The discovery of this rat museum began unexpectedly with a trip to Maidstone, England. The team originally stopped at the Cobtree Museum of Kent Life for its huge exhibits on hops (a very tasty ingredient in beer). While wandering through the open-air museum and its variety of old hop related buildings, the team stumbled upon a small "vermin" exhibit located in an old grain storage shed propped up on mushroom-shaped pillars, designed to keep certain little four-legged critters out. Inside the building were the sights and sounds of the "anti-rat" middle ages, including many drawings on the walls of mediaeval rat-catchers and rat traps, as well as a continuous audio tape which contained calls of "bring out your dead". Several stuffed rats were shown in display windows and another had been placed up on one of the rafters. It was with much sadness from this view of rats that the team made its way from the building.
After several tiring hours of exploring, the team was just about to leave when they discovered a small, rather well-hidden courtyard containing several farm animals. Eventually they noticed a small shed in the corner.... and lo and behold, it was entirely dedicated to pet rats! It had signs about how rats make wonderful pets and contained several large beautiful agouti-colored rats in an ample "farm environment" enclosure. The rats were a bit groggy from sleep, but did peer up at us from their warm nest amongst some bricks. Black, grey or white rubber rats were available from the gift shop to commemorate this fine museum.
The next spectacular rat encounter was at the Noorder Dierenpark (zoo) in Emmen, a city in the northern part of the Netherlands. The entrance to the "sewer rat" exhibit slopes downward to two sliding glass doors with large rat stickers on them. The doors open and the world is transformed into that of a 19th century underground sewer. A sign at the entrance informs the visitor that the sewer is currently undergoing maintance and is dry, so no special equipment is needed to visit it. Coming from the ceiling are a variety of sounds... people talking, dogs barking, trams clanging. The entire long passageway is made of dark brick arches, and dim yellow lights line the way.
Slowly one comes to realize that both sides of the tunnel are lined with plexiglass, and behind it, rats scamper carelessly and play freely without the danger of being inadvertently stepped on. There are lovely brown rats everywhere, playing in the pipes and old shoes, climbing the many large branches, or splashing about in small puddles.
As well as gathering plenty of information from the many signs in the exhibit, the team also managed to speak with the rats' caretaker. Apparently the exhibit contains about 90 rats who were all lab raised but are as close to wild rats as genetically possible. They only play in this area during the day; at night they are all herded into soft little nest boxes in the back room.
After a good hour or two enjoying the rats, the team continues on to see the rest of the zoo. To their surprise, even more rats could be seen in the 'Man and Elephant' exhibit. Here, there were many statues of Ganesha, the Hindu elephant god of wisdom, who was displayed along with his companion animal... the rat! Also, a book from the zoo gift shop made this rat-filled spot a place remember.
The team learned of a "Sewer rat" rollercoaster in Adventurpark Hellendoorn, a Dutch amusement park in northern Netherlands. Unfortunately they arrived three days late; the park had already closed for winter.
So, they had to make due with the next best thing, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster featured at the Weerter Kermis, a fair in their own homebase city. The tall portable rollercoaster featured little circular carts painted with the faces of different colored mice.
The VB team was very pleased to learn that there is a wide variety of rat-related attractions available, and with rat popularity continually on the rise, hopefully those attractions will be ever increasing as well. After all, rats are 50% of what Vermin Brewing is all about.