Here’s something a little different for those who need saving from tedious stoushes.
Last year at this time I shared our experiences of the Milford Track. This year I thought I’d reach back to our trip to Europe and Canada in 2008.
For a couple of days my wife and I plus my elder brother and his wife stayed at house guests with a good friend of my brother’s. My brother’s friend had been a constant guest at our farm during school holidays from boarding school in Brisbane over 50 years ago. He was the son of a Lutheran missionary in PNG and the church could only afford to fly them up there every second Christmas. Now retired, he and his wife had settled in Asselfingen, a village in Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, about 30km north-east of Ulm. Here’s view of the countryside around Asselfingen:
A memorable part of our stay was an excursion to the display centre of Margarete Steiff GmbH, famous for quality stuffed toys. To get there we had to travel about 18km further north-east through farming country to Giengen. Here are some contented cows we saw along the way:
When you enter the Steiff display centre you are greeted in the foyer by this friendly fellah:
You’ll notice the tag in the ear, which they’ve been using since 1904 to certify genuine product.
To tour the exhibition you have to pay, I think it was about €8. Once inside they first show how the toys were originally made:
Margarete Steiff suffered from polio when young and was confined to a wheel chair. She first made felt animals and sold them as pin cushions, only to find that children played with them as toys. One of the first female entrepreneurs, she set up a felt toy factory business in 1880 to produce the world’s first soft toy, an Elefänte (small elephant). The teddy bear was introduced by her nephew in 1902.
Margarete Steiff designed most of the prototypes herself.
You then proceed up through the exhibition spread over four floors. My collection of photos has 75 images. Here is a sample, mostly without comment.
Birds may be harder to do. This is what they made of one of ours:
More of ours:
It seems to me they do better on their own domestic birds.
When all is said and done, it’s mostly about teddy bears:
They feed you out through a shop, with a coffee shop nearby. Lord knows how much you would pay for toys of the kind shown above. In the shop the cheapest teddy bear big enough for a young child to cuddle set you back about €45. We bought a cup of coffee and escaped.
When we were there we heard that the company had tried to outsource to China, but this had failed. I thought it might have to do with cultural content. According to this article it was more about staff turnover. It takes 8 to 12 months to train a seamstress to make the complicated Steiff patterns to the desired quality. Chinese staff tend not to stay long. In the event the jobs have not come back to Germany, but to Tunisia. Also the company has diversified into the larger markets of baby products and children’s clothing.
The final shot, taken by my wife, shows the rest of our group with the Steiff centre in the background. You can probably pick which are the excited Australian tourists: