Tag Archive: Berlin


Day 64: Pergamonmuseum

We headed to the Pergamonmuseum early in the morning. The line to enter wasn’t too long and since it was so early there weren’t too many people in the museum yet.

I was most excited about this museum. The Pergamon Altar is reconstructed inside the museum, although not exactly the way it was in the original city of Pergamon.

Around the bottom of the altar runs a frieze of an epic battle between the Olympian gods and the Titans. Much of the frieze was destroyed, but a good portion of it was saved so that some of the gods could be identified. When the altar was in its original form the frieze ran along the entire outside of the altar. The most important parts of the battle were depicted on the back of the altar, because people were forced to walk the entire altar before reaching the front. In the museum the back portion of the frieze has been moved in front of the altar instead.

The steps up to the altar.

Athena battling the Titans.

The next room opened into a reconstruction of a gate that lead to a Roman marketplace.

Market Gate of Miletus

And the last reconstruction was of the Ishtar Gate, one of the gates leading into the city of Babylon.

Entrance to Babylon

The Processional Way, partly a reconstruction of the pathway people would have walked down to reach the gate.

The special exhibit in the museum was Islamic art.

Wood paneled ceiling. The attention to detail was amazing.

We decided that we were done with museums after we finished with the Pergamon. Our roommate at the hostel told us about another part of the wall that we could visit with paintings and murals, so we decided to visit that and get some fresh air.

This section of the wall was much bigger than the last one we visited and the entire east side was painted by different artists.

Once the east side came to an end we looped around to the west side, which mostly follows along the river, but there is also a park.

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The next day was a Sunday and a day full of traveling disasters!

Halfway through our first train ride, the conductor announced that there was something wrong with the train and that we would be about an hour and a half late. This completely messed up the rest of our day and made it so that we missed both of our connections to Vienna.

However, it was not only one train that had problems, every train we rode was in some way late. On one of them we even had to take the “old track” as the conductor said.

It was a stressful day, considering that even though we all speak German, we still couldn’t understand what the conductor said half the time.

What should have been an easy and pleasant ride back to Vienna turned into a 15 hour day, but we all arrived home safe and sound, just in time to sleep before class the next morning.

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We visited the Brandenburger Gate the following day. The gate was constructed in 1788 and during the Cold War it stood directly along the line that divided East and West Berlin. Although the gate has a dark history, today it is actually the place of many parties and festivals.

When we arrived at the gate it was early so there were not too many people standing around, however, there were some protesters standing in front of the gate. Their signs were hard to read, but we could catch that they were speaking Spanish and talking about Mexico. We were all a little confused about the protest, but later in the day the protest played a small role in our plans.

After admiring the gate we walked through it to the other side where the Reichstag is located. Originally, we had planned on going up into the dome that sits on top of the building, but the day before we left for vacation their online site said that the dome was closed during our stay in Berlin.

We went as close as we could to the building, most of the area in front is closed off because of security reasons, and took some pictures before deciding to leave. As we were leaving I passed by some of the Reichstag employees and just for fun asked when the Reichstag would open again. To our great surprise they said that it would be opened that very same day at three. We immediately jumped on the opportunity and stood in line to get a reservation time.

Between us and the Reichstag were a number of gates and also a small building which had metal detectors and security.

Dem Deutschen Volke, meaning the German People.

Before touring the Reichstag we had enough time to walk to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, only a short walk from the Reichstag. It was designed by  Peter Eisenman. The memorial is an entire city block full of stones, which start out beneath your feet and slowly grow taller as you move towards the center. The memorial is somewhat like a maze, because once the stones towered over my head it was hard to tell where I was. The ground was uneven and moved up and down like a wave.

After walking the memorial we visited the German Historical Museum, which houses 2,000 years of German history. Although, all that history was a little much to take in one trip, I found it really interesting to see the progression over time of an entire people. Plus, it was always exciting to see things that we had talked about in our classes in Austria.

Once we were finished we still had time for lunch so, just by coincidence we stumbled upon a popular restaurant chain called Vapiano. It is somewhere between a nice restaurant and a fast food joint. Upon entering we were handed a card, which we brought up to our counter of choice (pizza, salad, pasta or dessert) and ordered our food. Once the food was finished all we had to do was place our card on a scanner and they would punch in our order. This was a simple and easy way to get food and you don’t have to pay until after eating. It’s always a plus when the food is really delicious too.

