Berlin: Amazing Architecture

I will wrap up the Berlin posts with more examples of the amazing architecture in that city.  Often the buildings look unexciting on the outside but could be quite spectacular on the inside.

Buildings near Potsdamer Platz (Sony building in the distance)

Who would have thought the inside of the Deutscher Dom you see above would look like
this (below) -

The traditional-looking St. Hedwigs Kathedrale - the Catholic Church of Berlin
The unconventional interior with a horizontal crucifix (the 18th century church was completely gutted during the war)

the contemporary cupola

the magnificent organ

The German Historical Museum in a stunning I. M. Pei building

The Pei building from a different angle

Liebeskind's Jewish Museum, awe-inspiring on the outside, echoed on the inside

Sloped hallways  and ceilings
Holocaust Tower with no light other than a slit in the wall evoked strong feelings

It's a very powerful, emotive building - difficult to walk out untouched

The Garden of Exiles - there was no escape even when you're outside

The beautiful cupola of the Martin Gropius Bau Museum

The acoustically perfect Berlin Philharmonic Hall -
and on that harmonious note, we reached the end of my Berlin posts.  Thank you for coming along with me!


Berlin: The Wall

There seems to be bits and pieces of the Berlin Wall all over Berlin, in places, cobblestones traced the actual wall on the street.  The longest section in the East Side Gallery had been painted over with some very expressive graffiti images which you can see below.  But the section in Bernauer Strasse, which was only a short walk from our apartment, was the most fearsome.  You can climb up a tower to see the two parallel walls and the no man's land in between.  The site has a memorial chapel and a museum with some very touching and thought-provoking exhibits.  Definitely worth a visit.

Cobblestones mark the wall on Berlin streets

The longest stretch of the wall at the East Side Gallery

My favourite
Here's the section on Bernauer  Strasse with the tower in the distnace
Sculpture on the grounds of the Bernauer Strasse Wall Memorial
Chapel of Reconciliation built on the grounds of the former Church of Reconciliation, which was destroyed in 1985 because of its awkward location between the walls - 5 years later, the Berlin wall came down
The new chapel with its double walls 
A section of the wall just in front of the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum, itself a historical monument.  I was very lucky to catch the Hannes Kilian photography exhibit when I was there.
The iconic Frulingstanz

The sign at Checkpoint Charlie


Berlin: Potsdam, the Sans Souci palaces

We spent a day at the Sans Souci palaces in Potsdam, a 20 minute train ride away from the Berlin City Centre.  The three main palaces were the Sans Souci, the New Palace and the Orangery.  I wish I were less rusty and more confident on a bike - really the best way to see the parks and palaces with the bike rentals just outside the train station.  Instead we had to opt for the double-decker tourist bus.

Old town Potsdam

A building in the New Palace complex

The formal gardens
The garden in the Sans Souci palace

This was a summer palace - all on one floor

Looks familiar?  The same sculpture was also in the Altes Museum in Berlin

The Tudor style Cecilienhof Palace, for the Crown Prince and Princess Cecilie
The grounds of Cecilienhof

The tower of the Church of Peace on the edge of the Sans Souci park

The beautiful proportioned grounds around the church - built by the artistically gifted King Frederick William IV - no wonder, it's my favourite structure in the entire palace grounds

These lovely cloisters surround the church and end in a gorgeous tiered portal
The exquisite marble fountain in an arcade on the Church grounds
One of the less gaudy part of the Chinese Tea Garden

The lush gardens around Sans Souci - this was a great day trip!

Next post: the Berlin Wall


Berlin: Renewal

It's New Year's Day and what's more appropriate than the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin to inspire thoughts on renewal and rising from the rubble.  This 19th century church was badly damaged during the war and the spire was kept as a memorial to the destruction of war while the new church was built adjacent to it in 1963.  What a beautiful and meaningful idea!  The new chapel is quite spectacular with the millions of pieces of broken stained glass from the old church reframed to form the backdrop for the altar.  

We also earlier stumbled upon the ruins of another church near Alexanderplatz, the Church of the Franciscan Monastery, a beautiful gothic structure from the mid-13th century, one of the oldest buildings in Berlin.  This too was damaged during the war and kept in its ruined state, although it is being used as backdrop for arts and cultural events.  There is something about seeing ruins in the middle of the busy city centre that caught one by surprise and created an even more dramatic impact!  

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

The new chapel

Ruins of the Church of the Franciscan Monastery with the TV tower nearby


  1. Tomatoes From CanadaJan 1, 2012 08:08 PM
    Stunning photographs. There is a very individual eye at work here.


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


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.


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!


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


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.


Berlin: an authentic Berlin dancehall

The best way to get over jet lag is to get into the rhythm of the arrival city.  This rule we followed very literally by going to the historical Clarchen Ballhaus the very day we arrived in Berlin.  After settling into the rental apartment, we wandered around the neighbourhood and in no time found ourselves on Auguststrasse where the dancehall was located.  This dancehall had been around since 1913 and had kept its original decor and flavour.   We arrived on a Monday and it was salsa night.  We decided to have an early dinner in the outdoor patio and stay for the dancing to keep ourselves awake after the transatlantic flight.  

The dinner was delicious and excellent value.  Most memorable was the plate of white asparagus that was in season (it was May).  You can see below the outside of the building and the patio where dinner was served.  The mirror room on the second floor of the ballhaus was left in its original condition.  This used to be a separate ballroom for the upper class in the city and it was almost magical visiting it and imagining the glitz and glamour that used to hang around in that room.  For more on its history, go to

We stayed for the salsa - long enough to get us into the "rhythm" of the city.  Lots of fun and dance partners if you're willing!

The Clarchen Ballhaus and the outdoor patio
The mirror room upstairs

The mirror room set up for a private party

An afternoon dance class in the ballhaus

We shared a communal table on the patio with a couple of fellow travellers from Brussels, who very generously treated us to a round of beer!  What a great start to our Berlin experience!