This museum is fascinating! Not only does it give a marvellous insight into the local shoe making history but also this all in context to the historical “events” and the daily life of the past years. The museum has four floors; each is dedicated to a specific time or specific theme. The ground floor shows the development of this region as the centre of regional shoe “manufacturing”, starting in approx. 1800. In the beginning discharged soldiers (discharged after the death of landgrave Ludwig IX and the following closure of garrisons), collected old shoes and repaired them or made new ones with the leather. This let the manual shoe making increase in the region. A shoe maker’s shop (main photo) honours these early craftsmen. It was also an important development in the region, where up to that time, people found their income only as farmers and lumberjacks. The first machines were developed and since 1857 nearby Pirmasens became the centre of industrial shoe manufacturing, closely followed by Hauenstein with company Seibel (still operating today!). Hauenstein’s locals worked for these companies also from home (I feel that the word “home work” doesn’t justice what the people did these days, but I didn’t find a better one). The old machineries of Seibel Company are exhibited in the ground floor. At the end of the ground floor, which ends with the post WWI period, a very moving exhibition shows the emigration of locals to US, including postcards sent back home from the emigrants.
The exhibition sequence then leads to the top floor (third floor), where the said to be biggest collection of shoes from 2000 years is shown. Ernst Tillmann, a collector from Viersen (Germany) has collected the majority of these during his travels around the world. Some fascinating examples are there, including special shoes to walk in swamps (Moor) and also the platform shoes we used to proudly wear in the early seventies (haha, I am still amazed how we could walk in these...). [More photos in my album "Shoe collection"]. The path through the museum leads downwards now, and on the second floor is the period of 1918 – 1945. It was here when I stood in amazement in front of the little mom-and-pop store of my childhood. Ok, I was born several years after 1945, but the store looked just like I remember it from my early days: the heavy moulds for making Easter lambs and bunnies were there, the huge scale, the oven with the mica plate as window, and even the cake plate, exactly as we had one at home. In this floor also several machines are exhibited, showing how industrial shoe making developed in this period. It ends with our darkest period of brain sick deadly Nazi regime and Hauenstein proudly shows that less than 5% voted for Germany’s mass murder’s party NSDAP. The first floor then shows the developments from 1945 until today, again machines from this time and daily life. I especially loved the shoe shop of the Fifties of last century, everything looked so familiar. And it was here when I was running around looking for Lurchi, the hero of my childhood. Unfortunately he and his friends weren’t there, so I dare to start a kind of cry for help: if anyone has Lurchi and or his friends somewhere in the old time boxes, please send them to the museum :-)
All in all this museum is very exciting indeed! It is the combination of information, historical development and daily life of the times shown which makes it so good for me. In addition it is barrier free, with the elevator and easy walkways through the exhibits. Audio guides are available with excellent side information. They are also available with English information if I remember this correct. Kate, correct me if I am wrong but I remember you happily walking through the museum with the earphones on.
Dec-Feb: Mo-Fri 13:00 – 16:00, Sat&Sun 10:00-16:00,
Rest of the year: daily 10:00-17:00.
Adults: 4 Euro, 6 Euro with audio guide,
Kids, retired, students: 3,50 Euro, 5,50 Euro with audio guide,
Family card: 8,50 Euro plus 2 Euro for each audio guide.
I have made several travelogues with more photos of the several sections:
Shoe making from manual to industrial,
Life in the Thirties (of last century)yyy,
The shoe shop of my childhood,
More collections (esp. Sixties and Fifties of last century),
Life in early last century,
Hauenstein is located approx. 20 km east of Pirmasens in Palatinate region of state Rheinland-Pfalz. The museum itself is in the eastern part of town.
Bundesstrasse 10 (federal road 10) from Landau to Pirmasens has an exit for Hauenstein directly at the so-called shoe mile (24 shoe shops). A sign leads to the museum from here (Deutsches Schuhmuseum).
By public transport:
By train from Landau with change in Annweiler/Trifels (approx. 1 hour), or from Pirmasens without change (approx. 40 min),
By bus from Landau several times daily (approx. 1 hour), see schedule bus no. 523.
Location of German Shoe Museum on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., October 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)