I am not going to attempt a chronological account, just will recount as many of the things we saw and did as I can remember, that I haven’t previously written about.
I read someplace that there are 170 museums in Berlin. I already knew that I wasn’t going to be able to see as many of them as I would like, no matter how long I stayed. And Loring’s tolerance for museums is much less than mine. He not only gets sensory overload, but what he calls “museum legs.” His legs start to hurt after he’s spent too much time in a museum. They are fine when he’s out hiking. I am exactly the opposite, no pain from museum going, but my legs ache after a certain amount of hiking or walking, especially with any change in elevation.
I’d already visited the Holocaust Museum, with a few folks from my Wikipedia group. And the Design Museum, by myself, on our free day. I’d been to the Brandenburg Gate, as well as on a walking tour of some of the historic sights. I waited for Loring to visit the East Side Gallery and the Wall museum, which I”ve already written about, both very impressive.
The Museum of Things, (der Dinge) fascinated me from the description. The first time we tried to find it, we were puzzled, because the address didn’t seem to exist. We later realized it was at the other end of a very long street, Orianstrasse. The numbers did not seem to go chronogically. It was well worth the effort to track it down. Some of it was a collection of products made by a particular company in the early 20th century. The rest was the museum’s continuing collection of things. Things. If there was more to it than that, it didn’t come through in the translation. They were arranged aesthetically, not according to function or time period or anything else. So there was a case of yellow and black things, for instance. And one with items related to body parts. My kind of place, for sure. There was just one small case of things with Swastikas. I saw many things that I also have, and some that I craved. One that recurred in several cases was little plastic egg cups, in various pastel colors. More about that in a bit.
We visited the DDR Museum, where I didn’t know what to expect. It was described as very active with lots of things for children to explore. How do you make a museum about a repressive period in history that is fun for kids? We couldn’t not check it out. It was interactive, indeed. And crowded. And not just children, but adults, including us, were opening doors and pushing buttons to learn about what life had been like in East Germany. The most interesting part was the recreated Soviet era apartment. It was several rooms, larger and more appealing than we would have expected. You could touch everything, lie in the beds, watch tv, touch all the kitchen utensils, etc. The bathroom and kitchen seemed quite modern for the time, early 70s, with wild wallpaper not so different from what you would have found in the US in the same time period. One kid was typing away on a typewriter. I realized that she might never have seen the old -fashioned equipment before. We were surprised that the apartment was so appealing. And apparently people were pleased to get one of these apartments, in their huge towers, as the time. One might think that this was a little East German propaganda, but the museum definitely did not take a pre-East stance.
They had other spaces like interrogation rooms that were not pleasant, but chilling to go into and hear the recorded interrogation.So it’s a bit of a puzzle, something I’ll have to look into some more. Who were the people that got to live in these apartments? Not the upper echelon, they lived in luxury. Loyal party members, I assume. But what percentage of the population had this kind of living space? And what was life like for the others?
The huge buildings, which we saw lots of photos of, were not so different looking, to be honest, than places like Coop City in the Bronx, and probably people felt similarly about them, that they were new and modern and desirable.
We also visited the Berlin Galeries, a---large museum of contemporary art of Berlin. The main floor was several current exhibitions, including a room full of dislocated pieces of wall in various configurations, a clear reference to The Wall. And another of large pieces that included video, sound, light, all kinds of weird items and combinations, things you could walk around and into.
The most remarkable was a piece called Driving in a Dead Man’s Car or something akin to that. You sat in the front seat of a car that was cut away and watched a film featuring a couple driving that got more and more gruesome. When the guy started pulling out his own guts I decided I’d had enough. Another part of that exhibit had a pair of glasses that were moving mechanically so that one temple continously tapped against the wall, making a small sound. That sound, soft though it was, was somehow amplified so that you could hear it through most of the museum, although it always sounded soft.
Upstairs was the permanent collection, featuring many Berlin artists of whom I”d never heard, and a few that I had. There were some poignant stories of art that had been stolen from Jewish collectors, one whose living descendants had only recently been identified and compensated. There was much of the modern art of the 20s and 30s that was later decried by the Nazi government. There were a few female artists whose work really caught my eye. I took some pix and if I can find their names I will add them here.
The Jewish Museum, with its striking exterior, was not far from the Berlin Gallery, but Loring and I were both too tired to consider another museum. I would have liked to just enter the front entryway, to get a better sense of the architecture from inside the building. But there was serious, airport-like security, and it didn’t look as though you could see very much before you got to the ticket counter. So we bypassed the museum and went home. I took a nap, Loring used one of our host’s bicycles and went out for a ride.
One of our unexpected encounters was with Will and Kate, you know the royal ones. We stumbled across a crowd, and lots of police cars and cops, at the Holocaust Memorial. Assumed at first that it was some type of ceremony relating to the Holocaust. But I asked a friendly young cop, who said, “it’s Will and Kate!” So we waited along with everyone else, and sure enough, after a half hour or so got a good thought brief glimpse of them as they exited the museum and got into their limo. Will waved. I was disappointed to see that Kate wasn’t wearing a hat.
A couple of days later, we stumbled across another wide boulevard blocked off with many police cars. Along the street were a large number of vans and trailers, some of them with decals saying Berlin to Moscow and dates starting from that very day. Turns out it was a rally, at the Brandenburg Gate, to kick off a two week trip to Moscow to promote peace and international understanding. There were hordes of folks with t shirts promoting the trip, and a couple singing folk songs on a stage. We walked around for a while. When we returned to the stage area, a family was singing beautifully, in what I assume was Russian. The father conducted the children, three or four boys and one little girl with angelic faces and voices. The mother, with an infant strapped to her chest, was singing as well.