Like Clockwork! Glockenspiel Going Strong in Frankenmuth




The Bavarian Inn’s glockenspiel clock tower is as renowned as its world-famous chicken dinners … and for good reason!

For nearly 50 years and counting, the charming landmark known as the glockenspiel has delighted generations of Frankenmuth visitors. The word is German for “singing bells,” a fitting description for the 50-foot structure that stands on the south side of the Bavarian Inn. The building was commissioned by Bavarian Inn founder William “Tiny” Zehnder Jr., who drew his inspiration from a similar device he saw while vacationing in Munich, Germany.

After years of research, Tiny ordered the glockenspiel from experts in Holland and Germany, and the project was completed in 1967. The glockenspiel features 35 carillons or bells; on the clock’s striking of each hour and quarter hour, the melodious sounds of the Westminster chime fill the village. The bells are also programmed to play God Bless America, which was Tiny’s favorite song, as well as My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, Edelweiss and many other beloved tunes.

The animatronic re-enactment of The Pied Piper of Hameln is perhaps the glockenspiel’s most well-known feature. Rain or shine, crowds continue to gather underneath the tower to marvel as the nearly five-foot tall figurines of the Piper and other characters cross the stage, retelling the German folktale that dates back to 1284. The re-enactments occur each day at noon, 3, 6 and 9pm, making it one Frankenmuth’s most photographed landmarks.

Today, in this age of instant digital gratification, it’s good to know this unique piece of old-world engineering has retained its magic, allowing it to be experienced and appreciated by generations to come. ♦



Photography by Mike Naddeo




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