Larry and I just got back from visiting Ellen in Berlin. It was a great trip, but before I write about that, I want to finish my musings about Wisconsin.
While Amy was canoeing in Wisconsin, I stayed at an AirBnB above the West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shop. Wisconsinites fricking LOVE cheese.
As every Wisconsinite I have ever met has told me, Wisconsin is second only to California in cheese production. And as I have told all of them, California doesn’t know or care, so Wisconsin may as well just own it and claim the number one spot.
The West Allis Cheese and Sausage shop also carried a wide variety of tasty Wisconsin beer and some very bad Wisconsin wine. I think Wisconsin can have cheese, and California will continue to revel in its number one spot in wine.
All of my Wisconsin travel guides (I am a freak for travel books) mentioned that while in Milwaukee, the traveler should visit the Milwaukee Public Museum. So I did.
How to describe it? The original museum was founded in 1851. There were less than 30,000 people in the pretty rough frontier town of Milwaukee, and a few guys found time to form a natural history museum. They opened it to the public in 1882, the collection has continued to grow, and now it is enormous.
The MPM’s biggest claim to fame: in 1890, Carl Akeley, a taxidermist and biologist, created the first museum habitat diorama in the world, depicting a muskrat colony.
I haven’t been able to find an exact count of how many dioramas are currently in the MPM, but there are at least sixty, depicting all corners of the globe and all eras, crammed with molting taxidermied animals and plaster casts of natives in ethnic garb.
There is also an enormous plastic glacier, a two-story Costa Rican rainforest room with a waterfall, and a room full of live butterflies.
But by far, the favorite exhibit of Milwaukeeans is The Streets of Old Milwaukee. Opened in 1965, it is a full-sized recreation of Milwaukee streets from the early 1900s. It is supposed to be early evening, so the streets are dark and all the houses and stores are lit from within, showing a variety of businesses, homes, people, pets, furniture, etc.
I wandered through the darkened streets with other visitors, many of whom were children, as it was a rainy summer day. There was a large crowd gathered at the corner candy store. As I got closer, I could hear a buzz of chatter and feel the excitement in the air. That’s when I realized: THE CANDY STORE WAS REAL.
This was pure genius on the part of whoever designed the exhibit. Four at a time, children were allowed to enter the tiny shop and buy ten-cent sticks of candy from a real clerk in an old-timey costume. No wonder Milwaukeeans let out a collective howl of protest whenever anyone suggests doing away with The Streets of Old Milwaukee.
There is a great online article about the MPM:
I did, in fact, find the rattlesnake button, and now I feel like a member of a really cool Milwaukee club. I just need to make it to a Brewers game now…