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Published: August 17th 2016
Brandenburg Gate - BerlinDay 206 Thursday 11th August 2016 – Berlin
As seen from the Reichstags roof
Breakfast around the corner again then hitting the road for a day of museums this time some big ticket items on the “museum island”. On the way we gawked at some interesting buildings, passed by the site of the Nazi book burning that occurred on the 10th
May 1933. This is where all that black and white documentary footage of intolerance and suppressing free thinking by burning books happened, standing here surrounded by the university buildings and the Prussian National Library I guess this is where you stamp out learning and understanding of different ideas.
Anyway moving on it is off to the island and when we arrived the lineup for the Pergamon museum was about 2.5 hours long, it is nice that there is a sign to let you know how long the wait will be. We decided to see the Neues Museum first which is situated next door with no line up as we had the Museum 3 day card. This museum has an amazing Egyptian collection which it seems every country’s museum has, it is incredible how much they created. We saw
Pergamon Museum - Berlin
The Glorious Ishtar Gate
sarcophaguses, statues, jewellery but the main attraction was the 3,300 years old bust of Nefertiti I had seen pictures of this but they pale in comparison. She is truly beautiful and nothing compares to standing in this room looking at her, it is a must see, please note there was no famous Brazilian plastic surgeon Ivo Pitanguy to help her with the perfect nose. I am sorry we were not allowed to take photos so all I can suggest is try and visit her in person.
Other special items included a gold hat from 1000 BC which is a similar shape to a dunce’s hat but apparently it was an amazing piece that was a calendar etc. Also an ancient elk that was found when the railway was being built in 1956, apparently the elks disappeared from Germany in the 1940’s but are coming back from across the border from Poland. There is also what is left of the Schliemann finds from Troy of course it was all here until the Russians took most of it at the end of the World War II. Apparently the Russians took off with it and refuse to return it as
it is regarded as “War booty”.
Finally, we had to face the lineup for the Pergamon which is called this by a piece called the Pergamon Altar from Turkey which we could not see as it is being restored and will not be accessible till 2019. Thankfully the line had reduced to only a 40 minute wait. This passed quickly while trying to keep the pushy lady behind us from getting in front of us. We got there and put our bags in the lockers (cameras are OK) moved through to the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, OMG, we saw a small section in Istanbul but this is huge and awe inspiring no words can describe our total astonishment to see this piece. This is huge and it is only the inner gate and it is encased in a museum. We stood here for ages as this is a piece of history we both have longed to see. It was shipped here in 1,000’s of fragments and hundreds of crates that needed to be reconstructed. Eventually we prised ourselves away and walked through the arch to the next room and ahead was the balcony of Trajaneum Hall with
heads of Hadrian and Trajan, Scott tapped me on the shoulder and as I turned around I was mesmerised by the Market Gate from Miletus behind me which is 30 metres wide and 16 metres high, can I just say the German’s know how to do museums.
There are so many interesting pieces here to see but we feel that all our expectation have been met and how lucky we are to see these items.
Finally, it was onto the Alte National Galerie (the old arty farty art gallery as Scott described it) even I Shelley must say 95%!o(MISSING)f this stuff was boring maybe I was museumed/arted out but what is with the weird paintings of naked children or mother’s fondling their naked sons, - creepy, think that is illegal now. Maybe we were overloaded from all we have seen so time to move on and find a meal and a drink. Day 207 Friday 12th August 2016 – Berlin
Another day another pile of museums. Same routine as yesterday with us having breakfast at a café a block from the
hotel followed by us walking onto the Museum Island. Museum Island is called that because it is a large island in the River Spree that contains the most important museums in Berlin, we got to see 3 of them yesterday and today we are off to see the other 2, the Bode and the Altes. At the moment the entire island is a construction zone as they restore and revamp the museums, the work started in 2012 and isn’t scheduled to complete till 2025, and looking at the scale of the work, it may go longer. As I said the Germans do not do things by halves, and looking at this site confirms my beliefs, it is an incredible undertaking. The first museum we visited today was the Bode museum which contains a huge wealth of statues and religious relics. Absolutely completely astounding the amount of valuable artifacts that are on display here, but if I see another statue of Mary with the baby Jesus I might go postal. This again is a huge museum and the building itself is worth the admission fee and we spent nearly two hours wandering its halls which really didn’t do it justice and
Deutches Tecknikmuseum - Berlin
4 Cylinder shaft drive Windhoff
could have spent all day here (except for Mary and Jesus).
