Friday, 30 December 2011

Berlin: Two of the best

Two of the best museums we visited in Berlin were almost next to each other across from the Charlottenberg Schloss: the Brohan Museum  of art and design and the Berggruen Museum with its collection of modern art.  The Brohan was for me one of the most memorable museums I've visited.  It organized its collection based on the art, design and furniture of periods in the late 19th and 20th century - most outstanding and my obvious favourite being its Art Deco collection.  

The Berggruen Collection is located in a lovely building with one of the most exquisite staircases I'd come across.  Its most notable artists included Picasso (over 100), Matisse, Giacometti, Braque and Klee.  The wonderful thing about these two museums is their very manageable size - on three floors in small buildings which made the distracted tourist focus on the finite quantity of art in smallish rooms.  One doesn't have to panic and worry about not having enough time or energy to see everything!

Fascinating mirror !

Here's a rare cat!  KPM porcelain, Copenhagen

The exquisite staircase in the Berggruen with the Picasso at the entrance lobby

My favourite in the Berggruen: Nekropolis - Paul Klee, 1929

Monday, 19 December 2011

Berlin: On and around Museum Island

The Pergamon was our first stop on Museum Island.  We visited two more museums on the island - the Bode Museum and the Altes Museum, which at the time of our visit housed the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti while her original home, the Neues Museum was under reconstruction.  We were relieved that we were able to see the Queen as she was the reason why we were there!  And she was as we expected - stunning!   My photos could not possibly do her justice.

Altes Museum

An unusual sculpture outside the Altes Museum

Bode Museum with its impressive lobby and staircase

Two of my favourites - a dancer and a gorgeous carving of the nativity scene

A familiar tune attracted us to this accordion player - who would expect to hear Come back to Sorento in Berlin?!
The Postfuhramt is just across the bridge from Museum Island.  This used to be the mail distribution depot and stables for Berlin's horse-drawn postal wagons.  It is now an exhibit hall.  We were lucky to be able to see an Annie Leibovitz retrospect there. 

On the way back to Museum Island after lunch, we came across the Neue Synagogue, with its splendid Moorish style dome.  This was built in the mid-19th century and was the main synagogue in Berlin - twice destroyed and rebuilt, it had a dramatic historical background.  We were not able to visit it but it would definitely be a destination for a future visit.

And in a completely different style, the Berliner Dom - the Cathedral on Museum Island.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Berlin: Babylon's Ishtar Gate in Berlin!

The sensational Ishtar Gate built in the 6th century BC by King Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon was excavated in the early 20th century and reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin in the 1930's.  The morning after our visit to the Museum, there was a front page photo in Der Spiegel of the same gate in Iraq - ironically, the one in Babylon is just a reproduction!   It was amazing how the Germans managed to transport this treasure all the way to Berlin and rebuilt it stone by stone.  The blue you see is of course the famous lapis lazuli, the stunning blue stone.  Here is a grand example of plunder by a foreign state, and yet, if it were not for this state sponsored thievery, we may not have been able to see the real thing - it could very well have been destroyed in the massive bombing during the war in Iraq - fodder for the continued debate rationalizing state theft - misappropriation or protection of world heritage??

Matching necklace?

Here is another example of the same - the Pergamon Altar, the namesake for the Pergamon Museum, built in 160 - 180 BC in Pergamon, Asia Minor as an altar to Zeus - the centrepiece just inside the entrance.   You would enter and find yourself gawking, stunned at the size of this monumental tribute to the gods.  It certainly achieved the desired effect.

For something a bit more subtle - an exquisite vessel 

The beautiful carved ceiling of a reconstructed temple

And for something on more of a human scale - a child playing a dice game in stone

And these were just in one of the many museums on Museum Island!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Berlin: the impressive Reichstag

The German parliament is in an impressive renovated 19th century building in the 1990's after Germany was unified.  Except for the outside walls, the building was completely gutted, then crowned with a spectacular dome that allows the visitor a 360 degree view of the city.  The architecture is stunning, as you can see below.  There were huge lineups throughout the day to get in to see the dome, slowed down by heavy security.  We followed the advice of the travel guides - go first thing in the morning or late in the day.  We were there to catch the sunset over the Tiergarten.  There was still a half hour wait - but well worth it.
The outside of the Reichstag

The dome with its centre chute

Looking down from the top level of the dome
Looking up from the top!

From the outside
The Spreebogen government complex (on the bend of the River Spree) beside the Reichstag - the white crosses commemorate people who were killed by East German border guards when trying to escape cross the river

The Brandenburg Gate is very close to the Reichstag - it's the tourist hub of Berlin

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Berlin: the very moving Holocaust Memorial

This Holocaust Memorial, designed by architect Peter Eisenmann, was one of the most touching memorials I'd visited.   Through some almost hidden stairs, you descend into the museum underneath the concrete slabs or "stelae".  There were some very touching testimonials in print and audio-visual format in the museum, including letters, journals from victims, set in such a focused, confined space that it was difficult not to feel anything after you have walked through the memorial then emerge into the alleys created by the stelae.  It was an emotional and physical experience being there.  The memorial is a block from the Brandenburg Gate - can't miss it.