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Elephant Penis in a German Ship

Maybe about 25 years ago I was traveling with a youth orchestra (I played the sax) by bus from Finland to Holland or Belgium, to some brass band festival. We made a stop in Lübeck for just a few hours and we youngsters got some time of our own to spend in the Old Town.

Photo © Stefan Nagel
One of the older guys in the orchestra knew about a museum ship parked next to the Altstadt in the Trave River and the bizarre sea voyage exhibition in it. He particularly stressed that they have a giant elephant's penis there. An elephant's member? That is a must-see! So of course we boys bolted to the ship to see this remarkable wonder of the nature. The Museumship MS Mississippi was docked there indeed, and the sign at her entrance promised an exhibition from overseas, miracles and mysteries of this world.

We entered this dark and dusty, moldy and musty exhibition in awe. It was like a childhood dream come true, like a live illustration for old Tarzan books or Tintin comics. We were surrounded by literally thousands of curiosities: skeletons, masks, stuffed animals, primitive weapons, insect collections, shrunken heads, relics, idols of gods, skulls, animal horns, models, sacred items of different religions, old diving gear, figureheads, miniature ships, board games, constrictor snakes, chests, art, statuettes, seashells, anything you could imagine and beyond.

Photo © Stefan Nagel
The items were collected by a German adventurer and explorer Reinhold Kasten and his wife Mady during their tens of years on the Seven Seas, several times around the world. Many of the exhibits were wonderfully  labeled with little stories, of which we Finnish boys unfortunately understood very little. There was a teeth set of a savage man-eating shark with a list of stuff that was found in its stomach, including a shoe, human flesh and a pocket watch that was still ticking. There was also a stuffed giant constrictor snake which had stolen and swallowed a 2 week old baby straight from a hammock. Or a giant skull of a white elephant that was shot by maharaja after it killing two of his guards. And indeed there it was, locked in a glass showcase (obviously so that nobody could steal it), a stuffed or mummified or embalmed, well, somehow preserved, very big, no, gargantuan exhibit: the elephant phallus. *Tee hee hee*

After witnessing the Beavis & Butthead'esque culmination of the exhibition and before leaving this spectacular hanseatic attraction we discovered a chest full of Chinese paper knives lying on the ship floor near the counter. Pure kitsch! Only couple of Deutschmarks each! My knife has been decorating my home to this day.

SS Prinz Heinrich aka MS Mississippi was built in 1909.
Unfortunately the more than 100 year old MS Mississippi is not moored in the Lübeck Altstadt any more. The ship has been moved couple of times already and she's nowadays being restored to be relocated at her original berth in Leer with her original name Prinz Heinrich. The fantastic sea voyage exhibition with thousands of its wonderful items was moved in a lighthouse-museum in Warnemünde, but it was closed in November 2009. Needless to say, the magic of the exhibition was surely gone already as soon as the exhibits were moved away from the historical ship. But alas, now nobody can see the marvellously macabre sea voyage spectacle at all any more. They don't make these kind of museums these days. Never ever underestimate little boys' amusement towards animals' reproductive organs. Look, it brought me to this unique, mysterious and now sadly lost museum!

This blog entry is partially based on Stefan Nagel's article about the museum ship Mississippi. Thank you also for letting me use the photos.

1 comment:

Tommi said...

Something you never forget, isn´t it?