Sunday, August 14, 2011

Berlin, a Museum Lovers Paradise: The Berlin Diaries, Part II

More and more Berlin was reminding me of New York City. Our new hotel was in a part of Berlin that reminded me of West Village or some parts of upper west-side Manhattan. We found some great restaurants and set about exploring the sights and museums of Berlin. I went in the course of a few days from “I never want to see this place again” to planning our next trip to Berlin. (Rick liked Berlin from the start and his enjoyment of the city was not derailed for a day or two by the hotel imbroglio.)

Berlin’s artistic riches are astonishing. We were both unprepared for the treasures of the Pergamon Museum, which is part of a complex of museums known as Museum Island. Among the highlights of the Pergamon’s Collection of Classical Antiquities:

The 2nd century BC Pergamon Altar with its astonishing frieze depicting the battle between the Gods and Giants generally regarded as a masterpiece of Hellenistic art.

The two story Roman market Gate of Miletus built in 120 AD

Among the highlights of the Pergamon’s Collection of Near Eastern Antiquities:

The Ishtar Gate dating from the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar(605-562 BC)

To see everything in the Pergamon alone would have taken at least 3 days.
I was determined to squeeze in the Egyptian collection in the in Neues Museum to see the bust of Queen Nefertiti. It’s fascinating to actually see these iconic images rather than the photographic reproductions. There’s usually some unexpected difference. I remember how stunned I was when first saw Stonehenge—it seemed so small, nothing like the enormous monument I had imagined.

There was a difference with the bust of Nefertiti. That penetrating, far-away gaze of “the beautiful one” (as her name is said to mean) was far more powerful than any of the photographic reproductions conveyed. By some miracle the original color is preserved without restoration.

In addition to the Pergamon, the crown jewel of Berlin Museums is the Gemäldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu BerlinThe Gemäldegalerie has an astonishing collection of 13th -18th c European art. And the museum was uncrowded! Most of the package tours which stop in Berlin for a few days go to the Pergamon( which was crowded) and take a pass on the Gemäldegalerie. A major mistake.

We almost overlooked the Neue Nationalgalerie. Rick is a real Mies van der Rohe fan and he wanted to see the building which he designed. Since we were already at the museum—-one of the best designed museums I’ve ever seen—-we decided to see what we could of the collection. And what an astonishing collection of German art from 1900-1945—Feiniger, Beckman Grosz, Nolde etc. I really would like to go back to all these museums; one visit was not enough!

What the museum website refers to as "a temple of light and glass" designed by Mies van der Rohe.

In addition to the incredibly rich art museums, Berlin is home to many historical museums. We visited the Bauhaus museum (one of Rick’s interests—-mine not so much) and the fascinating Schloss Charlottenburg. For me the gardens were the highlight. ( No surprise here)

We also visited the much praised Jewish Museum. Unfortunately, the latter was something of a disappointment. Since the museum was supposed to be a history of German Jews, both Rick and I expected the museum would highlight the cultural contributions of German Jews to German science and culture. It seemed (to us) that the museum focused on the persecution of German Jews but neglected the contributions. Someone told Rick that these contributions were part of the permanent exhibit but we somehow missed them. I hope that’s the case. Absent another trip to Berlin we’ll never know.

I hope we manage to get to Berlin one more time.

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