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Germany: Great destination for dog lovers

First bred in nation, dachshund breed honored at museum

By Diane Daniel, Special to The Washington Post
Published: September 16, 2018, 6:05am
4 Photos
Dackelmuseum owners Oliver Storz, left, and Seppi Kublbeck, with their dachshunds Moni, left, and Little Seppi.
Dackelmuseum owners Oliver Storz, left, and Seppi Kublbeck, with their dachshunds Moni, left, and Little Seppi. Photo Gallery

Outside the Dackelmuseum in Passau, Germany, I dropped to the cobblestone pavement to greet its four-legged ambassadors, year-old siblings Moni and Little Seppi. The black-and-tan short-haired dachshunds sniffed me, then Little Seppi reached up to gently lick my face.

A kiss so soon? I felt special, though I’m guessing I was one of hundreds he’d smooched since the Dackelmuseum, or Dachshund Museum, opened in April. The 860-square-foot space pays homage to the pooch that originated in Germany and first was bred for hunting badgers. The dachshund’s long snout and body, as well as its short legs and thick, powerful paws, were well suited for ferreting badgers out of their tunnels. These days, the breed is a popular pet in many European countries and was ranked 13th in the United States last year by the American Kennel Club.

Even before the debut of the world’s first museum devoted to the wonders of the wiener dog, the quirky attraction had garnered much media attention. The museum sports some 4,000 pieces of wienerabilia and an unrivaled dachshund-themed gift shop. I learned of it because my Facebook page filled up with links from friends who know I go bonkers for the breed. In one of my early baby photos, I’m being kissed by the family dachshund, Schnapps. Since then, I’ve shared my life with eight other lowriders and fostered even more. I am currently houndless, but my devotion to the diminutives has not diminished.

Since Passau, an attractive historic city in southeastern Germany, is only a day’s drive from my home in the Netherlands, I immediately put a visit on my shortlist. Then a friend mentioned the Teckel Hotel, run by a Dutch couple in the Austrian Alps devoted to “teckels,” the Dutch word for dachshund. This being only a few hours southwest of Passau, my “teckel tour” was on.

In the baroque center of Passau, situated along the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers, it’s easy to spot the Dackelmuseum during opening hours. Co-owners Seppi Kublbeck and his longtime partner, Oliver Storz, who arrived during my visit, adorn the exterior with dachshund-shaped benches, watering cans and more. On nice days you’re likely to find one or both of the men, often with Moni and Little Seppi, sitting outside in their knee-length lederhosen chatting up passersby, of which there are many. Passau, a main stop on the busy European river cruise circuit and a starting point for many cycling tours, hosts more than 1 million tourists a year.

“People, especially Americans, will send us emails before they go on a river cruise and ask if we’ll be open and if we’ll be there, but most of all if the dogs will be there,” Storz said with an amused look. “I can’t believe we’re like celebrities, but if the dogs are here, it’s like an audience with the pope. They kneel down and kiss them and sometimes go on their backs.”

Some visitors show up wearing dachshund-themed clothing and jewelry, and one New Yorker arrived with her travel mate — a silhouette cutout of her dachshund.

“Then she asked, ‘Can I get your autographs so I can show my dachshund when I’m home?'” Storz said.

When the two started dating 21 years ago, Kublbeck had a long-haired dachshund who initially would turn her backside to Storz, but grew to love him. Moni and Little Seppi are the couple’s third generation of dachshunds.

Over the years, the men, who are both medal-winning master florists and once owned a shop together, collected dachshund memorabilia during their travels and ended up with several hundred pieces.

“Only beautiful items of good quality,” Kublbeck noted. “Nothing too kitschy.”

A few years ago, after Kublbeck broke his foot and Storz was hospitalized with a burst appendix, they decided to shutter the flower shop and open a less-stressful business selling classic Bavarian souvenirs, with some dackel doodads on the side.

“We discovered from our international travelers that the dachshund is really popular all over the world,” Storz said. “So we started to increase that collection and had a 50 percent turnover of dachshund items every day.”

After a little digging around, they found a spot for a bona fide dachshund museum and gift shop. Thanks to some early publicity in Europe, the founder of the Belgian punk rock band Les Teckels reached out to donate about 3,500 items.

“He came with a van completely full, with 60 banana boxes and each of the dachshunds wrapped in paper,” Storz said.

They’ve since picked up more donations, including a collection of 2,000 items.

“It’s mostly from elderly people who want to clean out their lives,” Storz said. We’ve had some really nice meetings.”

Other items arrive unsolicited.

The next day, armed with a stack of Dackelmuseum brochures to take to the Teckel Hotel, I headed down to the mountain resort town of Mayrhofen in the western Austrian region of Tyrol, an hour from Innsbruck.

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I was greeted with a five-bark salute by Penny, the wire-haired matriarch.

The 15-room hotel, which is a compact and comfortable ski lodge in the winter (teckels are welcome year-round), is a dachshund’s delight in the summer. Owners Eric and Anneliese van den Broeke have gone to great lengths to satisfy canine and human customers, adding amenities such as a doggy pool, washing tub, bowls of water everywhere, secure play areas inside and out, and comfy chairs all over.