I admit I’m perfectly fine not visiting a museum on my vacation. But a trip to Berlin is the exception. Berlinmuseums offer the most diverse, fascinating, informative and moving collections I’ve experienced in one city.
Relive successful escapes from East Germany through photos, documents and the actual get-away contraptions (including welding machines, hollowed-out coupes, stereo speakers, pulley-driven chairlifts suspended from powerlines, home-made hot air balloons. submarines the size of iron lungs, motorgliders, inflatable kayaks, and gutted surfboards strapped to luggage racks). The personal stories of desperation, ingenuity and triumph touched me like no other exhibit I’ve encountered.
Don’t miss the third floor, in particular the somber/creepy/mesmerizing Matthias Koeppel mural depicting Germany as he imagined it in 1937 (he is a homely baby in a stroller), Germany in 1987 (he is an overweight outsider in lederhosen) and the dismal Germany he predicts in 2037 (he is a runk covorting with aprostitute).
(Not really a museum, but this is MY blog, I can do what I want). The memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a five-acre sloping field. It has been plagued by controversy from inception: criticism has included (but has not been limited to): lacking handicap access to… utilizing materials manufactured by companies that profited from the holocaust to… failing to acknowledge other (non-Jewish) victims of the holocaust, to…
The memorial is out-in-the-open and located in a busy section of Berlin, a constant reminder of the past.
German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historiches Museum)
A living map of Europe “occupies” the lobby floor: the morphing boundries of the German empire over centuries is projected onto a map of Europe. The display is a brilliant means of simply conveying the evolving history of power.
The museum is layed-out logically. Walk through the second floor, which will deliver you from 1 BC to 1918, then descend to the first floor to take-in 1918 to the present. You’ll learn a lot, and some of the images (none exactly cheerful) will stick with you for awhile.
Exit the German History Museum, cross the bridge over the Spree River to Museum Island and you’ll arrive at the Pergamon Museum.
The Pergamon Museum, the most visited museum in Germany, is divided into three distinct sections: the Antiquity Collection, the Middle East Museum, and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Everyone whispers here.
My favorite of all the Berlin Museums! Save the oh-so-cool DDR for your last stop of the day so you end on a high note.
The DDR is not for the passive; You need to dig-in and experience life in Berlin Wall-era East Berlin, firsthand. You are encouraged to immerse yourself in life under the Stasi: open drawers, rummage through refrigerators, start crap cars, listen to cheesy music, watch propaganda TV in a typical dacha (below), sample the polyester fashion, etc. The creative minds behind this institution don’t bother to hide their mocking disdain for the former soviet state: tongue-in-cheek sarcasm lurks behind every cupboard.
I’ve never before seen people enjoy themselves so much at a museum. I’m guessing that, as whole, museum curators are not a fun group, but I would love to sit and have a cocktail or five with the DDR curators.
OTHER BERLIN MUSEUMS
Bauhaus Archive Museum if Design: I liked this museum, but then I’m into design, and I don’t know if it would be of interest to people who don’t share my interest.
Berlin Film and Television Museum (in the Sony Center): I wasn’t a big fan of this museum, but I’m not into movies. I suspect film buffs would love it.
Jewish Museum Berlin (Judisches Museum Berlin): I wanted to see this museum and I should have seen this museum. But to make a long story short, I never got past the exterior. Big, dumb mistake.