After our lavish breakfast, we began with an early, chilly walk to where the bus stop for the city “hop on hop off” bus tour was, only to find it blocked by construction. Since Ron had studied the route, and knew from whence the bus would come, we waited ½ block up from the erstwhile stop and successfully flagged down the next bus. The whole circuit was about 1 ½ hours but Berlin is a small city and we saw all the major sites. Most notable to me were
- The Library Without Books Memorial on the plaza where the Nazis hauled the books from the public library and burned them.
- The Holocaust Memorial—a stark field of staggered height concrete slabs for the 6 million Jews killed in WWII. [But where is the memorial for the 7 million insane, homosexuals, Gypsies and the other groups likewise murdered? They seem to have no voice or lobby]
- The painted bears everywhere, the symbol of BEARlin. But I believe the construction everywhere is the clearer symbol.
- The Brandenburg Tor, seasonally rivaled by a Christmas Tree and an equally large menorah.
- The Bridge of Griffins, which Hitler refused to have blown up and which the Russians used to cross the Spree and reach the Reichstag.
- The enormous Tiergarten, the “Garden of Beasts,” formerly the private hunting grounds of the royalty, approached by the Linden Tree Avenue [“Unter den Lindens”]. The Tiergarten is open parkland now, larger than Monaco, but during the occupation of Berlin til 1949, the British authorized planting potatoes and other veg by the starving Berliners.
- The Marx-Engels Forum, still so-named and with larger than life statues. This gave me the creeps, but apparently there is some legal hitch to changing the park and removing the statues. My fear is that the young Berliners will come to think of these men as hip, the way the young have embraced Che t-shirts, not knowing anything about the man himself.
We viewed the Schliemann finds from Troy [Bronze Age], with the exception that the golden “Priam’s Treasure,” so famous from the photo of the jewelry on his young Greek wife, are reproductions. The Soviets stole the originals and the Russians display them in Moscow to this day. [The tour guide recording on our bus that am made a careful distinction between Soviets and Russians]. But, as I am convinced that Schliemann had the treasure made in secret and then planted it on the site of Troy, I simply skipped the gold altogether. The other finds were not as skillfully displayed as later finds from Troy that we saw in Istanbul, due to the changing styles of museum displays from Schliemann’s time to this. [In itself, an interesting commentary of the sideline of museum history.]
We also enjoyed displays of pre-dynastic Egyptian artifacts of very high quality [think 5500 years old]. This baboon has King Narmer's name on the base; they used to think he was legendary, but they keep finding his stuff.
We then moved on to the most stunning work of art I have ever seen: the bust of Nefertiti. They would not allow photos of her, so just google her. She is life-sized, with a swan neck and regal crown. Her features are perfect and the painting so lifelike, you expect her to speak. She is missing one of her inlaid glass eyes and this is the only imperfection. The remaining eye glints so that you think it is moist. I have wanted to see this statue since I first took history of art; no picture does her justice. The bust was found in the sculptor’s shop; she was apparently the masterwork from which others were to be produced. For example, there is one in the museum in Cairo along these lines, but unfinished.
Berlin has most of the Amarna site artifacts, as it was German teams that did most of the archaeology. Amarna was the new capital built by the radical pharaoh Aknaten, when he banned the pantheon of Gods and focused on only one, the sun disk Aten. Nerfertiti was his wife; Tutankhaten, his son. The items are in generally poor condition, as the site was razed and then abandoned when his successor moved back to Thebes and became Tutankhamen.
Unable to finish the museum by the time it closed, we resolved to return Tuesday and went to our hotel for a nap. When we arose to go get dinner, we found Berlin shrouded in fog. The radio tower close-by was turned into beams from a UFO and the large Ferris wheel looked like sugared candy.
Hearts burning, we strolled through the nearby Christmas market, buying a number of things on our list and spotting others. It is hard to use credit, let alone debit, in Berlin, so we resolved to return with cash.
And to the hotel and zzzzzzzz.