From here we walked down to the Altes Museum for yet another couple of hours of jaw dropping displays. This was our third day of museums so you can imagine that we were starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and this museum wasn’t perhaps our favourite, but it was “us” not the museum. This museum was filled with a lot of Greek and Roman artifacts and I guess we have already seen so much of that in Athens so it lost a lot of that wow factor. Out the front of the museum was a huge marble basin, which we were uncertain of its history other than we had seen paintings of it fabrication and installation in the Altes National Galerie yesterday. The paintings depicted this glistening smooth bowl, but what you see today is pock marked by hundreds of bullet holes from the battle of Berlin in 1945. All the museums on museum island were damaged by the allied bombings and/or the soviet assault in 1945 and the evidence is everywhere you look. Thousands of historical and artistic pieces were destroyed or went missing during
the war and the worst was when a storage area was set alight AFTER the end of the war that is still regarded as the largest loss of art in European history. After two days of wandering through the 5 museums on museum island it is hard to imagine what they lost as what is here is astounding, but perhaps it is best not to know.
From here we had a quick look at the Berlin Cathedral, which as expected is incredible and then onto the St Nicholas church which is the oldest building in Berlin. Destroyed in the bombing of the war it is now fully rebuilt and is an absolute Gothic gem. Whilst there a new organist was giving the organ a run for its money and it was lovely (Shelley) Horrid (Scott) to hear it being played/murdered.
By this stage it was getting a bit overcast so we decided to pause and have a beer and a “Currywurst”, which is a sausage covered in tomato sauce and curry powder that is a Berlin specialty. Scott thought it was pretty special but I thought it was slightly worse than a dagwood dog.
Checkpoint Charlie Ringmasters
It was late afternoon so we walked back towards our hotel and stopped at the Irish pub for a few beers and then eventually a feed. Great place to have a beer but absolutely the worst food, much better options in the town. Day 208 Saturday 13th August 2016 – Berlin
Slow start to the day as we didn’t have any museums to run to as we decided to have a day away from them. Had our usual breakfast at the café around the corner and then went shopping. The centre of Berlin reminds us of Canberra back home, in that it is a very quiet town, and also very neat and tidy, except that Berlin does have a night life. For a Saturday the road and foot traffic seemed really light, so it was a pleasant morning stroll. Shelley was looking for some more clothing but didn’t find anything whilst I spent a fortune on books – seems fair to me.
Late in the afternoon we made our way to the Reichstag where we had a booking to visit the glass dome. Thankfully for
Statue and holy roof
once we were on the ball on this one and had made the booking two weeks ago and tonight was one of the few time slots left. If anyone would like to do this I would suggest booking way in advance, although apparently you may be able to pick up tickets on the day – but not sure how easy that is. We had a booking for 6.45 but as we got there early (6.15) thought we might as well see if we could get through the security checks early. As you can imagine, this being the German Parliament building, the security is high but the process is no more difficult than a normal airport check. Despite us arriving early we were pushed through and before we knew it we were standing on the roof of the Reichstag.
