Friday, November 18, 2011

Mehr Berlin

Before I tell you about my Berlin adventures ohne Tyler, I must mention something he forgot in his Berlin post. The day we traveled to Berlin was the first day of Karnival. Apparently, the first day is one of the days of the Karnival season that one celebrates with copious drinking, costumes, and song. We thought it a bit strange to see several costumed hooligans on the Aachen Schanz platform before 9 AM. Things got more exciting from there. As we headed toward Cologne the train filled up with people from all walks of life wearing elaborate costumes, drinking, and singing. Cologne is the place to be for Karnival in Germany, so all the arriving trains were packed and the station was a madhouse. Brass bands were playing as they marched through the station. I saw a group of three young men dressed as giraffes. Tyler's favorite costume was Man in Wind--a guy in a suit with his tie wired so it went up over his shoulder and leaves and newspaper stuck to his pants. We can look forward to more of the same come February, I'm sure.

On Monday I went on a tour of a WWII civilian shelter built around a Berlin subway station. (The tour company is called Berlin Unterwelt Verein.) The tour guide's somewhat eccentric English added entertainment value (and the content was quite interesting, too). The shelter still had the original signs on the walls indicating how many people were allowed per room in the original phosphorescent paint. There were displays on the propaganda campaign begun just after the Nazis came to power in 1933 and on the cleanup still being done in Berlin--of unexploded bombs and unidentified bodies. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed on the tour.

After that I toured the Berlin cathedral. It was finished in 1905 and was severely damaged in WWII. The final restorations were completed just a few years ago. The coolest parts were the dome gallery, which afforded great twilight views, and the crypt. The Hohenzollern family (emperors of Prussia, including Frederick the Great) have very elaborate sarcophagi.









Also interesting was the Dom Museum, where one can see many different proposed (and failed) designs for the cathedral, along with architectural drawings and models of the final design. Dan Gasser, these are for you.



On Tuesday I finished my homework in record time so I could visit the famous Pergamon Museum. This museum's great draw is its reconstructions of several architectural wonders of the ancient world, most notably the Great Altar of Pergamon and the Ishtar Gate.



(Note: Pergamon was located on the west coast of present-day Turkey. It was ruled by Greeks and Persians in its glory days.) The Great Frieze on the altar of Pergamon is 130 meters long, all told, and 2.5 meters high. It depicts the great battle of the Olympian gods with the giants/old gods.


The Ishtar Gate was the gate of Babylon, built by Nebudchenezzar. (It says says so right here on this wall. That's cuneiform, FYI.)


The portion reconstructed in the museum is only a small fraction of the original size. This model shows the actual layout, including the long processional corridor lined with lions, intended to show visitors to Babylon who was boss.


The museum has lots of other cool stuff, including:

This Syrian reception room.


This other giant gate, also from Pergamon (I think).


These lovely lions. (Lions were popular in the ancient world, I've noticed.)


This palace facade (Syria? Jordan?).


This priceless rock crystal ewer (from a private collection).


I made quite a thorough yet efficient tour of the museum, with only slight museum fatigue. On my way to meet Tyler I stopped by the chocolatier Fassbender & Rausch, which we had visited a couple nights before, to photograph their charming chocolate Berlin Bear. Enjoy.


P.S. for Heidi: I got yelled at only once in the Pergamon, for taking a cell phone call (which I kind of figured was against the rules).


  1. Hey! This looks awesome! I hope I didn't talk up the Pergamon museum too much so it was "bleh" when you got there--I hope it was sufficiently amazing to count for a whole Tuesday's worth of sightseeing! (And I'm glad you didn't have a grumpy guard following you ;-)

    We have to go see the Dom now--we didn't get to go inside last time we were there.

    Also, good ol' F&R (as I like to call it) is always worth a second trip.

  2. It was not at all bleh--it was awesome! There were actually a couple of guards that followed me for a bit. They didn't actually say anything, but I could feel them giving me dirty looks. I was just looking at the exhibits! Isn't that what one is supposed to do??

  3. Your photos of the Dom are so great -- beautiful! So funny that a cathedral built in 1905 looks so much like one from the early 18th century (I'm thinking Karlskirche in Wienna). The models are great too. Is that bear really all chocolate?!

  4. Who took that superb pic of the ferris wheel and buildings and birds in flight in mist at dusk? (Low whistle.)

  5. Thanks, Mitchell! That would be me :)

  6. Great pictures Sawaaaa!


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