German Hunting and Fishing Museum in Munich

Don Caswell

The German Hunting and Fishing Museum in Munich was not hard to find. Out in front in the busy pedestrian mall, a large, bronze boar was not scary-looking enough to deter shoppers and children from pausing to rub his nose or sit astride his back.

I had to wait a while to snap a photo free of admirers. A second sentinel, a similarly large bronze catfish, did not appear to provide the same popular appeal as the boar. The museum is housed in a former Augustinian church, right in the city centre of Munich. Close by are many other museums and attractions, not to mention restaurants and shopping opportunities.

A modest few Euros provides access to the museum proper, and its many exhibits. The museum features spectacular displays of hunting and fishing from the Stone Age through to modern times. It is a lot more than just a dry old collection of trophies taken by long-gone hunters. The museum has made a significant effort to provide an educational view of both the environment and ecology of the forests and streams, along with the roles of hunting and fishing. There are innovative spectacles, especially for the streams and waterways, that are fascinating to young and old. One section has a range of fully-mounted taxidermy where visitors can physically interact with the exhibits. Apart from the fixed showcases, there are ever-changing special presentations.

The ground floor of the museum takes the theme of the forest path. Displays and dioramas show the variety of wildlife to be found in German forests and farmlands. There is even a dark array of folktale creatures featuring some eye-catching crypto-taxidermy that may perhaps startle youngsters or any faint-hearted onlookers. But do not expect, or fear, to encounter any of these scary beasts; they are purely creatures of myth.

The museum has an interesting history. Initially conceived of at the turn of the 20th century by famous Bavarian hunters, foresters and journalists of the time, it did not become established until the late 1930s. The purchase of the enormous collection of trophies taken by the prolific hunter Count Arco-Zinneberg gave the museum its starting point. It was also delayed by the politics of that era. Dedicated hunter and leading Nazi, Hermann Göring, wanted the hunting museum in Berlin. It took a few years of wrangling and compromise before the new museum was opened temporarily in 1938 in a wing of Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace. The deal was that Göring would be granted his wish for a Berlin location after the Nazi victory that was expected within a few short years after the Second World War broke out. The museum’s tenure in Munich was indeed a short one as conflict overran Germany and the rest of Europe. The museum only re-opened, in its current location, in 1966.

Today it is a celebration of wildlife and the environment and the impact of hunting and fishing. The museum encompasses the evolution of these passions and the artwork that arose around them. Some of the paintings of spectacular hunting scenes are by renowned artists. There are some magnificent stag trophies on the walls, along with taxidermy both large and small. Ancient hunting equipment, spears and muzzleloading hunting rifles also feature. For anybody finding themselves in the heart of Munich, it is well worth a visit.

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