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So Not ready for Europe-An Ongoing Trip Report

So Not ready for Europe-An Ongoing Trip Report

Old Oct 19th, 2011, 05:04 AM
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The Pergamonmuseum and the Berliner Dom.

After a leisurely breakfast across from the hotel we made our way by S-Bahn from Potsdamer Platz to the Hackescher Markt station, arriving there around 9:30 AM or so.

Made our way on foot to the Pergamon. At this point there were already numerous tour busses parked outside and on the surrounding streets and several groups were clustered around tour guides and being given the usual briefings.

Let me say here that arriving on this scene of humanity immediately reminded me of the many, MANY posts on this board concerned with some people’s outright horror at the possibility of being caught dead or alive at any spot or town which might be considered “too touristy.”

Assuming most of the other people hanging around this morning were visitors I would say the Museuminsel is definitely “touristy” central so if this is a major issue for you know that you have been WARNED!!!

The line to get tickets was still fairly short and moved along rather quickly. We decided to buy the 3-day museum pass which gets you into 60 different venues throughout the city. It only allows visits to any museum’s permanent collections, however.

The Pergamon, as some of you may know, was more or less purpose built (to house HUGE exhibits) between 1910-1930 and the name comes from the Pergamon Altar which fills the main hall.

I distinctly remember a trip we took to Greece and western Turkey back in the mid-80’s and being told at various stops, “a lot of what was here is now in Berlin (or London)” and I wondered then what the collections must be like. And this morning we found out.

The thing is overwhelming in size and makes the Temple of Dendar in New York seem like some sort of doghouse by comparison (no offence intended). We climbed the steps (and noticed that they are described as “steep” and that you ascend at your own risk) and realized this is only about half of what the actual building would have comprised.

The Telephos Frieze as well as the panels of the Gigantomachy (the depiction of the struggles between the giants and the gods) were all found shattered at the base of the altar originally but were restored and are arrayed around the walls of the room as well as on the building itself. The detail on these is wonderful.

Two of the other biggies are in adjoining rooms, the Market Gate from Miletus and the Ishtar Gate from Babylon.

I remember being blown away by the Library at Ephesus façade but the Miletus Gate seems equally impressive.

After a couple hours we decided to hit at least one other museum and headed toward the Bodemuseum. By now the line of people waiting to buy tickets to the Bode stretched around the corner and almost to the entrance to the Pergamon.

We felt pretty happy with ourselves as we swept by all these folks knowing our museum passes would get us right in. Wrong!

It doesn’t work the way it does in some other cities. We were told at the entrance that we had to get into yet another ticket line (much shorter but still a wait), show the passes and get tickets that way. We decided to wait until later in the week, and probably in the afternoon hours so instead, we headed for the Berliner Dom.

The church charges admission and it is not included in the museum pass system and is only a short walk from the other venues.

It is, to say the least, impressive. The original church was built in the mid-18th Century; the present Neo-Baroque (emphasis on baroque) structure was completed in the early 20th Century. There was severe WW II damage (the dome which is copper and 321 feet high was almost completely demolished).

The interior contains a LOT of decoration to include statues of the major reformers, mosaics of the four evangelists, bas reliefs of various Acts of the Apostles including the stoning of Stephen, plenty of stained glass including a depiction of the Resurrection, panels in the dome with depictions of all the Beatitudes, the hand-carved Sauer organ case as well as a magnificent carved pulpit. And, as usual, enough gold leaf to fund the budgets of several countries.

There is also a large crypt containing plenty of Hohenzollern princes and potentates which is said to be one of the largest of its kind anywhere. If you are into churches this one is not to be missed.

Made our way back to the hotel by taking a couple of tram rides to nowhere through the former East Berlin so we could get a better sense of the city from the ground level. A lot of the former somewhat dreary apartment blocks seem to be a bit brighter than they probably were in the past.

Stopped into a nearby market on the way back to the hotel and bought some lunch fixings. Rain threatens and it has been cool and rather damp today.
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Old Oct 20th, 2011, 08:38 AM
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Thursday, October 20, 2011
This morning w decided to eat breakfast in one of the hotel’s two restaurants. It was the pretty much usual European hotel buffet fare along with eggs cooked to order.

We then walked over to the Brandenburg Gate and then east on the Unter den Linden. The former Soviet embassy is the usual wedding cake style of massive and we also passed by the Deutsche Guggenheim (the fifth branch of the museum), the Altes Palace, and an equestrian statue of Frederick the Great.

