Historical Friedrichshafen

The town of Friedrichshafen, along the Bodensee, provides for beautiful views.  Tourists, residents, and avid bikers can use Friedrichshafen as a home base and catch ferries to Switzerland, Austria, or any of the islands in the Bodensee.  It has a port for boatmen and some coastline available where eager water-lovers can swim, play, or just dip their toes.  See below:

The Rocky Beach at Friedrichshafen

Preparing for a quick dip

It's not easy to balance on slimy, wet rocks

Mom looking pretty relaxed

Along with the obvious other attractions like dining along the lake:

Lakeside Eateries

Or climbing the viewing tower:

Viewing Tower

Friedrichshafen happens to be an integral place in Germany’s history.  Mainly because of these:

Zeppelin sighting!

At the end of the 19th century, the first dirigible factory was built in Friedrichshafen by Ferdinand von Zeppelin.  Today, Friedrichshafen has a great museum dedicated entirely to the technology, history, and economics of Zeppelins.  In fact, the first Zeppelin ever flown was flown over the Bodensee in July 1900.

Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Zeppelins were originally used as a form of travel for high-class passengers.  The museum contains a 33-meter replica of a Zeppelin used for passenger travel.  We were able to walk through hallways, see bedrooms and bathrooms, explore the lounge with windows looking to the outside of the airship, and we even saw the smoking lounge.  For pity’s sake, who thought it was a good idea to have a smoking lounge on an airship that runs on volatile gases??

Sleeping Quarters

Russ spies on me from the lounge while I check out the view outside of the airship

We also got to check out the support-structure of the Zeppelin.

Hello, back there, smoking lounge.

Zeppelin Support Structure

The frame itself was made out of some metal alloy and the cover was a sewn-together conglomeration of fabrics like linen.  The rigidness provided by the frame allowed the airship to be larger, carry a much large capacity, and hold several fuel cells (hydrogen or helium held in bags made of cow intestines, mmm).

I just want to take a minute to say how crazy I think people were to fly on Zeppelins, considering how often they were damaged or caught fire.  In one of the better instances in which the Zeppelin was being flown to promote flying for entertainment, it landed in the boughs of trees, and all the passengers had to disembark via ladder.  Giant, over-sized balloon that’s difficult to control and often catches fire.  Wanna ride?? Umm, no thanks.  Despite the fantastic looking smoking lounge.

SPilot's Log--"Ship Smashed to Hell. Both engines out. Landing Smashed all Undercarriage."

Obviously Zeppelins were not only used for travel but were often used in the military as well.  At first, their use was primarily for spying, as the ships were virtually undetectable by in-advanced wartime radar because of their curved and smooth shape.  During WWI, Zeppelins were often used to bomb London.  Zeppelins were not ideal for this job, however, as they were often restricted by weather and were more often than not inaccurate.

British ad warning school children about Zeppelin sightings

After Germany lost the war, the Treat of Versailles conditioned that the air force of Germany was to keep nothing, airships included.  The Germans were required to take any and all remaining dirigibles, fill them with the appropriate gases, and deliver them to the Allies.  They were also expected to transfer housing and repair facilities as well as the plant that was used to manufacture hydrogen gas.

in the 1920’s, airship production started again with the focus on international and world travel.  The most famous airship of the time, the Graf Zeppelin, transported passengers and mail back and forth from the United States to Europe.  The airship functioned largely this way until the Nazis gained power in Germany during 1933.  Recognizing that the airships were really no good for combat, the presiding party focused on using Zeppelins as a way to spread propaganda.

German Nazi Airship--picture from enciclopedia.com.pt

Often times these airships would fly over Germany playing nationalistic songs or even broadcasting speeches from the heads of the Nazi party.

And of course when everyone thinks of Zeppelins, they think of the famous Hindenburg, the largest airship that was ever flown, caught fire, and killed almost half of the passengers inside, thousands of spectators standing by.  The Hindenburg was fatally flawed by the use of hydrogen gas, much more flammable than helium.  Because of the war, however, helium was not available, and so, the decision was made to conduct the journey anyway.

Catastrophe in Lakehurst

After the Hindenburg disaster, airships were flown less frequently, and finally ordered to be halted during the beginning of WWII.  What was left of the airships burnt in a fire at the Zeppelin facility, and the production of Zeppelins was quickly over.

The museum was really interesting and provided a great background to the setting of Friedrichshafen.  I really appreciated how frequently they presented information in multiple languages.  Though the descriptions on the displays were strictly in German, touch-screen computers were available in every section of the museum; these computers contained all the reading material necessary to understand the displays in the language of your choice.  It doesn’t always happen that we run into museums so nicely set up for an international crowd.

Oh, and I better throw one of these pictures in for Russ:


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Brian Fett on June 15, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    “Whoooppeee…a zeppelin!!”


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