After our October break, we discovered a Vapiano just down the street from where Ari lives and we’ve gone there quite a few times.

It was around four and finally our time to go up the Reichstag. We went a little early and were able to get through security quickly and without hassle. After that we were shuffled inside and then took the biggest elevator I’ve ever seen (it could fit 50 people) up to the roof. The glass dome was really cool to see and a work of art in itself.

Inside the dome the platforms circled around, sloping upwards until they reached the top where there is an opening in the roof and a place for people to sit.

The center support was covered in mirrors.

After a nice wander up the Reichstag we headed to Museum Insel (Island) to try to fit in one last museum. I had really wanted to go to the Pergamonmuseum, which holds the Pergamon Altar, but Ari wanted to go to the Neues Museum, so we decided to split up. However, when I reach the Pergamon it was already closing. Disappointing as it was I still wanted to do something on our last night, so I followed Ari and Addison to the Neues Museum.

We bought our tickets at a little booth about a block away from the museum and then made our way over. We were walking towards the museum, when suddenly a policeman told us that we couldn’t walk towards the museum and we would have to go around. We were all really confused and so we made a wide arch around the many police cars and officers. It was then that we realized that the Neues Museum that was closed. There were police everywhere and they wouldn’t let anyone walk towards the museum.

About fifteen minutes passed when suddenly we saw some movement at the doors to the museum. There were a number of people running around with umbrellas and a few of the cars had driven up to the doors. Eventually, a couple came out of the museum and they stopped to take some pictures and then were ushered into the car. Once the car was out of sight we were allowed to enter the museum.

We asked an employee behind the desk who the visitors were and he said it was the future president of Mexico. Finally we had an explanation for the protesters!

The Neues Museum has a really great exhibit on the Egyptians and their prize possession is the bust of Nefertiti. It was really beautifully sculpted and I learned that it was actually used as a model for other busts. One of her eyes is even fake so that it could be used to teach students how to set the eyes.

Tired from a day full of museums we sloshed back towards our hostel in the rain. We were all sad about leaving Berlin so early. We kept on saying, “if only we had one more day!”

Finally, I looked at Ari and Addison and said, “do you just want to stay another day?”

It didn’t take very long for us to start planning the many things we would do with an extra day.

Day 62: Berlin

Berlin is impossible to tackle in only two days.

We were very ambitious though and decided that if we only had two days we were going to make the most of them, from dawn till dusk.

Our first destination was Checkpoint Charlie. It is one of the more famous points of crossing between West Berlin and East Berlin.

The sign says, “You are entering the American Sector. Carrying weapons off duty forbidden. Obey traffic rules”.

Looking towards the East.

We walked up towards the checkpoint coming from the East, which was a good choice, because just before reaching the checkpoint there was an outdoor history exhibit. Learning about history in the safety of a classroom is always informative, but actually standing where the events took place gave me chills. Looking from East to West, I really felt like everything was suddenly put into perspective.

Throughout the city there are different colored bricks laid into the road. These trace the outline of where the wall used to stand. There Checkpoint Charlie museum is just to the left.

The Checkpoint Charlie museum was a little overwhelming. Imagine the entire history of WW II to the end of the Cold War, in four different languages, covering every single wall of the museum from top to bottom. I tried to read everything, but halfway through the first room my eyes were already swimming.

The best part of the museum was actually the stories about how people crossed the wall without getting caught. Some people swam, some people used zip-lines, others dug tunnels, one group actually built an entire hot air balloon and flew across the wall. The most popular seemed to be hiding in cars. The examples went from simply hiding in the trunk, to turning someone into the equivalent of a car seat. It was inspiring to see the lengths people would go to for freedom.

The last Kremlin Flag, hung on the side of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

After Checkpoint Charlie, we headed down the road a little until we came upon the museum called “Topography of Terrors”. Part of the wall has been left up in this area, and below the wall is some of the remnants of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. All along the bottom of the wall is some more history, this time centered more around WW II and the cruelty of the Nazi party.