We made a diversion over to the Gendarmenmarkt which has been described as one of the more beautiful squares in the city and I agree. The Schiller monument which was once removed by the Nazis is impressive as are both the Franzosischer Dom, the church built for the Huguenots who migrated to Berlin after the Edict of Nantes was revoked in France, and the somewhat identical (on the exterior at least) Deutscher Dom which sits opposite. The former houses the Huguenot Museum which we did not visit; the latter which burned down in 1945 and was rebuilt in 1993 contains a long-running political/historical exhibit about Germany’s parliamentary democracy which we did visit. It reminded me of the Nazi exhibits we visited last year which staying in Nurnberg and it is similarly thorough and well-done.

At the Bebelplatz the Staatsoper Unter den Linden where I was fortunate enough to have seen a performance of “La Boheme” last Thanksgiving week is covered in scaffolding and being renovated. The Bebelplatz contains the memorial for the infamous Nazi book burning episode in 1933. There is a glass-covered opening in the pavement through which you can see a room with empty bookshelves.

Just behind this is the St. Hedwigs Roman Catholic cathedral with its low dome. The interior is thoroughly modern I assume due to massive bomb damage from WW II.



Further on the Zeughaus (the German Historical Museum) has a wing designed by I.M. Pei who seems to enjoy doing museum work as he has in both Washington and in Paris.
We skipped all of this so we could go on to Neues Museum on the Museuminsel at which point the Unter den Linden becomes the Karl-Liebknechtstrasse.

There was, of course, a line for tickets to the museum so thinking we would have to get special tickets with our museum passes in order to get in (as we were told we had to do at the Bode yesterday) we dutifully got into the line. Cold and windy this morning..lots of people actually USING their scarves for warmth and some wearing hats and gloves.

When we got to the ticket window we were told we didn’t need tickets (they are timed to limit the number of visitors each hour) and that we could go right in! Which we did.

It appears that the Germans made quite a haul when they did their digs in Egypt and other parts of Asia Minor and Africa because there are many artifacts on display including plenty of Trojan objects as well as the stuff from Egypt. Some of the rooms are decorated rather interestingly, too, with friezes, etc.

The statuary is the usual amazing stuff and the anatomical realism is always amazing somehow.

But the BIG thing in this place seems obviously the bust of Nefertiti with its wonderful color which is displayed in a room by itself along with a smaller bust of its discoverer and it really is something to behold. Somehow it was more riveting than the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, that other art object people seem to wait forever to finally see in person and when they do…

Next, we walked toward the Alexanderplatz and on the way stopped into the Marienkirche which dates from the year 1280 and is Berlin’s second oldest. There are tall vaulted ceilings but no stained glass windows. However there is an elaborately carved alabaster pulpit which is decorated with St. John the Baptist bas-reliefs and personifications of the “virtues.” There is also a 72-foot long wall fresco at the rear entitled “Dance of death.”

Nearby the church outside is a wonderful Neptune Fountain containing all sorts of aquatic creatures both real (an alligator, a lobster) and imagined humanoid beings with webbed feet) as well as four figures representing the Vistula, Rhine, Oder, and Elbe rivers.

The nearby large rose garden remains in bloom despite the rather chilly temperatures.
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Old Oct 20th, 2011, 11:30 AM
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Shame you missed the Historisches Museum. we really enjoyed it [if that's the right word] when we visited Berlin about 5 years ago, firstly because it was very well air-conditioned which was a relief from the heat of a very warm July, and secondly for the outstanding exhibition dealing with the exploitation and persecution of the Jews throughout Europe, including Nazi Germany. It pulled no punches and managed both to move and educate.

i'm sorry we never made it to see Nefertiti, though.

perhaps next time.
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Old Oct 20th, 2011, 02:03 PM
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I am glad someone has visited Nefertiti at last!
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Old Oct 20th, 2011, 03:40 PM
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So glad that you were able to finally see the Nefertiti Bust. Agree that the display is very well done.

The Neues Museum, despite its name, contains a lot of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

Great report! Brings back many memories. Hope one day to attend an opera in the renovated Unter der Linden. Right now, their performances are in the Schiller Theater, where it's just not the same.

Keep up the good work! Really enjoyable report!
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Old Oct 20th, 2011, 03:40 PM
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So glad that you were able to finally see the Nefertiti Bust. Agree that the display is very well done.

