‚Äú Address: Alter Schlachthof Stuttgart , Schlachthofstra√üe 2a, Stuttgart, BW, Germany ‚Äě
All art museums are more or less alike. The artifacts may be unique, but there are only so many ways of exhibiting them. Follow me to a museum which is truly unique in all aspects, namely the one and only Pig Museum world-wide.
"I like pigs. Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, only pigs treat us as equals." (Winston Churchill)
Two years ago private collector Erika Wilhelmer found a home for her collection of pigs and pig related paraphernalia which couldn't be more appropriate: the art deco building formerly used for the administration of the slaughterhouse (German: Schlachthof) in Stuttgart, Schlachthofstra√üe 2 (Slaughter House Street). If you take the underground U9 from the Central Train Station (~10 minutes), you have to get off at the stop Schlachthof. So the ambience couldn't be better. The visitor is greeted already from afar by enormous pig sculptures standing in front of the entrance. Soon a discarded tram wagon from Basel, Switzerland, will be added. It's piggy pink, has a snout sticking out at the front and a pig's tail painted on its back. It used to be an advertising gag for a bank (an enormous coin is sticking in its roof as if it were a gigantic piggy bank), but then became the darling of the Baslers.
After getting the tickets (4.90 Euro/concession 4 Euro) from a friendly woman who also puts our rucksacks behind a door and promises to keep an eye on them my friend and I explore the ground floor. There are 25 theme rooms altogether, ten on the ground floor and 15 on the first floor. The ground floor is the more serious one so-to-speak, lots of information is waiting to be looked at and read. About 9000 years ago wild hogs were domesticated in Turkey. One room is dedicated to the wild hogs living in our forests today. It looks just like a hiding-place with green and leafy wall paper all around. Exhibits stand on sawn-off tree trunks. Loud grunts come out of a loudspeaker. Then there is an enormous golden pig in the middle of one room, on the walls hang photos with hundreds of black frames of extinct or endangered pig breeds. You also meet the 'German Large White' on a rotating stage, the flagship of the international pig industry so-to-speak. A variety of jobs based on pigs is introduced such as hunter, breeder, butcher, medical researcher, salesman.
Walking on we learn that the pig is the animal best adapted for xenografts, valves from pigs' hearts can be transplanted into humans. 'The Global Pig' gives information about breeding pigs worldwide.
The Chinese have 490 million pigs and with this nearly half of all the pigs of the world.
In Afghanistan there is only one pig.
More pigs than people live in Denmark.
The Spaniards eat more pork than the Germans.
....to quote just some of the many pieces of information. I didn't know I'd be interested in them, but the more I read, the more I was fascinated. I didn't really know what to expect from the Pig Museum. My friend and I went there out of curiosity because we'd read about it in the newspaper. The vast flood of information is so well presented and put into graphs that I found myself reading eagerly all there was on offer. Well, nearly all. After a while my concentration began to dwindle.
So up the staircase to the second floor. (no lift) The walls of the staircase are covered with the word 'pig' in dozens of languages. Btw, the whole museum is bilingual, all explanations are given in German and English. But it's a fact that there are more pig/swine/sow/hog related expressions in German than in English, so not everything can be translated literally. Interestingly, in German the terms are positive as well as negative. 'sow' can be put in front of nouns and adjectives in colloquial speech. In the south of Germany 'sowgood' is an extremely positive adjective, only topped by 'sowsmooth'. I had to learn that when I moved to Stuttgart from the north of Germany. Someone told me that my skirt was sowsmooth and I only stared uncomprehending. 'Sowweather' is negative all over the country. If you want to express your deep felt sympathy with someone's plight, you can address them as, "You poor pig". If someone is lucky, you can say, 'They've got pig' (One theory is that this comes from an old card game in which the ace had the picture of a pig on it). Odd for people from a different linguistic background.
What the visitor finds on the first floor makes the mind boggle. Kitsch in its purest form! If you are a stylistic purist, you should rather stay away. In one room stand several glass containers in which you can find hundreds of pigs of all sizes and materials sorted by colour. In another room pigs are sorted by material. Then the huge collection of piggy-banks from all over the world! There are even show-cases in the corridor, for example one with a pig orchestra made of fine porcelain. Figurines and paintings showing pigs in the r√īle of famous art characters (the Mona Lisa!), mythological pigs, Balinese pig masks, pig dolls in traditional ethnic costumes, pig couples in gondolas on the Grand Canal in Venice, pigs as decoration on kitchen utensils, pig families on the beach and, and, and. "There is no such thing which cannot be transformed into the shape of a pig."
Many rooms are geared toward children: the artifacts are hidden or viewable only through tiny windows, some requiring the opening of hatch doors to see. In one room the display cabinets are even completely covered with wooden boards, only small heart-shaped openings allow the visitors to peep in. They're quite high up, probably not to make the display more interesting for children but to prevent them from seeing it at all. It's a small room with dark red walls; on one wall a large painting in fifty shades of pink shows a voluptuous sow in sexy lingerie lolling on a sofa, one of her gigantic buttocks curving towards the onlooker's eye.
"Pigs are very beautiful animals...There is no point of view from which a really corpulent pig is not full of sumptuous and satisfying curves." G.K. Chesterton
Not surprisingly, what we see when playing Peeping Tom is Sow Sex or Pig Porn, take your choice. My friend and I didn't walk together, when we met again, we asked each other, "Have you seen . . . ?" One to two hours are recommended for a visit, but even when you stay in the Pig Museum for two hours you can't see everything. How many exhibits are there at all? I can't answer this because I've found different numbers on the net: 30.000, 37.000 and 42.000. The ticket sales woman even said 46.000. Who cares? In any case every visitor will find enough to amuse themselves.
On the ground floor is also a restaurant. Guess what is on the menu? If you don't want to sit inside, you can go out into the beer garden seating 400 guests. I had a fine piece of cake and a cappuccino. So no worries if you aren't a meatie. In a kiosk you can buy tinned pork and sausages prepared in every conceivable way as a souvenir.
Recommended. Oink. Oink.