The museum and the old headquarters is below street level, while the wall is above.

A part of the wall left standing just above the headquarters.

Next we walked to the Jewish Museum, which is a must see for anyone who goes to Berlin. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

The first part of the museum is the most moving. It was built by Daniel Libeskind, who had a vision for the museum as a place where not only the things inside the building are important, but the building itself is critical to the understanding of Jewish history.

Upon entering the museum we had to walk down a flight of stairs that opened up into a crisscrossing of distorting hallways. Although the ceiling of these hallways are level, the floor is not. This made it seem as if the further I walked down the hall, the smaller it was getting. Libeskind calls these hallways Axis. There is the Axis of the Holocaust, Axis of Exile and Axis of Continuity.

The Axis of the Holocaust is a hallway with stories of those who had been influenced by the Holocaust. At the end of the hallway is an almost invisible door that leads into the Holocaust Tower. The Holocaust Tower is something I will never forget. The walls of the tower are completely smooth and there is nothing at all inside except for a small slit in the roof that allows only the faintest amount of daylight into the tower. The walls of the tower slope in until they reach a point directly under the light, which allowed me to stand between two of the walls and feel them pressing in on me. It was quite except for the hush of cars outside on the street. Standing there in the dark is hopefully the closest I will ever come to knowing what it was like to be trapped, to know that you were probably going to die, and yet the world is moving on without you and doesn’t even know or care that you exist.

The Axis of Exile led outside to a garden filled with blocks of stone. The ground was tilted and the stones were also angled, just enough to make it hard to walk without getting dizzy. Again, I could almost feel what it must have been like to be kicked out of your country, to flee, and to feel as if you were in exile. Sometimes I would see other people in the garden, but then they would disappear and it was like they had never been there in the first place.

However, there are trees growing on top of these stones, in which I felt represented hope and a new opportunity.

Lastly was the Axis of Continuity. This lead up the Sackler Staircase, which from the bottom looked as if it went on forever. This axis leads to two millennia of German Jewish history. However, before reaching the history exhibit, Libeskind forces everyone to walk through what he calls a Void. Voids are areas of the museum with nothing in them. They are painted completely white and there are many of them throughout the museum, but only one is open to the public. They represent death, which can’t really be represented by anything in this world. I felt like these voids really allowed each person who entered to fill it with their own feelings and beliefs about death. For everyone death is something different and therefore it shouldn’t be represented in any particular way.

Sackler Staircase from the top.

Walking through the only open void, the Memory Void, led us to an exhibit created by Menashe Kadishman. This exhibit is created out of 10,000 faces welded out of pieces of metal and dedicated to all the victims of war and violence. They are scattered on the floor and those who would like to can walk upon them, but not quietly. As people walked on the faces the clang of sharp metal rang throughout the entire void. I believe it was created to show people that no matter how carefully you might step your actions will still effect those around you.

The faces of the Memory Void.

The last and final axis was the Axis of Continuity. It was the permanent exhibit about Jewish history, culture and traditions.

After the museum we were all starving, so we went out to search for a little known restaurant called Zur Letzten Instanzwhich one of Addison’s roommates from Berlin had suggested. Allegedly, Napoleon Bonaparte ate there at one point, but really the food itself was worth the visit. The dishes were on the more expensive side, but the portions were large and it was probably one of the best meals I’ve had so far at a restaurant.

The restaurant is tucked into a side street, keeping it off the main track.

Inside was very cute and cozy. We were probably one of the few tourists there. The plaque on the table shows where Napoleon supposedly sat.

After lunch we still had half a day left, so we went to the DDR museum. This was another of my favorite museums. Unlike most museums, this one allowed you to interact with everything. There was nothing you couldn’t play with and although it did have some interesting history, it mostly talked about how people lived in the DDR, which I find really interesting.

By the time we left the museum it was dark and everything was closed, so we caught a tram back to our hostel, stopping briefly to check out the left over festivities from Oktoberfest.

The fest was located on Alexanderplatz. It wasn’t very crowded, but most of the stands were still out.

The Radio Tower.

Ari and I couldn’t resist the smell coming from the candy/popcorn stand, so we bought chocolate covered strawberries.