The Reichstag was built in 1894 for the German Parliament but back in those days all the German Parliament did was rubber stamp the dictates of the Kaiser, who had such a distain for democracy that he had this building built what was then outside the city. In 1933 the building “mysteriously” burnt down and allowed Hitler to rid
himself of the parliamentary process and seize complete power. The building was further damaged during the war and then sat empty and derelict on the front line of the Berlin Wall till the 1990’s when it was finally rebuilt. Externally it still looks like a classic old building but internally it is a modern building and has had an extra floor added to the top along with the beautiful huge glass dome. The original building was topped with a square shaped dome (if that makes sense) but the new one is a combination light catcher for the parliament below as well as a viewing platform for tourists. A spiral walkway winds around the inside of the dome to a platform at the top for great views over Berlin. In the centre of the dome is a shaft of computerised controlled mirrors that reflect the light downwards into the main chamber. Not only is the structure, a great piece of engineering but is also rather beautiful and you find yourself stopping and not only looking over the views of Berlin but also inwards at the structure itself. We also got an audio guide that gave the history of the Reichstag as
East Side Gallery
Pink Floyd on the wall
well as explaining the various landmarks around Berlin. At the base of the tower is a photographic history of the building as well. There was no time limit on our visit so we stayed for about 90 minutes before heading onto the Brandenburg Gate.
Found a café facing the Brandenburg Gate and had a couple of beers as we watched the sunset, travelling doesn’t get much better than this. Day 209 Sunday 14th August 2016 – Berlin
Last day in Berlin and there is just still too much to see in too little time. Went back over our list of things to do and decided that rather than hitting another bunch of museums we would spend the day viewing the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. First we headed via the U Bahn (metro) to the East Side Gallery, where 1.3 kilometres of the wall has been preserved and is used as a canvas for graffiti artists. This section of the wall ran along the Eastern bank of the Spree river and is located in an area we would think is a bit more bohemian
East Side Gallery
Great work on the wall
than where we are staying. Seemed like a lot of hostels around and cheap eateries so it was probably a good option to stay at. As for the artwork on the wall, some was great, some was ordinary but regardless it was a great use of 1.3 kilometres of concrete. Unfortunately, areas had been heavily tagged and in an effort to stop it a mesh fence has been erected. Love my graffiti art but not so keen on tagging and sort of a shame that people tag over the art. On the riverside of the wall a large section was given over to pictures of the war and destruction in Syria. It was especially poignant having pictures of the victims including the children and a short story on how they were wounded, who helped them and what has happened to them since. Again another great use of a redundant concrete wall.
From here we got the metro up to North Berlin to see a section of the wall that has been preserved for historic rather than artistic reasons. This section runs along Bernauer Strabe Street across a cemetery and it was where the reunification church once stood
till the East German authorities blew it up in 1985. A small museum is across the road from where you get a view into an area that is sealed off and has been preserved it includes the main wall, secondary wall, lighting and observation tower. Around the wall sections and in the museum there are details not only on the construction of the wall but also the successful and failed attempts to cross the wall. 163 people were killed along the wall, some trying to escape whilst others just accidentally got too close. Having just visited the divided city of Nicosia it made you realise just how stupid these barriers are and how once they go, you sort of cannot understand why they were ever there.
With our heads swimming with history and stories we jumped onto the metro once more and headed back into central Berlin. The Berlin metro is a vast tangled network and today we had to change trains a few times to get where we wanted to go but it is just so easy, once you get your head around the long complex station names. We picked up a day ticket which cost
7 euros each, this allowed us unlimited travel for 24 hours. Once you buy a ticket you have to validate it at a machine that punches in the date and time on your ticket, if you don’t validate the ticket there is a heavy fine. Sort of an honesty system as you don’t need to show your ticket to get onto the platform or into the train but inspectors do the rounds of the trains and we did get asked once to show our tickets.
We finished our day once again with a beer overlooking the Brandenburg Gate. Was going to eat locally but decided that because we still had our metro ticket we might as well get the value out of it and so jumped on the train and went down to Kreuzberg. This appears to be the Turkish district of Berlin and is filled with heaps of kebab restaurants but also has a great assortment of other restaurants and bars. A bit more lively around this area and sort of wished we had stayed here. Where we are staying is good because it is close to all the main attractions but it is a little
sterile while here there was a lot better vibe - oh well there is always next time. Had a couple of beers at a couple of bars and of course had to go a kebab before we headed home. Tomorrow we are moving on, which is a shame because we feel like we have barely scratched the surface of this town, it just has too much to see and do. Absolutely love Berlin and we will be back again, some day.
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