No, the title of this post is not a grammatical error.  A shoe last is an actual thing that you will found out more about in a minute.

After our visit to Hildesheim,   LINK   we made a stop before heading home.  That stop was a visit to the Fagus Factory, a UNESCO site in nearby Alfeld.

The first thing that’s notable about the factory is the building itself, built between 1911 and 1913.  Notice the glass corners and façade. This was revolutionary at the time, as was the cubed-shape of the building with the flat roof. 

The second thing that’s notable is that the factory produced what’s called shoe lasts.

Shoe lasts are basically molds, in the shape of a foot, used for making shoes.  The two different materials you see in the photo are wood and plastic.  The Fagus factory was the first one to use polyethylene (plastic) for their shoe lasts.  The green color is their trademark.

After we bought our tickets to go into the building, the cashier told us to go to the factory and have a look around.  We thought surely we must have misheard but no, they really let you walk around the factory unaccompanied here.  And take as many photos as you like.  Um, yeah, just like in the United States.

There were all kinds of sharp instruments and computer equipment laying around and we kept thinking at any minute we were going to get yelled at and told to leave.  But no, the workers just ignored us and went on their merry way.  The difference between Americans and Germans in settings like this is that Americans feel like if you get hurt, it’s the factory’s fault and you should sue.  Germans feel like if you get hurt, it’s your own damn fault because you should know better.  I admit I like the German thought process better.  Don’t go into a factory and touch shit that’s not yours and all will be well.

There are 6 floors of exhibitions in the building and I have to say it was much more fascinating than you would think a shoe last factory has a right to be.

A lot of the exhibitions had to do with the care of your feet.  One exhibit had this quote that I liked “Footwear ought not to fiddle about with the shape of our feet.”  Those wise words were spoken by Hermann Georg Meyer, an anatomist, in 1857. Having worn many an uncomfortable shoe in my life, I completely agree.

Another exhibit posed the question “The Italians are better at shoe-making than the Germans …is that true?”  Hopefully you didn’t say yes because of course you’d be wrong.  The answer was that while Italian shoes are fashionable, they’re also expensive whereas German shoes focus on an accurate fit and their shoes are superior.  Naturally.

There were hands-on exhibits too.  This one had a sign that said in English “Please try yourself to model a wooden shoelast!”

Here’s Sean being all serious with the tools (which, by the way, were very sharp files!).

I chose to whistle and daydream while I worked.

There were lots of photos of people taking a Kneipp cure and wearing what’s called Kneipp sandals.  Basically they went to a spa to get their feet healthy.  Sounds like a good idea to me.  With the amount of walking that we do when we touring around, I am forever in search of good, comfortable shoes.

Don’t tell anyone, but after visiting the Fagus Factory I was able to appreciate why people wear socks and sandals.  Gasp!  Yes, really.  I’m still horrified by the look, don’t get me wrong.  But if you find a really comfortable pair of sandals and you can walk all day in them in comfort, I now say go ahead and wear them all year and throw on some socks when it gets cold.  Seriously, enclosed shoes are for the most part very uncomfortable.  Then again, I’ve never really been one for “cute shoes”.  I have a lot of shoes, but they’re pretty much all black or brown and comfortable. 

To make the point, near the photos of all the people wearing comfy Kneipp sandals, there was a photo of a runway model with the caption “Keep smiling, even if your feet are in agony.”

Another photo was a group of models on a pool table and the caption was “No cuddly sex appeal; dyed blonde wearing a miniskirt and boots covering her thighs.”  I was cracking up reading these things.

One of the exhibits on the history of shoes was pretty interesting and they had samples of shoes from all different eras.

I seriously remember shoes like that from 1976!  (Yes, I’m old.)

They even had shoes donated by celebrities, or at least German celebrities.

As you can see, that shoe was donated by German supermodel Claudia Schiffer.  A sign nearby explained that the shoe size “reveals her big feet”.  I just love how blunt the Germans are.

As you may know from reading some of our other blog posts, I’m fascinated with manhole covers.

I loved that this one outside the factory actually depicts the factory itself.

I’m sure we never would have visited the Fagus Factory if we hadn’t seen it listed as a UNESCO site for Germany.  I mean really, a shoe last factory?  That would not have been high on my list but now I can say I’d highly recommend it and the exhibits made it really enjoyable. 

We even picked up a souvenir from the factory.

Can you guess what it is?

When I first saw a bin full of them and picked one up, I thought maybe it was a paperweight because it’s rather heavy.  I then read the sign on the bin that said “Flaschenöffner“ and realized that it’s a bottle opener!  The part that opens the bottle is under the heel.  And yes, it really works.  Sean has tested it.  Several times, in fact.

What attractions have you visited that turned out to be a lot better than they sounded?

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