The museums of Mannheim, Germany, can be both fantastic and frustrating. Fantastic in what they exhibit, frustrating because little of it is labeled in English.

They are also a delight in their variety, but a disappointment in what you cannot currently see.

The museums are the Landesmuseum für Technik und Arbeit (State Museum for Technology and Work) and the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums. Another, although not a museum in the traditional sense, but a good place to spend a winter day, is the Kunsthalle, Mannheim’s art exhibition hall.

The Landesmuseum describes itself as living history. It traces technology in southwestern Germany from the 18th century to the present. The “living” aspect is that while visitors can look at the exhibits, they can also watch demonstrations of how the technology worked. Presses print, mills grind, looms weave and a steam locomotive pulls a train through the museum grounds. The museum’s restaurant is designed as a working-class pub of the early 20th century.

The disappointment is that everything on the museum’s six floors is labeled in German only. If you don’t know German, you are at a loss to know what some of the displays are. There is a brochure that gives you the gist of what the museum is about, but no detail. Still, the Landesmuseum gives a good look at some of the contraptions invented in the past 300 years.

The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums are two museums named for their addresses. The city’s streets divide it into grids, each with a letter and number. Museum C5 in the historic Zeughaus building is dedicated to art history, theater and music history and photography. Across the street is Museum D5, with displays on archaeology, natural history, ethnology and non-European cultures.

Unfortunately, Museum C5 is closed until January 2007 for renovation, and except for a floor with exhibits on early man and some natural history exhibits, much of D5’s permanent exhibits are also closed.

The museum makes up for this though, with two outstanding temporary exhibits. On the ground floor is “Pompeii, the Final Hours, August 24, 79 AD,” with original exhibits from Pompeii, Herculaneam and Oplontis. The show lasts until April 17, so if you are not planning a trip to southern Italy in the near future, plan one to Mannheim for this exhibit.

On the top floor of D5, open until Feb. 24, is an exhibition of the works of German photographer Robert Häusser. One of the great contemporary photographers, the show features his work from 1938 to the present. As a caution, there is some nudity in the show.

There is also nudity in the temporary show at the Kunsthalle, but if you are interested in contemporary painting and sculpture, this is a show you won’t want to miss. It lasts until May 1. Yan Pei-Ming, Julian Schnabel, James Lloyd and Cecily Brown are just some of the artists shown at this exhibition, called “Direct Painting.” The Kunsthalle’as permanent collection with works by Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Henri Matisse and Paul Cezanne.

On the QT ...

DIRECTIONS: The Landesmuseum für Technik und Arbeit is at the end of A-656. There is free parking at Friedensplatz behind the museum. To get to the Kunsthalle, stay on the same street (A-656 becomes Augustaanlage). When you come to the Wasserturm (water tower) on Friedrichsplatz, the hall is on the left. There is parking under the Wasserturm (1.50 euro per hour for the first two hours, 1 euro per hour after that).

The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums is in downtown Mannheim at D5. At the Wasserturm, follow the traffic straight down to the Rathaus at E5, take a left and continue to Toulonplatz. There is a parking garage in front of the museum (same prices as at the Wasserturm).

TIMES: The Landesmuseum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays and German holidays.

The Kunsthalle and the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums are open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. All museums are closed on Mondays.

COSTS: Landesmuseum: 3 euros for adults, 2 euros for children and 6 euros for a family pass for the permanent exhibits. Entrance is free on Wednesday afternoons. Special exhibits cost extra.

The Kunsthalle: 2.10 euros for adults, 1 euro for children and 4.10 euros for a family ticket. Special shows, including “Direct Painting,” costs 7 euros for adults, 5 euros for children and 5 euros for the family.

Reiss-Engelhorn-Museum D5: 2.10 euros for adults, 1 euro for children and 4.10 euros for a family ticket to the permanent exhibits (only one floor at the moment). Free on Tuesdays. The admission for the Pompeii exhibit is 7 euros for adults, 6 euros for children and 13.50 euros for families. A combination ticket for the Pompeii and Häusser exhibits is 8 euros and 6 euros, respectively, family ticket the same as above.

FOOD: All three museums have cafés that offer food and drink.

INFORMATION: The Web sites (in German) are:;; and

— Michael Abrams

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