Leavenworth’s Unbeatable Museum

At first I thought that a nutcracker museum was a dumb idea, but then Ruth and I went there and had an eye-opening experience like no other. This is a great subject for a museum; and it’s entirely appropriate, even welcomed, in a town like Leavenworth. Go and be amazed by its nutcracker museum. Be sure not to miss the introductory video about it. This introduction to a new world and the history of a quaint custom is worth the admission all by itself.

Nutcrackers actually have a use. They shell all kinds of nuts. A painstaking activity is relieved by nutcrackers. I’ll never forget the time Ruth’s grandmother asked me to shell some black walnuts. In less than half an hour I had cracked only a few of the nuts and was ready to quit. I persisted and by the end of the experience I had only done a couple of them. Ruth’s grandmother should have asked someone else to shell them. I was hopeless! At the end she had just a few walnuts to use in baking and I was exhausted. Ruth suggested that I run over them with our car. Even that would not had reduced the size of the job or yielded more nuts to eat if it had actually worked.

This nutcracker museum is a hoot. Contemplating 7,000 nut cracking implements and seeing them in displays are 2 very different experiences, It takes a couple of floors just to display them all, and I was enthralled throughout by their differences and complexity. What began as a kind of toy actually became a useful tool as nutcrackers grew more and more elaborate. By the 19th century they were becoming both porcelain and more complex. They became fixtures in England by the 18th century, but their creation and use goes back to Germany. A Nutcracker patent actually happened there in 1853.

I thought that the personality of nutcrackers was similar, but then I visited this museum and learned that they are based on kings, soldiers, queens, policemen, historical and religious figures, and other contributors to society. They are similar to but also unlike toy soldiers. I came to admire Tchaikovsky’s contribution to nutcracker lore with the creation of a nutcracker ballet that 2 million people see each year at Christmastime.

I talked to this museum’s overseer for a while and learned to enjoy it even more when I realized that her interest in it was not superficial. Her name is Arlene Wagner. She is as enthused about nutcrackers as if she just gotten her first one. How do I know this? She told me about a new nutcracker that is being made for her in Utah with such interest that I knew she was a committed enthusiast about them in general.

The company that makes them is now in Germany and is called Culbricht, and I learned about the linden wood they use, the planers that craft them, the lacquer that gives them individuality, how that lacquer is very carefully applied, and how the eyes are painted on. This is not a simple process, and I learned to be wary of imitation nutcrackers. They are as unique and distinctive as Native American jewelry that is easy to fake.

No wonder 2 million people buy and enjoy this tool every Christmas and that this practice has been around since the Roman Empire was a new idea.


About roads-rus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roads-rus

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