Google Street View Returns To Germany

Explore mountains, towns, markets, airports and motorways in Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland model village with Google Street View.

Miniatur Wunderland has to be one of the top attractions when visiting Hamburg. It is one of largest model railway exhibits in the world with over 15,000 metres of track, and includes a complete (and fully functioning) model of “Knuffingen Airport”. The nearly 6,500 square metre exhibit guides visitors through various themed areas including the Alps and Austria, Hamburg, Scandinavia, Switzerland and the USA.

Given the sheer size of the attraction and the extremely “miniature” models that occupy it, including the infamous murder scene (yes – you read me correctly), one of the best ways to get up close and personal has been to use a zoom lens.

Google has however now put Miniatur Wunderland on Street View using tiny cameras on (tiny) cars and trains, for all the world to see.

Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world, with the exception that is of Germany.

Street View has always been a challenge for Google in Europe, because European privacy laws and cultural norms are more sensitive to privacy issues than those in the United States. Google uses technology to blur faces and license plates in its Street View images. Germany is one of the most privacy-sensitive countries in the world. So when Google started taking pictures of buildings and homes for its Street View maps, some people were outraged, even though it was legal.

In 2011, after launching Street the previous year, Google announced it was to halt the service in Germany. While the company would not be taking any of the old Street View pictures down, it announced that it would not be adding or updating to it either. This was despite a court decision that had made street photography legal and German privacy laws that had given German residents to option to have their homes blurred out, if they so wished.

Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland is probably unique in giving Google Street View users across the globe an insight into how Germans view their own towns and cities – and maybe themselves – at least for the moment.

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