German Colonial Museum – Frutillar, Chile - Atlas Obscura
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Frutillar, Chile

German Colonial Museum

A sliver of 19th-century Germany sits on the shore of a Chilean lake. 

The story of the early German immigrants to Chile and their enchanting architecture is recounted at this immaculately landscaped museum, which preserves an assortment of 19th-century structures built by the colonists.

Following revolutions in Europe in 1848, and encouraged by reconnaissance which claimed Lake Llanquihue to be “just like Lake Geneva” (but with more active volcanoes), 6,000 German families set sail for the far side of the globe to help build the democratic republic fate had denied them at home. These political exiles were encouraged by the Chilean Government to settle around the shores of this beautiful lake on the very edge of Patagonia.

This museum dedicated to preserving the memory of the German colonists became possible after the land it stands on was donated to the Austral University of Chile in 1979. The meticulously preserved structures of the museum sit in an enviable elevated position, affording panoramic views across Lake Llanquihue toward the active volcanoes of the Andes.

Principal exhibits include a wassermühle (watermill), which wouldn’t look out of place on a Bavarian meadow, a bauernhaus (farmhouse) from 1889 furnished with period German furniture, and an enormous circular barn exhibiting imported agricultural equipment brought by the settlers to revolutionize Chilean farming. A touching family cemetery also exists in the landscaped park, which is planted with native and imported species and criss-crossed by small streams, channels, and mill ponds.

The two-story watermill was moved from the lakeside to its current location following the museum’s creation. This stunning addition houses a ground-floor exhibition telling the captivating story of these long-distance migrants and a gallery for local artists to display their work on the upper level.

Know Before You Go

After a visit to the museum, it is worth having a walk around the pretty town of Frutillar, which boasts many other German-style buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are numerous cafes and restaurants here where you can sample hearty Chilean German fusion cooking, including the delicious Küchen Arandano (Blueberry Cake).