Tag Archives: I M Pei

Germany, Berlin – Museums Part 1. Museum Insel (Alte Nationalgalerie and the Pergamon), Deutsches Historisches Museum, the Berlinische Gallerie and the Berliner Dom. A feast of art, architecture, culture and history

I make no apologies for the large numbers of references to museums and art galleries in my Berlin blogs. There are are so many good ones. They are generally huge, airy, well designed and never overcrowded whether by people or too much stuffed in one space. A nice change from the madness that is the British Museum or Louvre these days.

The Museum Insel is an island in the River Spree in central Berlin which houses 5 major museums plus the massive Berlin Dom. Much of it was destroyed during the war but luckily most of the treasures were taken out beforehand and saved. It was only seriously started to be restored in the 1990s and is now a world heritage site. The entry to the Neues Museum designed by British architect Chipperfield was only officially opened a couple of weeks ago. Some of the museums are still being renovated and the whole thing should be complete by 2025 but plenty to see and enjoy before then.

The pictures below give you a feel of the island the exterior views of the Dom as well as the Alte National Galerie, the Altes Museum and the very new Neues Museum (interiors of the latter to follow in part 2)

Different viewpoints of Museum Insel in Berlin

The spacious and classic proportions of the interior of the Alte Nationalgalerie. I liked the (now green) Rodin bronze – makes a change from the Thinker and the Lovers!

Also interesting to see an exhibit of the paintings (the “Paris Street, Rainy Day” below is his) and collections of Gustave Caillebotte who was a major patron of Impressionism before it became fashionable and bought a lot of pieces from artists now very well known just to keep them afloat when their talent was not at all appreciated.

Special exhibit at the Alte Nationalgalerie

The Berliner Dom dominates the Museum Insel on an island that already has a lot of impressive buildings on it.

The exterior of the Berliner Dom

And the interiors don’t disappoint either (40 years of restoration on this after the war).It is very ornate for a Protestant cathedral. All the former members of the ruling families are buried here in ornate coffins both at ground level and in the crypt.

Interiors of the Berliner Dom

The Pergamon Museum is another wonder to behold. A mix or original items and recreated ones and a combo of the two makes your jaw drop due to the sheer size and magnificence of these finds from Babylon, Assyria and Jordan to name a few. Some items are like the famous Pergamon Altar are being restored but here is a taste of what can be viewed. I was a bit awestruck!

Market Gate of Miletus (AD100) – 52 feet high and the floor Mosaic of Orpheus

The Ishtar Gate and the Mshatta Facade

Then we went to something completely different – the Berlinischer Gallerie in an almost residential area. It had a cool feel to it with great interiors but also there was an exhibition about an artist called Lotte Lasserstein. Neither Sylvie or I had heard of her – she lived 1898 to 1993 but we both really liked her work. Being partially Jewish she left Berlin and went to live in Sweden at the start of the war and never came back and much of her work reflects her feeling of being displaced from her real home, albeit safe. I hope she gets better known globally.

Lotte Lasserstein artworks

I didn’t do all these spots on the same day but am grouping some together with similar themes!

The Deutsches Historisches Museum is very close to the Museum Insel and comprehensively covers German history from it’s start in the Middle Ages to today. One thing you have to say for the Germans is that they do not flinch from telling their history as honestly as they can even when it does not show them in a very good light. There seems to be a strong need not to hide or forget the atrocities – I admire this as it would have been much easier to sweep some of their history under the carpet and just stopped talking about it.

This museum is a bit like the Met in NYC in that is the old and new museums joined together across the courtyard of the old museum with a lovely glass overlay. The Glass courtyard roof and the new building were designed by I M Pei so also shades of the Presidential Library in Boston in its design. It’s quite lovely I think. Glass is deliberately prevalent in a lot of the newer buildings in Berlin – this is to try and represent the concept of transparency in all things.

The Courtyard connecting the old and new parts of the Deutsches Historisches Museum

The courtyard has 22 amazing reliefs of the “Dying Warrior” to portray the horrors of war.

There was a really good 45 minute movie at the start which took you through the history at a high level – really helpful to watch before looking around the exhibits.

When it comes to the history of the country everything is covered from a Cranach portrait of Martin Luther to Biedermeier furniture to Meissien porcelain.

Different eras of German history

And when it comes to more recent history there is everything from the Victory statue, to nazi uniforms and propaganda posters and a few sections of the Berlin Wall.

USA, Massachusetts – Boston

Spent a couple of days in Boston post cruise and it rained a lot and when it wasn’t raining it was cloudy but I still enjoyed revisiting some spots and going to some new ones also. It is always a nice easy and compact city to visit -very walkable.

My hotel was a stone’s throw from Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall as well as the red pavemented Freedom Trail walk. I had my last lobster roll for a while in Faneuil Hall:(

Next stop – memorials to the holocaust – symbolic towers for each of the Death Camps which had hot steam floating through them – symbolic for sure. Bottom right is a memorial to the Irish who fled the potato famine for new lives in Boston

Then a nice walk around Beacon Hill – the traditional and swanky part of town. When i was 21 and came to the US for the first time, my friend Sue and I stayed at the parents of a friend who lived in this part of town. We had the whole of the top of the town house plus rooftop patio – we thought we had died and gone to heaven. A lovely part of town but the Cheers Bar is looking a little the worse for wear I thought – and nobody knew my name….

First time visit to the JFK Presidential Library – interesting to visit given the history up to and after his time as President. But the star of this place is the fantastic design of the building by I M Pei on the Waterfront – stunning.

In these shots you can see the hotel I was staying in – it was the very tall building with the clock on the top which was formerly the Customs House. Great to stay in such a historical building which still retains its old counting room. There is also an observation deck above the clock with fabulous views of Boston and surrounds – even on a gloomy day. And I loved the fountain which is hot and cold occasionally spurting out steam.