On every one of my hostel nights in Berlin, I was the last person to go to sleep and the first to wake up. I think Valence makes me tired because I’m never that active here. Anyway, my third day in Berlin started out at the city’s most famous museum.
The Pergamonmuseum (Pergamon Museum) is located on Museumsinsel, literally translated as Museum Island. Museum Island is located in the middle of the Spree River and contains several museums. The Germans like accurate names, apparently. Anyway, the Pergamonmuseum has several reconstructions, including the Pergamon Altar (above), the Market Gate of Miletus, and Ishtar Gate. It also has a significant collection of classical antiquities and Islamic and Middle Eastern art. The Pergamon Altar is stunning. The original friezes are on the walls of the giant room where it is reconstructed, while copies of the originals are on the reconstruction. I took a lot of random class in college, Jazz Guitar and Bizarre Neuroscience among them, but one of the classes I find myself thinking about a lot is the Classical Archaeology course I took during my summer at Oxford. I can still remember some of the mythology and pick out the gods using their iconography. It was fun to guess who the frieze was of before checking the placard. The altar depicts the battle between the gods and the giants. The gods ended up winning and burying the giants in the earth, although their angry rumbling is what was said to cause earthquakes and volcanoes.
After spending the morning in the Pergamonmuseum, I went to the Berliner Dom. It is also on Museum Island and was completed in 1905.
The Berliner Dom is the most ornate Lutheran church I’ve ever seen. It was built to be a Protestant version of St. Peter’s Basilica and the opulence is definitely there. Unfortunately, due to ice and snow, the dome itself was not open. It was pretty cold and snowy for most of my Berlin trip. The Berliner Dom was bombed heavily in World War II, but has been restored. That’s the story of a lot of Berlin monuments. The Allies and the Soviets were perfect at destroying cultural, religious, civilian, and artistic centers and managed to miss targets like the giant Luftwaffe Headquarters. Some buildings that survived the war, like the Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace), were destroyed by the Soviets for being against the current ideology and symbols of the Prussian imperialists. It’s amazing that the Berliner Dom exists at all.
My favorite part of the Berliner Dom was the crypt, where there are around 90 sarcophagi from the Prussian royal family. You can see from this photo that you got to keep your crown in death as part of your casket. Well, not your real crown, just a facsimile. I bet that the real crown was given to someone else. I know barely anything about Prussian history, so I couldn’t tell you who I saw in the crypt, but it was interesting to see so many sarcophagi built in gray and black colors. One was even covered in black velvet.
After the Berliner Dom I got a sandwich and walked along the river. I enjoyed the above graffiti.
The next stop on Museum Island (I love that name so much, it sounds like my kind of theme park) was the Altes Museum, or the Old Museum. On the front of the Altes Museum is a red neon sign that states: “All art has been contemporary.” It has a classical antiquities collection and is currently exhibiting Egyptian art that will later be displayed at the Neues Museum (New Museum). The highlight was this famous stunning bust of Queen Nefertiti.
The next museum on my list was the Gemäldegalerie, but I first walked through Potsdamer-Platz where the Berlinale film festival was centered. I hadn’t seen the area in daylight and enjoyed this giant Lego giraffe. I’m not sure if he is wearing a helmet or a hat.
I was surprised to find this blue “Balloon Flower” by Jeff Koons. I’d seen a yellow “Balloon Flower” at the Jeff Koons exhibit at Versailles and it was exciting to see another. According to my internet research, there are five balloon flowers, each in a different color. I still need to find magenta, red, and orange.
I was interested in the Gemäldegalerie because I’d seen “Rothko/Giotti” advertised. This turned out to be one Mark Rothko abstract expressionist painting in a room with two by 13th century Italian painter Giotto di Bondone. I guess I was expecting more, but I am not an art historian and probably missed the great significance. I understand that Rothko was influenced by Giotti and was interested in religious art as I’ve been to the Rothko Chapel in Houston. The Gemäldegalerie is a beautiful museum and has a very scientific approach to the way they hang art, but I found the 13th-18th century European painting to be a little boring. After seeing quite a few Madonnas and gold haloed saints, I went to an even more tedious museum in the same complex. It had awful carpeting and contained way more gold cabinets and 70s home furnishings than I ever wanted to see.
I went back to the Brandenburg Gate so that Pontiki, my world traveling friend, could get his picture taken. He’s traveled extensively in France and England, but this was his first visit to Germany.
It was very cold, so Pontiki did not want to stay out too long. Its free to go up in the dome on the Reichstag, so I figured it would be worth it to check it out. The security was a little insane, but I made it through.
The dome was designed by Norman Foster and replaces the one destroyed in the 1933 fire and later war bombings and fighting. It is right above the parliament debate chamber and offers a beautiful view of Berlin. Unfortunately, it had ice on it during my visit so the view wasn’t very clear, but it was worth it to see the city lights at night.
I decided to see what was happening at the Berlinale and discovered a large crowd outside one of the theaters when I got there. I wasn’t sure what was going on and people were screaming “ANGELA!!! ANGELA!!! ANGELA!!!” It turns out a movie has been made based on the life of the Notorious B.I.G. and the cast was there for its opening at the Berlinale. A lot of people had signs that said “We miss you Notorious!” and there were people with letters spelling out N-O-T-O-R-I-O-U-S-B-I-G. Angela Bassett was the only person in the cast that I recognized and seemed to be the crowd favorite.
Berlin adventures will continue with Day 4!