"Look ma, no electrons!" Top 5 Page for this destination Bruchsal by Nemorino

Bruchsal Travel Guide: 71 reviews and 228 photos

It's all purely mechanical . . .

We 21st century folks are so accustomed to doing everything electronically that we tend to forget about (or not even know about) the amazing mechanical devices our grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and great-great-great-grandparents used to use.

From music boxes to player pianos, musical clocks to orchestrions, barrel organs to self-playing violins, the German Mechanical Instrument Museum in Bruchsal Palace has some five hundred historical musical devices on display, most of them in good working order. In my Things to Do tips on this page I have presented roughly three percent of these magnificent self-playing musical instruments.

Of course I was just kidding when I said there were no electrons. Every atom has at least one electron, but since these historical instruments are purely mechanical the electrons don't have to do the work. They're just along for the ride, so to speak.

Bruchsal is a city of 42,000 people in the Rhine Valley between Heidelberg and Karlsruhe.

I took a direct InterCity train from Frankfurt am Main to Bruchsal, where I met up with a small group of VirtualTourist members who had attended the 7th Annual Glühwein Meeting in Karlsruhe the day before.

Both the Karlsruhe meeting and the subsequent excursion to Bruchsal were organized by VT-member Bernd_L, shown here taking a photo of the re-built and restored Bruchsal Palace.

Thanks again, Bernd, for organizing this fine excursion!

The other VT members who took part in the excursion were suvanki (Sue) from Sheffield, England; Igraine (Ingrid) from Purmerend, Netherlands; gubbi1 (Christian) from Kempten, Germany and alza (Lou) from North America.

Lou and I met again a week later at the Frankfurt Opera for a performance of The Tales of Hoffmann by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880). By coincidence this nineteenth century French opera features a life-size mechanical doll that can sing, dance, bow, roll her eyes and even speak ("oui").

So it was appropriate that before seeing this opera we went to the museum in Bruchsal and saw hundreds of ingenious self-playing mechanical instruments, many of them made in Jacques Offenbach's own lifetime.

At the Frankfurt Opera the mechanical doll, Olympia, was played and sung by the brilliant young American soprano Brenda Rae, who did a fantastic clockwork dance while singing her stunning coloraturas.

  • Last visit to Bruchsal: Dec 2010
  • Intro Updated Jan 28, 2012
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Reviews (20)

Comments (24)

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Nov 30, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Great information about these instruments. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading about them!

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Nov 3, 2012 at 4:08 AM

    As a kid I was fascinated by the mechanical organs on the carousels. They used folded perforated cardboard strips.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Nov 3, 2012 at 5:22 AM

      Yes, some of these use the same system. Thanks for your visit to my Bruchsal page.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jun 19, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    This page is so interesting, I really enjoyed reading about all the musical instruments. If I knew about it last year, I would have been there for sure to have a look myself!
    And how lucky was your Grandfather! Very lucky indeed!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Feb 19, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Lovely photos and interesting information Don! Thanks for the tour of the Music Museum. Nice way to spend time before the opera!

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Feb 1, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    The antiques are gorgeous and fanscinating. Components way before their time. I enjoyed your page here very much Don, thank you!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jan 28, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    The Bruchsal has an ecelctic mix of great items to see, but surely not play on or with. Your detail explanations were very well done

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Dec 4, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    A very informative page on this beautiful museum. I knew some of these apparatus but had no idea that there were so many different ones.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Mar 15, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    Oh wow, music in the morning :-) What a splendid museum this is, Don. And I learned where the name Nickelodeon comes from. I love the carousel organ, so cute, especially the moving figures :-)

  • german_eagle's Profile Photo
    Mar 4, 2011 at 12:46 AM

    Very interesting page, Don! These machines are fun. Saw one made by Welte in the Hotel Waldhaus in Sils-Maria in action once. Btw, that figure holding up the roof is remarkable. Usually they are female figures, called Karyatide. But a man?

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Feb 2, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    Great page Don - our own personal tour of the museum! It seems you had an excellent mini meeting here :-) Interesting to read about your grandfather's narrow escape too


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