Auf wiedersehen

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Back at the hotel I cull the accummulated travel detritus of the past weeks to compress my belongings into one bag for the Air Berlin flight to London. The next day is my 26 hour journey back down to Das Hobbit-Land. (New Zealand).

I hate throwing out all the scribbled on visitor maps, museum brochures and train tickets that document my journey. I jettison some well travelled-in clothes instead.

I find a generic key card from some hotel I stayed in (oops) and think about the variety of places I have laid my head on this journey.

From a monastic room in a 17th Century pension building complete with bat (not a typo) –  one really did fly in for a while one night. To a cheap hotel where I was issued with a set of ear plugs due to major road works outside my window and finally my budget blow-out night in a former palace.

Its been a great adventure. Thanks to those who joined me on it. I appreciate you following me as I braved London’s crowded tourist attractions, then went on to the European Cultural Capital Festival in Plzen, Czech Republic.  I just hope the Pilsner Urquell beer profits didn’t plummet too dramatically after my departure.

Until finally I was in Germany, my original destination. Images of Dresden’s beautiful buildings with sooty traces in their brick work as a reminder of the city’s near destruction, will remain with me for a long time.

Lastly, the return to Berlin. Rehaunting old haunts. It was not the same of course. But special in its own way and I am absolutely certain I will be back.

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Bowie’s Schöneberg, Berlin

 

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I have one last day in Berlin and my own bit of Deutschland back home has me on an errand to Schöneberg. He wants me to bring home some lederhosen for him to wear to a Oktoberfest event. I google the specialist shop and set off on foot.

I note the late hour of the shop opening so park myself in a corner cafe until it opens. I down a series of rare one euro coffees as I wait. Finally the store opens. One side of the shop is classic lederhosen but upon examining the other side of the shop, I notice numerous modern leather outfits that are, shall we say, rather niche.

I make my purchase, thinking I am a long way from Kansas, I wander through streets where I am most definitely the odd woman out. Somehow my thoughts segue to a documentary I had seen on David Bowie’s stint in Berlin including his mesmerising music video performance in svelte leather of ‘Heroes.’

He lived with Iggy Pop in Schöneberg in the 1970’s and co-wrote ‘Heroes’ with Brian Eno, ostensibly referencing the Berlin wall, but with other nuances. A quick google comes up with an address of 155 Hauptstrasse. The GPS says I have a 20 minute walk. Any quest has its challenges and I seem to be following the blue dots in ever decreasing circles, until finally hot and sweaty, I am on the Hauptstrasse.

I walk up the street with great anticipation looking for an uber cool, probably shabby chic alt bau, but find a bland utilitarian block of flats at this address. I am at the right place though, as some joker has spray painted ‘David Bowie was here,’ on the wall. I take a couple of photos up and down this very ordinary Berlin street and head for the U Bahn station.

Update. RIP David Bowie. Your style and talent will be missed. There is talk of this street where you lived being re-named for you. I hope it does happen, it surely could do with some added star dust.

 

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Treasure from Troy, Neues Museum Berlin

 

neues boardThis is another quick reconnaissance visit to a favourite museum. I had watched a German TV show a while back on Heinrich Schliemann who was a bit of a 19th century Indiana Jones who believed Troy was real.

A businessman and self taught archeologist, he used Homer’s Iliad references to Troy, treating them as actual historical events which guided him to Hissarlik near the Dardanelles. He worked on what is called a ‘Tell’ which is an artificial hill, often with multiple layers of civilisation.

He returned with pottery and jewellery now displayed in the Neues Museum. Whether their origin is truly Troy, the women’s golden head dresses and ear rings are exquisite.imageUpstairs I have to stop by Nefertiti once again. In the room housing the famous bust of the queen of the Armana period, I chuckle at a security guard for the 1000th time telling a visitor photos are verboten. I’ve been told off there too. Elsewhere in the museum the guards are very liberal about photos, so  if you want a picture of Nerfertiti’s likeness there are several other versions nearby.

In the basement are mummies galore and unlike the British Museum no scrum to see them.neues_3836

 

Deutsches Historisches Museum, German History Museum Berlin

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Originally known as the Zeughaus or armory, this beautiful Baroque building on Unten den Linden houses the national history museum. I have visited a few times as its almost impossible to cover in a day and always has interesting temporary exhibitions.

The museum is organised across the centuries up to the time of reunification. I drift by familiar exhibits which include a display case with Napoleon’s hat, sabre and spurs which Prussian soldiers found left behind after his defeat at the battle of Waterloo. I also for some reason am drawn back to the ghoulish exhibit of Emporer Wilhelm the first’s blood stained tunic post an unsuccessful assassination attempt.

Today I frame my visit around the current Zeit Schicten, Layers of Time, perspective. Throughout the museum are stations where you can look through little light boxes at the same space you are standing in, but as it was seen in past eras.

In the adjoining building, I tour the ‘1945’ exhibition covering the fates of the nations and their people’s movements post May 1945. The exhibition includes Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia and Poland recounting staggering statistics distilled down to a personal level with a representative 30 biographies detailed.

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Back to Berlin, Berliner Dom

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Its over two years since I lived in Berlin. I start the day catching my old favourite, the number 100 bus.  The European school holidays are over so its not as crammed as I remember. The bus passes familiar sites  of the Bauhaus Museum, the Tiergarten, the Bundestag and the Brandenburg Gate. I get off at the Berliner Dom, Berlin Cathedral.

