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Bad Taste Tour: Museum of Urology

We're always happy to take you to the other end of the travel spectrum and lead you through one of our Bad Taste Tours. Those of us on The Savvy Traveler staff are always amazed by the vast number of oddball, disturbing, even offensive museums and tours that are brought to our attention: The Stripper Museum in the middle-of-nowhere Nevada, the Toilet Seat Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Would our listeners really go to these places, we ask ourselves? Well, the truth is, we just don't know...but someone is paying to get in. And we figure, who are we to define bad taste? So about once a month, we visit these places through the eyes of our brave, brave tour guide, Cash Peters. And today he takes us to...the Museum of Urology. I'm not making this up...it's a real museum. And here's the disclaimer...as with any other Bad Taste Tour, you may find this journey...well...how else to say it? In bad taste.

Bad Taste Tour: Museum of Urology
by Cash Peters

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Peters: "Excuse me! Do you know where the urine museum is?"

First Woman: "Urine museum? No."

Peters: "Do you know where the urine museum is?"

Second Woman: (Laughs) "Never heard of it."

Most people haven't actually. In fact, the urine museum is in downtown Baltimore, at the offices of the American Urological Association. As I said to the receptionist, Kimberly Skeen, I said...

Museum exhibit

Peters: "Why do you have a urine museum?"

Skeen: "For visitors to look at old instruments that were used from years ago."

Peters: (Pause) "It's not just a trip around a bathroom, is it?"

Skeen: "No!" (Laughs)

When I arrived I found my name had been stuck up on the welcome board, which was nice. And underneath it said: "This is a casual day." Bizarrely, it turns out that the American Urological Association on Fridays, but only Fridays, allows you to come in wearing jeans.

They do. Anyway, to reach the urological museum, you go through the lobby, past a row of posters that say things like, "Incontinence: You are not alone" and "Ten things to do when you can't control your bladder." I've got a brochure if you want one. Then, up in an elevator, then finally into the room itself, which is filled with hundreds of surgical instruments. Incidentally, if you're squeamish, this may be a good time to cross your legs. Question is: Is it a tourist attraction? I mean, really? Dr. Rainer Engel runs the place.

Engel: "I have had a number of non-medical people in here who've heard about it and came to look at it. Once you're in here and you're over the thought that you're looking at a number of tools that can be put into your body, it actually becomes rather fascinating."

Yeah, fascinating in an "Oh my God, let me out of here" kind of way. The surgical instruments date back to the early days of medicine and all of them are designed specifically for...you know...poking about downstairs. Do stop me if I get too technical. So, with a warning to Dr. Engel not to be too graphic in case I faint, the tour began.

Peters: "Okay, I want to see your best exhibits. I want to be charmed and I want to be amazed..."

Engel: "...and frightened."

Peters: "No, don't frighten me, I'm only a boy. Keep it light, keep it frothy, and don't mention urine again."

Engel: "Okay, I can do that."

Engel: "This thing that looks like a huge finger went into the throat to look down the windpipe. The big long one with those three branches that can be screwed open was designed for the organs you don't want me to mention."

The walls of the museum are lined with photographs of old men who look as if they've been staring at crotches all day. Plus there's a display of postage stamps related to urology, which I flatly refused to look at, and finally there's...oh, what I'll loosely describe as...other stuff.

Renal System

Engel: "See this metal ring, with the spikes on the inside?

Peters: "Oh no!"

Engel: "Yes, this was a device that put on a little boy's penis at night to prevent him from developing the secret vice."

Peters: (Interjecting very quickly) "Oh look! A typewriter."

Engel: (Still talking about the ring) "This was an age when people were convinced that masturbation led to blindness and idiocy."

Peters: "Oh look, a typewriter!"

Engel: "I put on an annual exhibit and one of the exhibits related to the history of our journal..." (Fades out)

Phew, that was a near miss. Anyway, there's something here for everyone...except maybe adults and children.

One thing this place does prove is that medicine has made amazing advances in the past 400 years and there's never been a better time to not be able to control your bladder.

Peters: "So, at what point in this cabinet here did it get comfortable?"

Engel: "Basically in the 1960's."

Peters: "So about the last three exhibits, really?"

Engel: "Yes."

Peters: "So these other 200 exhibits before them were really uncomfortable?"

Engel: "Absolutely."

And on that reassuring note I left. Faster, I think, than I've ever left anywhere before. Stopping only to insist that my name be taken down from the welcome board.

At the American Urological Association in Baltimore, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler. Oh, by the way, you can uncross your legs now.

Savvy Resources for Urology:

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