My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

28 August 2006

Lange Nacht der Museen, part two

If you'll recall, in the last post I detailed my exploits during the first 2.5 hours of the Long Night of the Museums. I thought I would use this post to catch you all up on the last 3+ hours, but I promise to not go into as much detail as the last post. I realize it was a bit long. After leaving the Rembrandt exhibit I headed for the New National Galery next door. I walked in and was slightly disconcerted; it's a difficult transition to go from Rembrandt to contemporary art. I walked around and let the art soak in. In the end, I liked the exhibit, but it kept suffering in the comparison to Rembrandt (or Dürer, Brueghel, van der Weyden, etc.). I snapped this photo from outside the gallery:

As you can see, it was like a circus. There was art hanging from the ceiling, an uneven floor, a giant bee, and that's just what you can see in the photo. There was lots of art that you can interact with, like a series of photos and texts printed on cheesecloth and hung together so that you have to walk through them to read them. I didn't stay long, but I'm glad I went.

After that it was off to the Martin Gropius Bau and Egypt's Sunken Treasures. Once there, I was greeted by a long line, but I was prepared for this: all the good museums have lines. Several people just behind me left, saying it wasn't worth waiting "hours" to see. I disagreed and stayed (and only waited thirty-five minutes). It was a once in a lifetime experience. The artifacts in the exhibit were excavated from the Bays of Alexandria and Aboukir in Egypt over the course of ten years. The exhibit in Berlin was the world premiere, and almost all of the 500 artefacts on display have never been seen before. The exhibit ends on September 4 (They've had to extend the museum's hours to midnight during the week, just to accommodate all the visitors). Plus, the exhibit will only travel for two years before returning to Egypt permanently (The next stop is in France, and the exhibit will travel to two more as yet undecided European countries). I simply wouldn't have the chance to see this ever again, so I waited.

Wow! I'm sorry that most of you reading this won't have the chance to see the exhibit; it was amazing. The archealogical team found artifacts spanning sixteen centuries from the cities of Canopus, Thonis-Herakleion (It was a result of this excavation that they were able to determine that the two cities were in fact the same), and the Bay of Alexandria, which all sunk into the sea as the result of earthquakes and other natural disasters/climate changes in the 8th century CE. I'll spare you the details and only hit the highlights, but if you have an interest in Egypt and antiquities, I recommend planning a trip to France (I'm guessing it will move on to England after that, and then maybe to Russia or the Czech Republic) to see it or buying the catalogue.

The exhibition contains some remarkable things: private devotional objects from Herakleion, early Christian jewelry from Canopus, the "largest free-standing statue of an Egyptian divinity every found":

There's also the largest stone tablet containing both Greek and Egyptian texts (It's like the Rosetta Stone on steroids):

Many of the artifacts date from the Ptolemaic dynasty (305 BCE to 30 BCE), which was an exceptionally interesting period in Egyptian history. Since the great Pharoahs were gone, there was a bit of a power vacuum, and the art of the time reflects the influences of Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman cultures. This statue has the traditional posture of a pharoah, but the body and the drapery are distinctly Greek:

Pretty cool, eh? It makes me want to travel to Egypt. I will, however, wait about ten years for that until (a) I have a real income and (b) they build the underwater museum at Alexandria .

I left the exhibit and followed the line of the Berlin Wall (In case any of you are following this on a map.) and walked through the Topography of Terror exhibit, a museum of sorts built into the excavated remains of a Nazi/SS prison (The Prinz Albrecht Gelände, I believe the area is called). There's also part of the Berlin Wall there that's been picked clean in some places. Even though the area has such a dark, horrific history, the area looked really pretty lit up and full of visitors. I followed the wall to Checkpoint Charlie and then walked up Friedrichstrasse, past all the glamorous stores (Gucci, Escada, etc.) wth wonderful window displays. After a quick stop at the train station for some much-needed sustenance (not to mention caffeine), I went to the German Historical Museum where there was, miraculously, no line. At 11:15 I sat down in the inner coutryard of the museum (which has been covered by a glass roof) and caught up in my journal. I started in the special exhibit about refugees, displacement and immigration, situated in the museums I.M. Pei designed addition:

It was very interesting, with lots of authentic documents and artifacts, but I didn't really have the energy for it. I walked to the permanent exhibit, but knew I was in trouble as soon as I walked up the stairs and saw the sign reading "500-100 BCE" I knew I was in trouble. I didn't have the energy for 2500 years of German history, so I very quickly made the decision to come back another time (tomorrow, I think). I walked through the exhibit at warp speed and made a stop at the museum shop before I left. I'd been avoiding museum shops because I didn't want to (a) spend money and (b) have to lug around heavy bags all night, but this was the last stop so I figured, "What the hell?" I bought some really fun stuff, including this book:

After that I was homeward-bound. I had, of course, missed the last bus, so I had to walk for 20 minutes. I got home just after 1.00, exhausted and with aching feet, but it was well worth it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you read Stuwwelhitler yet? I will be anxious for a review. Pam

9:51 PM

Anonymous Suzanne said...

Fantastic accounting of your Night Museum tour. I wish I could have been there for that. I don't miss the walking, though. Mom

12:41 AM

Blogger Amy V. said...

Look at you, getting to do all these fun, cultural things! I don't blame you for staying out late. I would have walked all night to see those things. And thanks for commenting on my blog. I wasn't sure if anyone was gonna read it. I'll make sure to post often, now that I know someone's reading. :)
Take care.

12:28 AM

Blogger pat said...

I love your blog. Do as much as you can before classes start(and after they start). Go to the museum shops, and if you need more money, Aunt Pam and Uncle Tom will send it.

1:03 PM

Blogger pat said...

And so will I.
Keep us abreast of German holidays--we'll celebrate with you virtually. I'll try a Reisling this weekend.

2:11 PM


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