Slowly yet surely, the woody-spicy smell of incense rises from a candle in slender columns of smoke in the air and provides a comfortably-warm feeling. Anyone, who’s not feeling the Christmas spirit yet, will probably change his mood while entering the “Manufaktur der Träume” in the small town Annaberg-Buchholz, located in the German Erzgebirge.

Factory of dreams – located in the heart of Annaberg-Buchholz

The dream of childhood

For six years, the collection of Dr. Erika Pohl-Ströher, born in 1919, has been presented and admired in the modern designed museum. It is the biggest private collection of folk art in Germany. After World War II, the scientist, who is currently living in Switzerland, started passionately collecting the toys she grew up with. With hundreds to thousands of different wooden figures, she created a valuable piece of her own childhood. Meanwhile she conjures smiles on children’s faces as well as on adults’ with these unique treasures.

Children’s eyes shine brighter in the museum.

According to the slogan ‘See, do, marvel’, the exhibition is divided into three parts, which feature not only loads of objects, but also focus on experience and emotions. It is not surprising that over 330.000 visitors are already under the spell of the carved figures.

See

The tour of the museum starts on the first floor, where one walks into a mountain landscape as huge as the entire room. Inside of these white hills, detailed miniature settings create new worlds. Once one follows the journey under the mountains, the little figures and houses start to light up and one suddenly finds oneself in the middle of a knight’s estate, a farm or marketplaces. The love for detail is what makes these small worlds so real and the „Manufaktur der Träume“ so special. It would take hours to discover each and every little detail.

Detailed toys from the past made of matches.

Do

On the second floor, the exhibition is transformed into an interactive playground, bringing back the culture of mining life and traditional craftsmanship by use of videos, audio platforms and quizzes. In this context, different senses are claimed because the museum encourages to touch several work pieces to get a feeling of the wood with the own hands – all covered by the woody smell of freshly planed sawdust. Besides the many exciting stories and insights of these crafts, the unbelievable amount of exhibition pieces is impressive. From boxes of matches filled with tiny dominoes and figures to extended Christmassy landscapes, pyramids and biblical representations to countless strung pairs of animals leading up to Noah’s ark, every single imaginable scenery is presented at least once. The majority of the objects was produced between 1850 and 1950 and originates in the Erzgebirge and Vogtland, but also in several other regions like Bohemia and Nuremberg which are famous for this kind of toys.

Noah’s animals.

Marvel

The last area on the third floor really lives up to its motto ‘marvelling’. Under the darkened gable atmospherically illuminated pyramids and candlesticks amaze along with festive tunes. After the many impressions, the exhibition finally provides a moment of quiet reflection as 15 angel figures float down from the ceiling while heavenly choral singings provide the feeling of time standing still.

15 wooden angels floating on the top of the room

Dreams of cocoa

Admittedly, one of our senses is almost missed out until the end of the exhibition in the „Manufaktur der Träume“. However, the café of the museum “Schokogusch’l” closes the gap with hot chocolates or some of the finest truffles. The once biggest and oldest café of Annaberg-Buchholz does not only allow treats of all kinds, but also provides visitors with a nice view through one of the huge windows, behind which dreams of chocolate are created. Let’s melt away…

Thanks to the visit at „Manufaktur der Träume“, even the biggest Grinch leaves chanting ‘Last Christmas’ and with tons of pre-Christmassy memories.

All pictures ©Kai Bergmann