Day 11 – Fri 16 Apr 2010 – Ancient, Old and New

Went out for an early walk, then breakfast and off to Sauvignyplatz to catch the S-Bahn into the city and Museum Island.

Went to the Pergamon Museum first. My god this is fully, fully sick!! Imagine building a huge classical style structure for the purpose of rebuilding several actual ancient temples and structures inside it. The scale models on display then show that these massive re-assembled structures are still only a fraction of the total ancient complex of which they once formed part.

No photos can do justice to the Pergamon Museum

I’ve seen pictures of the Ishtar Gate and I knew it was big and beautiful, but in the flesh it’s absolutely jawdropping. Further displays include ancient Greek and Roman structures and a beautiful exhibition of Islamic art.

Nor can they do justice to the Ishtar Gate of Babylon

Nor anything else at the Pergamon

Some of the Roman art will just floor you

Oh, and some Islamic art as well, from the small……

…. to the grandiosely large

The Pergamon is next to the Neues Musuem which is adjacent to the Art Gallery and the Altes Museum. I photographed the outside of the Art Gallery but didn’t have time for a visit.

The impressive Art Gallery building

A work to whet the appetite just outside the entrance to the Art Gallery

The Neues Museum has only reopened recently and is most famous for the sculptured head of Nefertiti. The building was extensively damaged by bombing during World War II and reconstruction didn’t really get under way until the 80s. They had to recover about 100,000 objects from the rubble. For a visit you buy a ticket with a specified time of entry; in my case it’s for1230.

Eqyptian sarcophagi in the Neues Museum

The building was heavily bomb damaged and is almost an exhibit in its own right

What can you possibly say about sculpture that is as beguiling as this?

As you line up outside, the extensive war damage is obvious. The main broken bits have been repaired and they have mostly filled in all the bullet holes. And, it is riddled with thousands of them. Inside there is a huge collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Germanic objects of extraordinary beauty. I was particularly touched by a family of mummified children with their faces painted on the outer wrappings. The painting of their mother which hangs above them is exquisite and looks unusually modern. There’s just far too much to take in or photograph. You would have to come back for weeks to see it all in the detail that it really deserves.

The mummified children and the painting of their mother as mentioned above

Now I’ve seen plenty of photos of Nefertiti, but the real thing is quite mesmerizing. It is marvelously beautiful, but the most disturbing thing about it, if that’s the right word, is that it seems to capture the moment just as she’s about to say something; and, from her body language, it’s something that is going to be very clever, amusing and important. You can’t help giving your total attention to her, as if you really expect her to say something. It’s over 3000 years old, but it’s the most timeless and ‘in the present moment’ piece of art I think I’ve ever seen. Astonishing.

Nefertiti – Utterly mesmerising in the ‘flesh’ (Photo: Philip Pikart)

There is much, much more I could describe. Even the building itself is a marvel, and to describe it alone I would simply run out of suitable superlatives. I’ve never seen anything that approaches this museum, and the way it’s all presented is so respectful. There’s not the slightest sense of it demeaning any other civilization; on the contrary it positively celebrates them.

The Altes Museum – Note the multitude of patched bullet holes

Much of what is in the Neuses museum was once in the Altes Museum next door. The latter has a massive collection of Greek and Roman artifacts and the audio tour gives an excellent rundown on them, the myths that often underpinned them and even details of the individual artists involved. After what I’ve just seen at the Neues Museum it seems almost disappointing, and yet it’s stiil one of the best displays I’ve ever seen.

Exquisite Greek urns

Ancient Greek statues and plates

Look at the detail in this!!

Roman wall decoration

Afterwards I walked down through Berlin’s Alexanderplatz and bought a Jack Wolfskin jacket so I looks slightly less shabby than before. Germans dress quite smartly; not expensively or formally, but only rarely do they look daggy.

Walked back to the hotel from Sauvignyplatz station and checked if I could stay a few more days, mostly due to the volcanic ash from Iceland affecting air transport and loading up every other for of long-distance transport in Europe. They can fit me in, so I cancelled my booking to go to Stockholm.

The art is everywhere – this is the wall facing Sauvignyplatz station

I went back into the city after dark. Berlin would have to be one of the safest feeling cities I’ve ever seen. There are very few ferals. Sometimes there are some obviously punky types who might form into a group. But, if they do, a few Police just seem to magically appear within minutes and keep an eye on them.

You see plenty of females walking alone, even very late at night, with not the slightest sign of nervousness. The city is more ‘alive’ as a result. People feel free to wander about, use public transport, go to restaurants (eating out is very big) or to shows. I saw plenty of people having a drink, but I saw nothing like the drunken stupor on George Street in Sydney on a Friday or Saturday night.

The pleasantly classy streets around the hotel near Charlottenburg

Headed back to the hotel. On the way from the station a couple stopped me and asked if I’d seen any good places to eat in the direction I had come from. I had passed several, rattled some of them off in broken German and wished them a good night.

Love the bikeways with their own little sets of traffic lights

Just as I unlocked the street door to the hotel, a woman was coming up to the entrance. She was French but had good English. She had booked a room at the hotel, but no one was answering the door, and her mobile wasn’t set to work in Germany. I gave her my mobile to ring their number. She discovered the owners were having dinner at a restaurant only a few metres away and would be there in a minute to book her in.

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