We spent our day on Museum Island, where are found five amazing cathedrals to art and culture, as well as the Berlin Cathedral, which focuses on religion.
Our main interest continues to be the classical era, and for that we had come to the right place. The Pergamon Museum is the home of the Great Altar of Pergamon itself, but unfortunately its gallery is being renovated until 2025, which is inconceivably far away. It was so tantalizing to see the doorway beyond which the altar lies – so near but yet so far. In the meanwhile, some of the artifacts have at least made their way around the world. At the Met in New York, we have their lovely Athena in the entrance hall, which is better than nothing.
Pergamon’s splendors aside, there is still a magnificent beginning to the tour of this museum. The Ishtar Gate of Babylon is stunning in its design and impact on the visitor – ancient and modern. Was there ever such a blue? King Nebuchadnezzar knew what he was doing.
Directly behind the Ishtar Gate is the market gate from Miletus, a Roman outpost in 2nd century Turkey. What a wonderful way to get to the grocery store. The same gallery also includes a tomb facade and a large mosaic.
Amazing finds from ancient Assyria were breathtaking.
There is also a beautiful collection of Islamic art, including a ceiling lifted from the Alhambra.
Wonderful treasures. We left for a quick lunch outside the museum, passing by Angela Merkel’s apartment building, with watchful police just outside. An unremarkable meal, but we regained our strength for the next round.
Our second stop was the Neues Museum, which is a rather misleading name. Some of the ‘new’ items inside dated back to 20,000 years BC. The key treasures were the Golden Hat, a late Bronze Age headress made of a pound of pounded gold, the famous bust of Nefertiti, and the Xanten youth, a 1st century AD bronze. Pictures of Nefertiti are not allowed in the gallery itself, so forgive mine, which had to be taken from quite a distance. But trust me, she is gorgeous.
Our last stop – after a cup of tea and some apple strudel – was the Altes (Old) Museum – which had some equally old artifacts in it. We saw Alexander the Great, and then Julius Caesar next to Cleopatra VII. It was also delightful to see Augustus and his whole family in one room. Such a shame his wife Livia was so handy with her poisons – some of them might have lived to be emperors. Lots of other wonderful pieces – so very thoughtful of the Germans to preserve them.
This is a fraction of what we saw, but here is an interesting footnote. When we were touring the finds from what Schliemann’s discoveries in what he believed to be Troy, much was made of the fact that the invading Russians looted many items in 1945 – also noted in many other galleries.
There seems to be no awareness of the irony inherent in the fact that many other items were acquired in the late 1930’s by these museums, with an attribution of “uncertain provenance.”
I guess art is where you find it.