Travel 2016 – Berlin, Day 2

Saturday, December 3rd 2016 – Berlin

We had a plan – or at least we thought we did!

After a brief, brutal but ultimately succesful fight with the coffee machine in the hotel room, we took a leisurely breakfast in the Interconinental Club before stepping out into a crisp, cold but above all clear winter’s day and set off in pursuit of the Gemaeldegalerie which had eluded us the previous day with the intent to go there, then on to Museum Island followed by a Christmas market and possibly the Botanical Gardens to see their Christmas lights. Overambitious much? As it turned out, yes, wildly s0!

On leaving the hotel we walked along the side of the Landwehr Canal again, this time down a stretch that included a number of large, abstract stone sculptures, which were interesting if mysterious, and passed by the Bauhaus Archive but opted not to stop for fear of getting side-tracked.

Along the way there were a number of interesting sights, including the Shell House, which I loved for its curves and its general air of unexpected modernity.

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I was also struck by the amazing WZB building, which is more than slightly over the top, it’s fair to say. The facade also in no way hints at what’s behind it. It must be inspiring to work in there!

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There is also an interesting memorial work nearby, to Khaled Said. It’s painted on a piece of the Berlin Wall, and it sits behind a fence in a large garden area close to what seems to be the Bundeswehr HQ.

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Anyway we continued on our way, eventually locating the Gemaeldegalerie, which wasn’t where the guidebook said it was, or at least wasn’t signed as such. What we really needed to do was locate the Kulturforum, which contains the Gemaeldegalerie along with the Kunstgewerbe Museum (Museum of Decorative Arts).

“We’ll just have a quick look in here,” we said… and headed into the unplanned delights of Kunstgewerbe, which, for a medievalist like me, was the equivalent of catnip with some utterly wonderful exhibits. I would have been very hard-pressed to select just one thing as a favourite though this may have come close!

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Or maybe this:

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There were lots of other fabulous items too and before we knew it a couple of hours had passed and we were in need of a break. However, we still had the Uli Richter exhibition to go, which contained some wonderful clothes, and an intriguing insight into the way the creative process applies in terms of producing fashion. really loved this piece and there was much information to go with each outfit.

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The lighting wasn’t ideal but it was very nice to be allowed to take photos (with the flash off of course) inside an exhibition. This was a lovely piece too, in incredibly good conditions give its age and the fact that it had actually been worn in anger.

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After that we really needed a snack and a drink before we could even consider looking at anything else in that or any other museum so we scooted into the museum cafe, where the bratwurst option turned out to be somewhat more solid than a snack! It was good though, and it helped cushion the effects of the paracetamol I was taking to try and fend off a cold that had snuck up on me a day or so earlier (thank you, anoymous woman on the train from Euston to Milton Keynes who sneezed every bit of the way home and didn’t appear to possess a handkerchief or even a tissue!).

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We’d pretty much given up on the idea of any more museums so we pushed on to the Gemaeldegalerie side of the building. This was interesting because they had a small exhibition looking at Hieronymus Bosch and His Pictorial World in the 16th and 17th Century which was of especial interest to us as we’d so enjoyed our visit to S’Hertogen Bosch earlier in the year to see the exhibition there.

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Seeing so many drawing together in one space provided food for thought on how much influence an artist can have over their contemporaries, and for that matter how they are influenced by the past, and affect the future of their art. The Cranach drawings were particularly wonderful, and would be further supplemented by some more of his work that we encountered the following day in yet another case of getting sidetracked from our original goal!

Around four hours after we’d walked in, we finally walked back out into the daylight and decided to walk to the Brandeburg Gate and try and grab a bus tour round the city. We walked back through the Tiergarten again to short cut away from the traffec round the outer perimeter, stopping off at the memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism very near to the Reichstag. It’s very simple, very peaceful, and very affecting.

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It also provides a respite from some of the stranger goings on in the park outside.

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The bus tour was a mite overcrowded, but the commentary was interesting enough once we got hold of the headsets, and managed to make it work. We’d opted for what they called the Classic Tour so pretty much all the sights you’d expect, but with some slightly off the wall information presented via the headsets. We didn’t quite finish the entire trip though, choosing to get off near the Gendarmenmarkt, because we wanted to go to the Christmas Market there. We’d been told it was one of the prettiest ones to visit and so we happily joined a very short queue to hand over 1 Euro for charity (a modest entry fee) and go in past the security check, to the Weihnachts Zauber market.

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The market is indeed lovely, if somewhat overcrowded (as all Christmas Markets tend to be, especially at weekends). There’s a small stage in the centre, where various forms of entertainment take place during the day, including some slightly odd shenanigens involving a couple of dancers who claimed to be the Eisschwestern (the Ice Sisters) all the way from Siberia, who danced with what can only be described as some sort of hula hoop crossed with a lampshade each. It was strange, but later they took to stilts and wandered through the crowds with mistletoe in hand persuading people to kiss.

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A nice touch at this market was that a large area (undercover) had been set aside for various artisan craftspeople to sell their works, and I think it would have been all too easy to spend a small (or even a large) fortune in there on things like a wool coat, or leather bags, or glassware. We tore ourselves away before it got expensive and decided a gluhwein and a sit-down was needed.

Something else that was very civilised was the way one side of the market was devoted to local restaurants setting up what amounted to heated pop-up restaurants with proper seating. We managed to find space at Mauthner’s and went in for a round of flambeed bratwurst with goats cheese to help the hot wine along. A win all round I’d say.

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We realised we probably ought to think about heading back to the hotel after that, at least if we wanted to keep our dinner reservation that night. With that in mind we were about to take to the U-bahn again when Lynne suggested we should go for a bike-taxi, a sort of up-graded rickshaw. The driver was happy to do the diustance to the Interconti, and supplied some interesting suggestions of things we might want to do in the morning, and said in six years it was the first time he’d taken any passengers to our hotel!

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