often do we think about the origins and development of the condom? This museum, located in a condom specialty shop, will stretch your knowledge until you are overflowing with facts. It may be small, but size doesn’t matter because it succeeds on style. The exhibition goes from the earliest condoms made of sheep’s intestines through odd variations to the modern condom we know and love/loathe. An added bonus is that the Condom Museum donates its profits to AIDS prevention.