At first glance there was no indication we were in the right place. But when we walked through the main door we saw a poster hanging from the ceiling. On it was the image that first enticed me to choose this particular museum to visit and there it was…in all its glory…the “hot potato” welcoming us in!
A few steps further we saw an older couple. They greeted us with a hearty, “Guten tag!” We repeated the phrase back to them. Smiling, they most likely surmised we were indeed the English speaking callers they had talked to not long ago. Time was of the essence, so they simply pointed to eight rooms the size of closets and said, “Eins, zwei, drei, vier, funf, sechs, sieben, acht.” The gentleman then clarified, “Start blue, end white.”
Our self-guided tour began but before we entered the first room, we ambled along a short corridor to the left that housed paintings, photographs and botanical drawings of this fascinating tuber. Just like a baby’s scrapbook, its history was told in picture form from tater tot to full-fledged potato! Did you know that the potato’s humble beginnings started in the Andes Mountains of South America? Honestly, I didn’t.
Eight minutes later, roughly half way through our journey, we entered a space that displayed outdoor market scenes, complete with a 3D plastic He and She Potato and their basket of brown skinned marvels. What caught my eye next was Marilyn Monroe! Yes, the beloved American actress was featured on a poster wearing a burlap sack standing in a produce field. I later learned the state of Idaho actually paid her to pose for this picture that was used as an advertisement.
Room Number Six featured the “Multi-talented potato”. For some reason, I conjured up a picture of the Planter’s logo and mascot, Mr. Peanut in my head. You know the dapper peanut wearing a top hat, monocle, white gloves and spats? If there can be a multi-talented peanut, why not a multi-talented potato? We soon realized that “multi-talented” meant “multi-purpose”. On the wall there was a sketch of the potato pedigree listing the three main types. We learned that industry types are used for alcohol and bio-gas. Food types are used for French fries, dumplings, and mash and starch types are used for protein and sugar products.
While each area’s contents revealed different mysteries of the potato, my favorite had to be the number seven, the collection of “rare subjects” aka “objects”. Featured there was an authentic Mr. Potato Head toy, clocks, tee-shirts, paperweights, a telephone, and golf balls all featuring of course, potatoes. There was even a Christmas tree potato bulb! Did you know that in 1755 in Berlin, a businessman named Johan Ernst Gotzkowsky decorated his Christmas tree with, not Christmas lights, not Christmas bulbs, but silver and gold potatoes?! Apparently, Mr. Gotzkowsky was showing his support for Fredrich II who had just introduced this vegetable to Germany as a staple.
When our short time at Das Kartoffelmuseum had come to an end, the museum twosome pointed to a guest book. Taking a few minutes to sum up what we thought, Robert wrote, “Thanks. The museum was everything we dreamed it would be!”
Now…I’m not sure we could’ve dreamt up a museum like that, but with any museum, it’s purpose is to collect, preserve and display objects of artistic, cultural and scientific significance to educate others. A museum should also have a clear identity and foster a deeper understanding and promote the enjoyment of a subject. So, yes Das Kartoffelmuseum ticked all the boxes.
All in all, by visiting the Potato Museum, we learned some fun potato facts we can share at parties and I found a unique souvenir to buy. Potato hand cream or as I like to refer to it, a tube of a tuber! Where else could I have gotten that? There’s probably a reason why Patricia Schultz neglected to include Das Kartoffelmuseum in her book, but it’s these quirky sights that make any trip even more memorable.