Sunday, June 26, 2011

June 26, 2011: Berlin - Signage, Pergamon, Kangawurst

Mark's schedule at the university would keep him quite busy through the week, so I was on my own for sightseeing during the days. Since Berlin has dozens upon dozens of museums, what else could I do but go on a museum binge?

I found my way downtown, using the conveniently located subway system (there was a station just across the street from our hotel, which was not particularly central). Although the subway itself was easy to use (and by the way isn't it ironic that I can buy any kind of transit ticket I want in cities all over the world using my credit card and an automated machine, except in Toronto?! And a week-long ticket starts on the day I purchase it, not limited to the calendar week?!), I found the signage frustrating - I was constantly setting off thinking I was headed in the right direction in the station, but along the way would miss the turn-off, or end up with no indication of where to go.

When I got off and started walking through the city it really wasn't any better. The worst was Museum Island, an island with several major museums. Unless you take the right bridge, you can't get to the museum you see on the map, since there aren't any internal connecting pathways - each museum fills its block of space right to the island's edge. I must have spent 30 minutes walking in a giant circuit around the island before I hit upon the Pergamon.

However, the Pergamon was worth it - a fantastic collection of antiquities from the East, a museum of Classical, Near East and Islamic antiquities. Although, once again, the signage to get into the museum was perplexing - there is construction on the front of it, so you have to walk in on the correct side of the bridge. And if you pass through the entry/gift area, looking for something to eat before going in, you end up directed back outside, where you have to cross that same bridge again on the other side, then return across it once more to get back to the entryway. Argh. But after a quick wurst (sausage, in a bun - better than a hotdog) and a drink I was refreshed and ready to tackle the museum.

The Pergamon was huge. It has Roman-style classical sculpture and architecture familiar to me from my art history studies, as well as unfamiliar ancient Eastern and Islamic art. Whole buildings, walls, gates and other mammoth structures have been dismantled and installed in the museum (usually when the local government couldn't maintain it in good condition, and requested its safekeeping - the museum was fairly scrupulous about detailing how the pieces came into its collection). Seeing whole architectural structures inside a building was quite extraordinary - even the Met and the British Museum don't have anything quite on that impressive a scale.

I went back to the hotel to meet Mark after his day at the university, and we headed back downtown for dinner. I'd spotted an Australian-German restaurant that intrigued me. They served a uniquely Australian version of the famous Berlin currywurst - kangawurst! Yes, a kangaroo sausage, with a curry-flavoured ketchup-like sauce. Quite tasty!

Looking across the river to museum island

One of the many "beach bars" bordering the river - lounge hairs, potted palm trees, and happy revelers

Enormous ancient stairs and an arcade, inside the Pergamon

A fantastic frieze from the Pergamon Altar

A model of architecture in its original location

Fantastic glazed tiles creating animal decorations on the Ishtar Gate

I love this system of modular bricks, each one with a different part of the animal - make multiple copies, and you've got many identical animals decorating your structure

A terrible modern-day fire shattered these ancient statues into a multitude of pieces...

and yet, years later, they've managed to reconstruct them remarkably well

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