Back in the middle of March J & I spent a long weekend in Berlin. Primarily this was to visit the exhibition about Amarna that was on at one of the museums, but we did manage to look at other stuff as well, even stuff that wasn’t anything to do with ancient Egypt! 😉
I’ve got several photos up on flickr, there are some highlights in this post 🙂 Not going to talk about things in chronological order here, instead I’ll group it into categories.
Travel & Getting Around
Our trip out went remarkably smoothly – no traffic delays on the way to the airport & the flight was on time etc. And we even managed to figure out buses & U-bahn trains to get ourselves into central Berlin to find our hotel. Even so, it was evening by the time we got there so we just got some dinner at a nearby restaurant and then went back to the hotel & crashed. Tiredness not helped by it being just a couple of days after the Marillion Weekend!
I’d managed to get us a hotel within walking distance of the museums (the ones we went to were on Museum Island), so even though it was bitterly cold we did that rather than figure out the buses or trains. And it was nice, we got to see a bit more of the city than we otherwise would’ve. We walked past the New Synagogue on the way to & from the museums, and several other neat looking buildings. Also lots and lots of graffiti ranging from basic tags through to very elaborate art – I’m not sure where the boundary between graffiti & “official” art was. I wish I’d taken more photos of that in retrospect, I’d only really got one (I was a wimp, my hands were freezing cold if I took my gloves off so the camera stayed in its case too much).
And the less said about the flight back the better – getting to the airport was fine, but the airport itself was pretty crappy (busy, cramped, no decent food options, not much information on what was going on) and the flight was delayed. But we made it home to the miserable wet weather that the UK had waiting for us so it worked out OK 🙂
Food & Drink
All my photos of food & drink were on my phone to put on G+ while we were away, except for one, so the quality is pretty crappy (I’m also not sure how to embed them in this post so that they’re a sensible size etc, so I’ll just say the album is here, on G+. The first night we just went for “close” as the primary criterion for food so wound up in an oriental place that did interesting fusion food that wasn’t quite to our tastes (not bad, just we didn’t like it). Breakfasts were in the hotel – a continental breakfast buffet which was rather good. Lunches were mostly in the Neues Museum in between looking at things, which meant club sandwiches or salad for me and slightly more variety for J (there was Egyptian themed stuff). In the evenings we tried to eat German food, which to be honest I found a bit overwhelmingly dense (I was coming down with a cold by the last day tho, so maybe that was it). We also drank beer with our meals, it seemed the thing to do 😉
As I said above, the primary purpose of the trip was to see an exhibition at the Neues Museum, and also to look at the rest of their Egyptian collection. I’m going to talk about the things we saw more in another post & share a whole load more pictures of the items (not uploaded yet, and only half-processed). We spent 1 whole day and two half days at the Neues, which for me was in retrospect a bit much – the last day I was feeling coldy and so very done with that museum, I should’ve gone off to somewhere else while J finished up the bits he hadn’t seen or wanted to see again.
One thing I really liked about the museum was the remaining bits of the original decoration. The museum building had been badly damaged during the war, so there wasn’t a lot left, but when the restoration was done they’d preserved as much as they could. The Egyptian wing of the museum had previously been painted to look like an Egyptian temple, and the other wing (Greek, Roman and, pre-historic items) had things like murals of Odin in rooms which used to house the collection of items from Norway.
On one of the mornings that we didn’t spend in the Neues Museum we went to the nearby Pergamon Museum. Which could have a sub-title of “Monumental Architecture We Nicked from Around the Ancient World” 😉 The key piece is a Greek altar building from Pergamon, which is stunningly large to have as a museum exhibit. They also have rebuilt a part of the Ishtar Gate from Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar’s time, which is the thing that we went to the museum specifically to see. Again I’ll talk about this more in another post, as I’ve several photos of the buildings and artifacts they have in the museum.
