The Tattooed Woman, or How Hard I Had to Work to Get 8 Euros Worth of Goods Back to the States

Before this past summer, I hadn’t been to Germany in 15 years. One of the biggest things that made an impression on me from my visit when I was 6 was not my blood relations, but actually an exhibit I saw with my parents at the Muenchener Stadtmuseum. The Muenchener Stadtmuseum is the Munich city museum, and it’s a totally rad place. I know that we saw several exhibits they had there when I was 6; the musical instrument exhibit, a cool/creepy puppet exhibit, and THE COOLEST THING I HAD EVER SEEN: a carnival sideshow exhibit.


This side show exhibit made a big impression on me, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover on my latest trip that it was still there! I was (thankfully, because I would have done it anyway) allowed to take pictures in the museum so I was able to capture some of my favorite things from it.


An important thing to know about this exhibit: it is a collection of carnival & sideshow art but also actual items you would find at a sideshow, for example, things that move and make noise. Luckily, I had a vague recollection of this from when I was little, so I didn’t totally shit myself when my dad and I walked by the clown pictured above and it started laughing hysterically and spazzing out in his chair. But there was another moving freak show item that I was more eager to see.


Behold! The incredible bloody head! This fascinated and freaked me out in equal measure when I was 6. It’s a disembodied head that comes to life when you get near it and screams “Blood! Blooood! AAARRGHHH!” but in German, all while dripping from its neck and spitting fake blood onto the glass. It’s horrifying, but also awesome, so clearly I had to take a selfie with it.


Leila + severed head 4EVER

Now onto the thing I set out to write this story about, my tattooed woman poster. One of the art pieces in the exhibit is this great painted advertisement for the tattooed woman at a freak show. It’s definitely the least weird and most beautiful of the art pieces, so I wanted to get it as a poster. The gift shop had it, and it was only 8 euros! Excellent price, I bought it.


It came time for my dad to fly back to the States and leave me in Germany, so I decided to send him with my poster. It made sense; I was going to be traveling from Munich to Cologne to Frankfurt before I came back to the US, he was only going to the airport and then home. Unfortunately, my dad accidentally left it somewhere in the airport and didn’t notice until he got home. Alas! Most people would see this as a sign that the poster was not meant to be mine. But not me. I went back to the museum not once, not twice, but three times to get my poster. The first time was a Monday and museums are closed on Mondays. I tried to go to museums on Mondays at least three times during my trip. The second time I just went during the wrong hours. The third time worked out.

So now I have my poster but will be in Germany still for another month. This sounds ridiculous, but it became one of my most prized possessions because I wasn’t about to leave that mofo sitting around somewhere and not get it back to California. So I trudged around with it sticking out of my backpack super awkwardly, frequently hitting stern German businessmen in the face with it on the train. Paper is blessedly lightweight, but having it sticking out of my luggage made me look much more like a dumb American hobo, especially on my torture walk around the outskirts of Frankfurt in the rain trying to find my hotel.

The moral of this lengthy story is this: if you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it work. Even if the thing you want is as ultimately insignificant as a poster from a strange museum exhibit you saw when you were six and then again at 21. I worked so hard for this poster that it now might actually be one of the things I try to save in a fire, along with my violin, the cat, my phone, my bathrobe, and my Harry Potter books.




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