The Neues Museum, despite its name, contains a lot of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

Great report! Brings back many memories. Hope one day to attend an opera in the renovated Unter der Linden. Right now, their performances are in the Schiller Theater, where it's just not the same.

Keep up the good work! Really enjoyable report!
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Old Oct 20th, 2011, 11:44 PM
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Thanks for all the comments. Yes, I considered seeing another opera here and I suppose seeing one in the Schiller wouldn't take much, if anything, away from a production.

I will say the two things we saw in Covent Garden last week really exceeded any expectations. Tonight, however, we are seeing a performance of "Everyman" in the Berliner Dom. They've apparently been doing this for several years now and it premiered last night for this season.

Unfortunately I have come down with a nasty head cold but am determined to keep driving on. And, of course, other than the chilly temperatures the weather this morning looks to be better than ever so I feel I have to keep moving some way or another.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 07:27 AM
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

We have been blessed with wonderful clear weather over the past two days and have enjoyed a very relaxed weekend.

On Friday night we were fortunate enough to have gotten tickets to the production of “Everyman” at the Berliner Dom. Although the show was technically “sold out” the hotel concierge came up with two great tickets.

The production was in German with organ and violin accompaniment at strategic points and we knew the basic story line so simply sat back and concentrated on the acxting which was quite good. The spectacular church interior adds a good deal to the overall performance and there were numerous curtain calls at the finish.

Also over the weekend we visited the nearby Gemaldegalerie which contains works from just about every major European school of painting. The place has a LOT of what some would classify “religious art” (plenty of Madonna and child stuff as well as the typical Madonna and Child and every major church figure thrown in for good measure).

The building’s rooms have a lot of diffused daylight and the walls are covered with light-colored fabric.

I’m a big sucker for almost anything Rembrandt so I particularly enjoyed seeing works that are NOT in the Rijksmuseum to include his “Samson and Delilah” and “Susannah and the Two Elders.” There’s plenty of variety with everything from German paintings from the 13th-16th centuries to Reynolds, Gainsborough, and lots and LOTS of Italians including Botticelli, Titian, Caravaggio and Canaletto.

After a while I tend to get “museum overload” and this place can get you that way pretty fast.

We’ve also spent a god deal of time simply walking around the city. Today we spent time in the Tiergarten, also took in the haunting and unusual memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe which sits on Ebertstrasse between Potsdamer Platz and the Brendenburg Gate.

From the gate we walked over to the railway station…a really vast and open space and unlike some cities we know, not at all hemmed in by any sorts of “skyscrapers” which gives it a certain appeal. And I honestly cannot believe the Chancellor actually lives in the Bundeskanzleramt..the place is enormous.

Overall, we have a wonderful relaxing week here and have managed to see and do things we had not done before so we are pleased. We return home on Tuesday morning…I’m ready and besides, I miss my little doggie.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 12:41 PM
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Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 03:02 PM
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Thanks, Bardo, your interest is appreciated.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 04:48 PM
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what a wonderful report Dukey!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2011, 06:10 PM
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"Let me say here that arriving on this scene of humanity immediately reminded me of the many, MANY posts on this board concerned with some people’s outright horror at the possibility of being caught dead or alive at any spot or town which might be considered “too touristy.”'

Dukey, so true. I know I am a “tourist” and glad to be aboard. So many folks are appalled by the masses showing up (especially on busses) when they want to enjoy these artistic/historical gems in privacy! Another pique of mine is complaining about “too much noise – couldn’t sleep” when these travelers wanted to stay in the center of a European city.

But enough. I am really enjoying your report with such detail about the many interesting museums in Berlin. Hope your cold is better. Enjoy…
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 12:36 AM
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Today is our final day in the city and we are taking it easy, we realized we haven't bought a single item for anyone back home including our dog sitter so we are going out this morning to rectify that situation.

It is cold and overcast this morning but we have enjoyed walking around the city a great deal, seeing the many folks, especially the ones in stores and on the U/S bahns with their dogs..makes me miss ours even more.

Our connecting flight to FRA leaves Tegel tomorrow morning at 6 and then it's back to the absolute grind of retired life. We are so very fortunate in what are obviously very difficult times for so many.
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 05:17 AM
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 05:37 AM
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Great report!

Brought back memories and gave me a few more places to check out on the next trip to Berlin.

Thanks so much for sharing! Have a safe trip back!
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Old Oct 24th, 2011, 10:08 AM
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Thank you all for the good wishes.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2013, 09:16 AM
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Bookmarking--great report!
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