The Pergamon altar The guidebooks had said, "if you have time for only one museum while in Berlin, make it the Pergamon". So of course that was our first selection. It was a short walk - less than ten blocks - to the Museum Island, which houses several major museums of art and antiquities. These museums were built from 1910 to 1930, to house the treasures which had been earlier uncovered by German archaeological teams. The largest and probably most visually impressive structure is the ancient Greek Pergamon Altar, discovered by a German team, transported to Berlin from Turkey and reconstructed in this then-new building. Other The Gate of Ishtar structures include Greek and Roman temple remnants covered with beautiful statues and friezes.
We spent much of our morning in a special exhibit of Babylonian antiquities, contrasting myth and reality. The great Ishtar Gate, reconstructed here, is a towering construction primarily of blue and gold tiles, covered with figures of dragons and aurochs, which have been cunningly molded to seem to emerge from the wall. Although photographs were prohibited in the special exhibit we have located an image of the Ishtar Gate on the internet and show it here. The exhibit is an exhaustive collection of objects, Timeless grace from the earliest days of Babylon through its capture and decline. Scrolls, tools, models, and jewelry are on display, and there was an extensive audiotape narration available in several languages as part of the museum admission. It is astonishing to realize how ancient these items are, and what an advanced civilization existed so long ago. We were all somewhat distracted by the huge number of people; this is the most-visited museum in Berlin, and understandably so.
After lunch at the museum cafe, we were headed for the Alte Museum for more antiquities, when our attention was captured by very loud noises, which turned out to be the annual GLBT parade, mostly floats Mummies with painted faces with very powerful sound amplifiers, and a few scantily clad marchers.
So we returned to spend the afternoon with Egyptian antiquities. German archeologists had been part of the enthusiastic wave of scholars and adventurers when western Europe began excavating Egyptian tombs, and they transported tons of objects home to museums. We debated whether these Berlin museums have a greater collection of classical antiquities than the British Museum in London, with its famous collection of Elgin marbles. Nefertiti We saw 4,000-year-old statuettes, still bearing original colors, and a multitude of statues and busts of great art and feeling. One case held several mummies whose likenesses had been painted on fabric on the mummy case. And of course we saw the very famous bust of Nefertiti, with her graceful slender neck and towering headpiece. It is truly amazing to consider how such an ancient civilization cultivated such a very high degree of artistic accomplishment, while at the same time enforcing a highly autocratic government based on worshipping the rulers as gods.
Given the four flights of stairs, supper in our room seemed to be a sensible option. So we stopped at a neighborhood grocery store for drinks and ice cream and soup and snacks. It's a new experience, decoding the contents of can or package from a picture, when all the words are in German, but actually the pictures pretty well tell the story! Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) our fridge had no freezer, so the ice cream had to be consumed promptly.