Having seen a couple of the things the night before that were on our schedule for the rest of the trip, we had a little more time available than is normal for our trips, but that didn’t stop us heading out bright and early to head as far East as this trip would take us, so that we could work our way back. Our first stop was the Soviet War Memorial, a huge site that occupies a large part of the centre of Treptower Park. We entered at the North West of the memorial where you are met by two gigantic triangular walls bearing the hammer and sickle. In front of each is a statue of a soldier on one knee, with head bowed holding his helmet in one hand and machine gun in the other.
Walking between the two walls, you enter an open expanse, mostly paved, with five identical lawn areas down the centre, flanked by large panels depicting Soviet patriotic scenes. At the opposite end to the triangular walls is a monument which is a soldier standing atop it holding a sword in one hand and carrying a small child in the other. The interior of this monument has a beautiful mosaic around the inner wall which you can view through the entrance gate. It’s a strange monument now, as it commemorates the efforts during WWII of a country which no longer exists as a single entity.
Our next stop of the morning turned out to feel much further away than we thought. We headed out of the park to the North West, crossed the river via Oberbaum Bridge and saw this huge metal artwork of three people “fighting?” It was riddled with holes as if the locals had been using it for target practice! Looking it up later we learned it is called Molecule Men and is an artwork erected in 1999 and designed by Jonathan Borofsky. Far from being three people fighting, it is supposed to represent the intersection of the (when erected) three districts of Treptow, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.
Continuing along the river for what seemed an age, we finally arrived at the East Berlin Gallery. This is a preserved section of the wall that was decorated with many murals, including possibly the most famous one which is tagged “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” and recreated the famous photo of the “embrace” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker taken in 1979.
The original mural was painted in 1990, but sadly vandals destroyed the mural with graffiti. In 2009 the murals were all removed and the original artists allowed to repaint them. This means you are not seeing the original artwork here because once again vandals have continued to desecrate the murals with their narcissistic requirement to leave their “mark”
The gallery stretches for over 1.3 km along the river, which makes it the longest art gallery in the world! Some murals that grabbed our attention are shown below, almost all sadly the victim of mindless vandalism…
Leaving the wall (for now anyway) we headed to the centre of Berlin and a visit to the Berliner Dom. To say the outside needed a good clean is an understatement, compared with the gleaming stone of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, the Berliner Dom was undeniably grimy. But don’t let that put you off, because when you walk inside and see the interior, it could not be more different. Our jaws most definitely dropped at how stunning it was. (side note from Stacey… it actually brought tears to my eyes, that’s how beautiful I found it) We’ve not included a picture of the inside intentionally so you can experience it for yourself. Seriously don’t Google it, just see it for the first time as we did.
You’ll do a lot of climbing if you explore the whole of the Berliner Dom! We climbed the 270 steps up to the dome walkway for great views of Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and then descended into the crypt below and walked amongst the coffins and sarcophagi stored there.
We started with the Ishtar Gate, which is far more than just the gate and has been re-created along an entire corridor to give some idea of the scale. There is also a model of how it might have looked in it’s original location in Babylon when it was finished in 575 BC. Whilst it would undeniably be more impressive in its original location, it must be admitted that there would be a much greater chance that it would no longer exist at all given the subsequent events in that part of the world. It does always feel strange to travel to one country to see a stunning artifact from completely different one though!
Continuing on to the Market Gate of Miletus, we found this to be similarly impressive, if in much worse condition and without the amazing colours of the Ishtar Gate. You enter the room where the gate has been reconstructed by walking through the Ishtar Gate and coming out through the Market Gate of Miletus, so you then have to keep walking and turn around to take it all in. The gate is from the 2nd century and reminded me of the similar facade in Ephesus, which like Miletus lies in modern day Turkey.
Aside from the three huge monuments that are displayed in the Pergamon Museum, the rest of the museum is packed with smaller artifacts, but these seemed much the same as you can see in dozens of museums around the world and I guess I’ve come to the point where I’ve seen enough of the stuff that all museums have and want to focus on the more unique things on display.
Which is why we headed to the New Museum next to see the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti. Sadly, whilst there was no problem taking photos of the rest of the museum, the area where the bust is on display had a photography ban :-( These policies make no sense to me (no flash is completely understandable, but not no photos at all) and there are plenty of photos of the bust on the internet so why the no photo policy? I’ve had guides argue that taking a photo (even without flash) can cause damage to the artifact, which if true would mean we shouldn’t be able to look at them either, because it’s the same reflected light our eyes capture that can be captured by our cameras. What do you think?
Leaving Museum Island and on our way back to our hotel, we stumbled across something not on our itinerary. Searching for it later we found it is called the Neue Wache and is a war remembrance building. It would appear you can sometimes go inside, but when we arrived it was locked; however in some respects this was better as the only thing to see inside is the central statue of a Mother with her dead son.
But even then our sightseeing was not quite done for the day as when we headed out to find some dinner for the evening we stumbled across what is left of Anhalter Station which is pretty much only the facade still standing. We learned this is the remains of the first station that was used to deport Jews from Berlin to concentration camps. A couple of extra wagons would be hitched to the back of scheduled trains leaving for Theresienstadt; this was done 116 times and 9,600 people left Berlin from this station. Only the yellow stars on their clothing and that they were surrounded by armed guards singled them out from any other passengers boarding the train. It seems unbelievable that this was done in full view of members of the public- did any of them question what was happening? Wonder where these people were being sent? What would happen to them?
So many questions left unanswered.