Step back in time at Rheinland open air museum

KOMMERN, Germany -- The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum features about 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland that were moved to the 200 acre park. Museum employees dress  in period costumes display skills in trades such as baking, blacksmithing, farming and broom making. Admission for adults is 5.50 euro. Discounts are offered for families, children and groups. (Photo by Frank L. Johnson)

KOMMERN, Germany -- The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum features about 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland that were moved to the 200 acre park. Museum employees dress in period costumes display skills in trades such as baking, blacksmithing, farming and broom making. Admission for adults is 5.50 euro. Discounts are offered for families, children and groups. (Photo by Frank L. Johnson)

KOMMERN, Germany -- The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum features about 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland that were moved to the 200 acre park. Museum employees dress  in period costumes display skills in trades such as baking, blacksmithing, farming and broom making. Admission for adults is 5.50 euro. Discounts are offered for families, children and groups. (Photo by Frank L. Johnson)

KOMMERN, Germany -- The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum features about 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland that were moved to the 200 acre park. Museum employees dress in period costumes display skills in trades such as baking, blacksmithing, farming and broom making. Admission for adults is 5.50 euro. Discounts are offered for families, children and groups. (Photo by Frank L. Johnson)

KOMMERN, Germany -- The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum features about 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland that were moved to the 200 acre park. The open air museum of the Rheinland showcases various farm and village buildings dating from the 1500s through the 1800s that have been faithfully furnished with period furniture, farm equipment and implements of various trades. (Photo by Frank L. Johnson)

KOMMERN, Germany -- The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum features about 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland that were moved to the 200 acre park. The open air museum of the Rheinland showcases various farm and village buildings dating from the 1500s through the 1800s that have been faithfully furnished with period furniture, farm equipment and implements of various trades. (Photo by Frank L. Johnson)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Looking for insights into how people lived and worked in this rural area of Germany during the past 500 years?

Then take the easy 90-kilometer drive north of Bitburg to the wonderful Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum, Open Air Museum of the Rheinland. During our years of traveling, my wife and I have visited a number of other open air museums Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts; Nevada City/Virginia City, Montana; Colonial Williamsburg; Shaker villages in Kentucky and New Hampshire; and others in Japan, Belgium and Holland. The Rheinnischen Freilichtmuseum ranks among the very best.

About 65 historic buildings from around the Rheinland were brought to the 200 acre park, reassembled and grouped into villages representing four regions Eifel/Eifel-Vorland, Westerwald/Mittelrhein, Niederrhein and Bergisches Land. The various farm and village buildings date from the 1500s through the 1800s and have been faithfully furnished with period furniture, farm equipment and implements of various trades. A separate area of modern buildings houses additional exhibits.

Buildings include houses, barns, windmills, sawmill powered by a waterwheel, a schoolhouse, village church, village store and a working restaurant the Gastwirtschaft zur Post. Museum employees dressed in period costume display skills in trades such as baking, blacksmithing, farming and broom making. We visited a blacksmith shop, a broom-maker's workshop and the wheelwright shop. Among the many interesting displays are looms, a bee apiary, wooden wine presses with enormous wooden screws and an ancient forerunner of the wheelbarrow.

Many houses have narrow spiral stairways, wattle and daub construction, small windows and thatched roofs. Farm houses were often constructed at one end of the barn, with the living space the smallest portion of a building. Beds were built with curtains around them to help retain heat. Bedrooms were frequently built on the other side of the wall from the kitchen fireplace, allowing warmth from the fireplace to help heat the sleeping area.

Children are sure to enjoy the live animals which include geese, chickens, cows, horses, pigs, goats, sheep and frogs. And there is a playground which features swings, a child-propelled merry-go-round, slides and a see-saw.

The museum is open year round, even on German holidays, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. April through October, and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. from November through March. Admission for individual adults is 5.50 euro with discounts for families, children and groups.

From Spangahlem or Bitburg, take autobahn 60 to exit 4, Prum; highway 51 north to just east of Blankenheim; autobahn 1 north to exit 112, Metternich; then highway 266 a few kilometers north to Kommern.

We visited on a cool Sunday in early March. No doubt a visit on a warmer spring, summer or fall day would be even more enjoyable. During our four hours at the museum, we saw only about half of the various exhibits and we look forward to a second visit in the near future. A fair number of signs are in English and the museum store rents English language audio guides. For more information, visit www.kommern.lvr.de or call 02443-99800.