Brandenburg Gate (and assorted nearby buildings)
One of the things I’d wanted to see was the Brandenburg Gate, so on the second full day we were there we walked there from the museum. Getting to it just as the sun went down – took several pics despite the cold, including the one at the start of this (massive) post 🙂 On the way we walked past several statues and grand buildings, including the memorial to the victims of war & tyranny. Oh, and quite a few bears – this being the tourist trap bit of Berlin. In one of the shops we also spotted the most appallingly tacky plates embossed with the image of Nefertiti in gold (on white) and a couple of cartouches (which didn’t have Nefertiti’s name in). It was awful. J has a pic somewhere I think, but I don’t know if he’s sharing it or not 🙂
On the last full day we spent the afternoon looking at the cathedral that’s next to Museum Island. The physical building of the Berliner Dom has had a bit of an odd history. Underneath it is the crypt where the Hohenzollern family were buried, and this family played a major role in German history from the 12th Century through to the early 20th Century. They provided several Electors, Kings & Emperors of Prussia, Germany and Romania. And the Protestant branch of the family that ruled in Prussia are buried in Berlin from the mid 16th Century onwards. The church building appears to have been pulled down and rebuilt several times – each time to make something grander and more fitting for the family status and aspirations. This finally stopped when the existing church was bombed in the Second World War. It was subsequently rebuilt exactly as it had been pre-bombing, for the first time restored rather than replaced. (My understanding here is based on one small leaflet in English, a skim-read of wikipedia for dates and some attempt to understand the German signs in the church – take with requisite large barrels of salt).
The existing building is grandiose & ornate, and by this point this was built the family clearly thought very well of themselves indeed (I think they were Emperors by then, so you can see why). The outside is floridly carved with all sorts of bits & bobs. The inside has mosaics, reliefs, statues, grandiose tombs – you name it, it has that sort of decoration. Around the dome are mosaics of all four evangelicals, statues of four great reformers (e.g. Luther & co), reliefs showing scenes from the acts of the apostles. Higher up in the dome are yet more mosaics. The stained glass actually looks like paintings rather than windows. In the church itself there are also some ornately carved tombs or grave monuments of some of the Hohenzollerns.
Upstairs there was a small exhibition of models of the church they didn’t build last time round (ie the ideas that got turned down), plus we could get up to the inside walkway round the dome & look out through the windows. There’s also an outside walkway but this was closed due to bad weather (I’m guessing they were worried about ice & snow). Unfortunately the windows for the inside bit were clarty beyond belief and so the pictures I have are a little spoilt by the grubbiness of the glass.
Downstairs was the crypt laid out with coffin after coffin of the Hohenzollern family. Quite depressing actually – rather than being glorious monuments these felt very personal and sad. Mostly black coffins, with maybe bits of velvet and the occasional dead bunch of flowers. Even when there was decoration it didn’t lift the sombre mood. And the relatively large number of child coffins dragged it down further.
On the last morning we were there we managed to pack up our stuff way before time to go to the airport, so decided to walk to a place where we’d seen on the map the Berlin Wall used to run. I had a little guidebook, but it hadn’t mentioned where the memorial stuff for the Wall was, so we were very pleased when by chance we walked directly to the area that’s been set aside for that. This morning was also the only point in the trip we were actually in what used to be West Berlin, and that only briefly. There are some sections of the wall still standing, with several small information points that tell you what happened to whom & where. There’s also a memorial to all the people who died crossing the wall trying to escape to West Berlin during the years the wall was standing. And a section of the wall has been rebuilt so that you can see what it looked like.
It’s almost incomprehensible, to be honest. The Berlin Wall coming down is one of the first current affairs events I really paid attention to (as I said yesterday in my post about Doctor Who) and the mindset of the people who ordered it built in the first place just makes no sense to me. “Oh look, all our people are defecting in their droves because they hate their lives here so much, so lets not change a thing, let’s just wall them in and kill them if they try to get out”. We didn’t end up staying long here, too cold and we had a plane to catch, but I’m glad we managed to see it before we left.
Overall, a good holiday 🙂 A new city I’ve now visited, and we saw quite a few things as well as the Egyptian stuff. I think I’d like to go back sometime, but preferably in the summer!