Steiffgal and Steiffguy just returned from a 20th anniversary trip to Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest. So just what did they do there, besides taking part in the large-scale festivities on the Weis’n? Searched for Steiff, of course! Here are some Teddy highlights (and one lowlight) from their Bavarian bear-quest!
The one destination every Steiff fan must hit in Munich is the Spielzeugmuseum, or Toy Museum. This museum houses a collection of playthings from the artist and author Ivan Steiger. He also has another Toy Museum in Prague. This delightful destination is centrally located in the Marienplatz, a huge central open-air plaza in the heart of the city. The museum itself is four stories and is located in a tall, narrow Gothic tower. The museum has displays on four floors of the tower, and visitors must ascend (and then descend) a long, steep spiral staircase to go from floor to floor. The views of the city from the different rooms are breathtaking and worth a visit alone!
The museum features dolls, tin toys, train sets, zoo sets, and Teddy bears, amongst other playthings. The Steiff collection and exhibit is most impressive, and is primarily located on the top floor. When you walk into the Steiff room, there is a large 360-degree glass display case, housing a vintage Christmas tree that is covered in turn of the century ornaments. The bottom of the display is filled with all sorts of Steiff “ingredients”, including excelsior, cardboard Teddy bear patterns, and specially shaped metal knives for cutting material. There are also many pairs of eyes – black shoe button as well as glass pupil – on display in the case. Surrounding the base of the tree are various risers. Here visitors are delighted with a playful display of wonderful vintage Steiff Teddies and even an elephant or two!
The Steiff exhibit also features wall cases and displays. One of the wall cases, shown here on the far left, gives a brief history of the Steiff Company and a biography of Margarete Steiff. This display also includes some really fantastic items, including a pristine 1920’s era orange Bully with a crisp red ear tag, a pre-war white woolen sheep, a velvet cat, and of course, many Steiff Teddies, some being “pocket sized”.
One of the most interesting Steiff items in this case, and perhaps the entire museum, isn't really a bear or animal. But it is an example of Steiff's incredible engineering and creativity from almost 80 years ago. It is the original (and revolutionary for its time) eye mechanism from Steiff’s 1930’s Mimocculo Orangutan. This monkey has eyeballs that roll around in their sockets when a wire, which is connected to his ear, is pulled or rotated. This technology is pictured here on the left. The device was "implanted" into the front of the felt face of the orangutan so all you would see are the eyeballs that would be surrounded by felt lids.
The Steiff super-team also hit the streets of Munich looking for Steiff items. Germany is known for its wonderful flea markets, which are often great places to find older Steiff treasures. However, because of Oktoberfest, many of these in Munich were postponed until after the festivities. There are several good vintage stores on the Amalienstrasse, Turkenstrasse, Kurfurstenstrasse, Hohenzollernstrasse and Barer Strasse in Schwabing (the northern part of the city). There Steiffgal found a well loved Steiff Zotty, a Mopsy dog, and a soft Jumbo mohair elephant, complete with his red felt bib and nose bell. For the newer items, Steiffgal recommends the major department stores, like Galeria Kaufhof. Here visitors can see great Steiff displays and see many European exclusives firsthand.
Ok, now on to the only lowlight of Steiff quest…. and Steiffgal shares this with you only so you don’t make the same mistake as she did. In preparation for the trip, Steiffgal did research to find the best and largest antique malls in the area. According to online resources, the Antikpalast on Rosenheimerstrasse 143 in Munich is fantastic and has more than 80 dealers, making it one of Germany's largest antiques markets. Sounds like heaven! However, this building and business DOES NOT EXIST anymore; it has been torn down to the foundation! And as far as Steiffgal could tell, has not relocated anywhere in the city, at least of yet. Oh well.
So let’s end the Steiff tour on a high note, literally. While waiting to board the plane home from this Oktoberfest adventure, Steiffgal and Steiffguy came across a wonderful art exhibit in the Munich airport by the contemporary painter Ingo Schulz. Called Typisch Deutch or Typically German, the display featured eleven stereotypically German items painted on huge canvases in an Andy Warhol style, and a side panel describing the selections in detail. Items included gummy bears, German Shepherds, the Reichstag, currywurst, garden gnomes, and of course, Steiff! The picture on the left shows how the artist interprets our favorite German icon of all!
It is truly a joy to lead the “Steiff Life”; but just a tiny bit more fun doing it in Germany!
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