Museumsdorf Cloppenburg, a golden window on the past

A short visit to the German town of Cloppenburg (Niedersachsen / Lower Saxony) and the quite interesting Museumsdorf (museum village) this past week, coincided with the first pleasant day of this year’s spring. The spring sun flooded the place with remarkably clear and warm light, gaining strength during the afternoon, but not enough to drown everything in stark contrasts. Yet it kept the temperature high enough to take off one’s coat. Nice.

The open air museum is mainly devoted to a historically faithful representation of life and work in the German countryside. The buildings are not reconstructions, but, according to the information provided on small text-shields, rebuilt originals that haven been moved from elsewhere. It’s mostly farms, but there are also other buildings, like a bakery, a church, a small school, a pottery and some other auxiliary buildings. The village has three historical windmills of different types.

Leisurely strolling trough the buildings and along the paths one can take in the past and occasionally discover something or learn something new. The museum village is not overly educational, but, when you want to dive deeper into the material and immaterial heritage of the region, there is plenty of information available.

Chapel
Chapel

I liked the casual look of the whole ‘ensemble’, as if the people had left their places, but could return soon. Still, something was missing. Although it is called ‘village’, it does’t have all the elements that make a village tick, it is a rather large cluster of farms really, houses that would normally probably be more distant from each other. But there is still enough room there to fill in the blanks.

On several occasions I took my camera out, but only to make a few quick snapshots; I’d left the tripod in the car. The light and the geometry were the elements that struck me most. Golden light penetrated the often somber buildings, while squared windows and squared ‘Fachwerk’ (half-timbered construction) dominated the architecture. Nice elements for a thematic approach.

The first image is taken from a very formal, or rich farmhouse, that now serves as a permanent exhibition area. It shows the half-timbered school, and elements of a formal garden. The different glass-panes give a checkered window on the past.

Window with garden
Window on the past

The second photograph is a reference to our own good old Dutch masters, especially Vermeer, who had the uncanny ability to light a scene as if there were a real source of light inside the painting.

Oblique light streams through the checkered window
Oblique light streams through the checkered window

The third image is a large room, darkened by an open fireplace, lit by the afternoon sun.

Large room in farmstead
Large room in farmstead

The image below struck me as being exceptionally poetic. I don’t know why.

Pond with fowl shelter and reflections
Pond with fowl shelter and reflections

More rectangles than in a Mondrian painting

Window and wall, half-timbered construction (Fachwerk)
Window and wall, half-timbered construction (Fachwerk)

Many doorways have ornamental, symbolic, or heraldic elements.

Ornamental door, with more squares
Ornamental door, with more squares

The smithy, interestingly cluttered, and therefore very picturesque. Which also gives us a nice insight in the display principles that are at the basis of this museum.

Workshop
Workshop

If you’re passing this part of Germany you should give it a try. There’s a lot of parking space, and with nice weather it’s an afternoon well spent.

Website of the museum: http://www.museumsdorf.de