Monday, July 31, 2006

Lemon in Berlin

After my exhausing day yesterday (re-reading the post it doesn't sound all that bad, but believe me at the time it was horrible) I planned to take it relatively easy today, see a few sights and maybe check out a museum. I went and saw Brandenburg Gate (forgetting the camera in the hotel room... so I bought a disposable one), had some lunch and decided I'd go check out the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

It was an interesting place, at first it seemed like it was going to be quite small. But there are lots of rooms off of rooms and I ended up being in there for over two hours. It is not at all like the museums you might find in North America... it was far more personal and political (in addition to the stuff about the wall itself there is a room devoted to Gandhi and non-violent struggle). It's hard to believe it hasn't yet been given the full scholarly treatment. The exhibit is all translated into a number of languages, but the translations (at least into English) were quite bad (aside from a number of grammatical errors, it resulted in actual errors in fact as when it said someone had been imprisoned for 11 years when in German it said months). While I think that it could perhaps benefit from a curators touch, it was a nice change from the cold retelling of history you often receive at these places.

After that, I thought I was done for the day. I was going to head over to the Reichstag and go up to the glassed dome. But then I noticed that the Jewish Museum was only a few minutes away. Today it was a good job that I was travelling alone. One of the great things about Berlin is that most of the museums are open quite late, which means that you don't have to worry about rushing through them. Which means that I got to spend over 4 hours at the Jewish Museum. It was by far the best museum I have ever been in. You enter from the old museum building, but from inside you pass into a new building that was opened a few years ago, and was designed by Daniel Libeskind specially for the purpose. You enter underground into a series of interconnected hallways that represent exile (which leads to a garden that is on a strange angle, so you feel quite disoriented), the Holocaust (which leads into a very haunting tower) and continuity (which leads to the main exhibit). This part of the museum was very good, and I feared that the rest would not live up to it. But I was happily suprised by the main exhibit, which did a very good job of mixing memory and history and was laid out in such a way that it was easy to pass through the exhibit and get the main story, or go down different pathways and get a more detailed history. Even the special Freud exhibit (which confirmed that I have no patience for Freud) was very interesting and cleverly told with a number of multi-media displays.

Tomorrow I am planning on the Neue Nationalgalerie which seems guaranteed to please, dedicated as it is to early 20th Century German and other European art. I'll let you know how it goes.

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