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Berlin (Day 3)

Berlin doesn’t really wake up until around 10:00am, which is great if you’re an early riser (like me) and prefer your photos of monuments to be people-free (also like me). I was on Museum Island at 9:00am and I more or less had the place to myself for a good 45 minutes!

I had timed tickets (essential) to three of the museums on Museum Island - the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, and the Pergamonmuseum.

The Neues (and the Pergamon) are museums of antiquity. The Neues has a number of wonders including the very gorgeous bust of Nefrititi - it’s behind glass, heavily guarded and the only object in the museum you can’t photograph (so here is a link to a photo). There was also the famous double-headed bust with Seneca on one side and Socrates, as well as a Gold Hat. The Neues Gold Hat is one of only four known to still exist in the world and, like Nefrititi’s bust, commands its own room (but no guards and you can snap away to your heart’s content). It is a late Bronze Age artefact, gold leafed and beautifully detailed. The details are symbols and are presumed to represent the lunar and solar calendars.

The Alte Nationalgalerie was great and features works (mostly) by German masters, most of whom I knew (and still know) nothing about. Sadly, the most memorable feature of that whirlwind visit, was the missing Toulouse-Lautrec - damaged when fake blood was hurled at it by a vandal (thought to be a climate activist). See the gallery for details.

The Pergamonmuseum is the museum hardest to get into so I had to plan the other museum visits around the Pergamon (hence the whirlwind tour of the Alte Nationalgalerie). I learned the next day that I was quite lucky getting in as demand is high now for good reason - on 23 October the Pergamon closes for a 14-year renovation!

It’s pretty impressive - both for its collection (ancient and Islamic) and its audacity. Like the British Museum, the Pergamon is home to some controversial pieces… grand but stolen (though, according to the audio guide, since paid for which absolves all sins!).

The highlights are the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and the Market Gate of Miletus - both of which are enormous, beautiful and incredibly well preserved.

After a late lunch, it was back to my hotel (which I’ll mention in my next post) to ready myself for Richard Wagner’s epic (four and a half hour) Tannhäuser at the Staatsoper on Unter den Linden, which started at 5:00pm (for obvious reasons). As stories go it was over-the-top but the performances were terrific, and though my seat was on the second of three dress circle/balcony tiers, I had an amazing view and could see into the orchestra pit as well as all the action on stage.

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