I realise whilst I have walked past it many times, I have never been inside. There has been a church on this site since 1465. The cathedral is associated with the protestant Hohenzollerns. The architecture had several series of renovations, including work by noted architect, Schinkel in the early 1800’s. Wilhelm the 2nd had the site largely demolished and the rebuilt building we see today was completed in 1905. War damage left the site laid to waste until Germany’s reunification. The church reopened in 1993.

I tour through the interior, then head for the stairs to the top. All 270 of them. Unlike the near vertical stairs of Plzen’s cathedral I panted up, here wide stair cases lead on to annexes where you can take a break and see displays about the history and architecture.

The view from the top gives a great perspective on the building activity in Berlin. I watch a choreography of cranes working on the Berliner Schloss development. The palace is being completely rebuilt. There was not even a war damaged ruin to work back from as the DDR had detonated the remains to make way for a parade ground, much to the horror of the locals. I had viewed an empty site from the Humbolt box in 2013, now there are walls, a roof and a clear momentum.

Unlike my last time when I was living here on a sabbatical, time is not on my side, so I head quickly on to the nearby Deutsches Historisches Museum.

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Another day in Dresden

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One day was not enough in Dresden of course, so with time tight I cram more sights in before the train to Berlin. If you are not interested in art, then look away, this post is all about art housed in Dresden. And what a feast it is.

Set next to the Zwinger is the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister,  Old Masters Picture Gallery, housing a spectacular collection of paintings that date from the 15th to the 18th century. Most famous is Raphael’s ‘The Sistine Madonna’ and not for the reason you might think.

At the base of the painting are a pair of playful infant angels looking skywards. The detail of these two was a world craze for a time, appearing on tea towels, candles and gift sets without their owners ever knowing their origin.

The cache of classics here include Van Eych, Dürer, Rubens, Canaletto and Holbein. I particularly liked the rare Rembrandt painting where he is actually smiling. Its on the occasion of having married his wife Saskia and he is raising a beer glass to the viewer.

imageWith beer in mind, I head out for a quick pit stop, then on to my favourite gallery yet. The Albertinum houses the Galerie of Neu Meister, New Masters, and a fabulous Sculpture Collection. I could go on for ever about the works here. I will try and be brief.

Works of Max Liebermann, Karl-Schmidt-Rottuff and woman artist, Paula-Modersohn-Becker were highlights. Deeply unsettling was the Otto Dix triptych as was the prophetic ‘1000 Years Empire’ by Hans Grundig completed in the 1930s.

Moving on through the German artists, there was muscular work by DDR artist Wolfgang Mattheuer and finally a fabulous retrospective of Dresden artist, Gerhard Richter.

Housed under the roof of the Albertinum are also French works by Monet, Lautrec, Gaugain, Degas’ sweet ‘Little Dancer 14 Years’ sculpture and Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ in plaster is in the sculpture section. I have a quick viewing of the vast collection of other sculptures and then sprint for my train. I would have so liked to have stayed longer.

Ironically at the station, I find the Deutsch Bahn train to Berlin is untypically tardy. I wait with others suffering in the intense humidity, which only breaks later with lightening and heavy showers as our train approaches Berlin.

 

 

A day in Dresden

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I am finally back in Germany and now very short on time. Fortunately walking into the old town from the train station, I automatically begin my tour of Dresden. Its a dazzlingly beautiful city. The Frauenkirche on Georg-True-Platz is a first stop and a time to pause at the statue of Martin Luther.

The Frauenkirche, meaning church of our lady, was completely devastated as was the whole city on 15 February 1945. It was a ruin for the entire tenure of the DDR. After the reunification of Germany, public outcry and over 100,000 private donations, plus large corporate support led the rebuild. In 1994 the reconstruction began and in 2005, it was reconsecrated. The new cross atop the dome was a gift from the people of Britain in 2000 on the 55th anniversary of the bombing.

Outside its 34 degrees Celsius. I head for the cool interiors of the Residenzschloss Dresden. It was the official residence of the rulers of Saxony. Augustus the Strong altered it during his reign in the mid-16th century and packed it with booty.

Most visitors head first for the Green Vault and treasures accumulated by Augustus to augment his wealth and power. I enjoy more the Riesensaal (Giants Hall) which brilliantly stages equine and human armour from the 15th and 17th century.

If you are a fan of musketeers movies, the tableaux of full size horses and riders in armour at a gallop are impressive, as are the detail and splendour of parade armoury worn by the nobility.

I have a history lesson in the Turkish Chamber. Connections through to Constantinople (Istanbul) were forged from as early as the 16th century and the electors of Saxony obsession with Ottoman art and weaponry began then. Original carpets, massive tents and elaborate armoury are on display here. The relationship with Ottoman Empire was not always an easy one and I learn that in one siege they were almost at Vienna’s gates.

I lose the rest of the day amongst the other collections including old masters paintings, then the Münz Kabinette, a coin massive coin collection, and finish upstairs at the Robert Capa war photographs 1943-45 exhibition. The latter is part of a Tate Modern Collection called ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ staged across several locations in Dresden currently.

 

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