Saturday, 1 February 2014

Now we take Berlin

We're like a couple of rabbits who have pushed the self-eject button, fired themselves out of their cosy burrow and now find themselves whirling about in a crazy white wonderland.

One of those imperial types on the perimeter of the Tiergarten
Looking towards Potzdammer Platz, with Berlin Philharmonic hall (yellow)
The Spree all iced up

Warm inside, cold outside

The full story of the rabbits' adventures in Berlin will have to wait, since we are again scampering, leaving this morning for Istanbul where we'll be able to patter around relatively unencumbered by multi-layered thermals. It's been severely cold in Berlin, making the winter we've experienced in Turkey seem downright tropical by comparison.

A last glimpse from Enki's back door before we leave

The breaking news from Berlin, aside from the white noise provided by the wider world's raging and groaning, is that a boy was born! His name, we are told tentatively, is Louis Alexander. His mother is well (as the phrase goes), and his father and grandfather have been exchanging daily emails in a kind of mutual ecstasy, both overwhelmed by this most ordinary and miraculous of human events. We toasted the new arrival with champagne in KaDeWa's new Veuve Cliquot bar - as fine a reason as any to revert to our bad old ways, though our scuffed hiking boots and jeans did rather distinguish us from the fashionable after-work crowd.

For us, this town has been all about the museums. That's what we came for, and given the well-below-zero temperatures, there was no quibbling about the high-brow itinerary. Armed with museum passes (24 euros buys free entry to all state museums, and many others besides, for three days) and travel passes, we were limited only by our physical and mental stamina. You'd have to say that great museums are not for pussies.

The war never really goes away in Berlin - exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie

The Memorial to Europe's Murdered Jews
An also-ran (the Altes Museum) on Museum Island

Display wall in the Bauhaus archive

Mies van der Rohe's "new" national gallery, with severe-style church

This guy decorated the palace of the Perisan king Darius
You enter, say, the Neues museum, famous for its exquisitely preserved bust of the Egyptian queen Neferiti, thinking that knowing nothing about Egyptology until this point you'll probably go over the hieroglyphics etc with a light brush and then move onto the Roman and Greek collections in the Altes museum. Oh no! Not a chance.

For what you see in the courtyards of the re-built Neues museum blows open a huge hole in yet another unopened chamber in your mind, and in rush all sorts of questions and the realisation that, given more time, you could get really interested in those 3000 years of continuous civilisation along the Nile river.

There's a ridiculous amount of other people's heritage in Berlin. The gentlemen archeologists of the 19th century were in it for the thrill of the chase as much as anything, I gather. For them, locating the ancient site of Troy and excavating its treasures was as thrilling as the moon landing was for my generation in the 20th century.

How on earth did they bring back all that loot - entire city walls of a desert castle, the front of the Great Altar at Pergamon and big slabs of its monumental frieze, serious-sized fragments of Egyptian burial chambers, the gates of Babylon, for goodness sake?

Part of the Pergamon frieze
They took the front of the temple to Berlin

The so-called Berlin Green Head, carved in 400 BC in the late Egyptian period

Raised hieroglyphics on one of several tombs in the Neues museum

The Ishtar gate,  from King Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon

The roar of Babylon

We've stored away so many images and sounds over these past few days...four centuries of European painting at the Gemaldegalerie, the huge retrospective of Barbara Klemm's photographs at the Martin Gropius Bau, Dvorak's cello concerto, played by Daniel Muller-Schott and the Berlin Philharmonia in that concert hall.

Apartment block on the way to the Bauhaus Archive
The fabulous Sony building roof in Potzdammer place

The elegant Fasenanstrasse, in old West Berlin
Casual Tuesday - free lunchtime concert in the Berlin Phil foyer

And now I must rush, because the bus which will take us to Tegel airport leaves in 20 minutes

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