September 13th, 2009 – by: Adrian_Liston
With our last morning before the conference began in Berlin Lina and I decided to head out to Potsdam
to see some more grand buildings. This time we were after the "Sans Souci" palace built for Federick the Great in 1744 (as an aside, I keep on falling into the old trap of writing "built by", as if Federick the Great ever lifted a stone, and having to back-track to write "built for"). Sans Souci was built for Federick the Great as a "care free" (the literal translation) summer palace. Clearly being care-free to Federick meant not having his wife around, as unusually for this type of residence he had the Queens wing fitted out for visiting guests, and instead had a second palace built for his queen a few kilometers away.
The palace is heavily decorated in the rococo style, which kind of brings to mind the effect you would get if you had one of those grandmothers who thinks flying plaster ducks on the wall is a good thing, and then gave her millions of dollars, a tonne of gold and several highly talented artists.
The weather was really crummy, so we didn't stay too longer wandering the grounds and instead returned to Berlin. With the cold wet weather we thought Museum Island would be the go. We went via Bebelplatz, the plaza where the Nazis staged their first mass book burning. There is a neat tribute to this, a small glass panel in the ground which looks down to an empty room filled with empty bookcases. Today the plaza was the site of an anti-facist rally being held by the Germany Communist Party.
There was a bit too much folk singing for my tastes.
Museum Island is packed solid with historic buildings housing even more historic (and usually stolen) treasures. We started at Berliner Dom (the Berlin Cathedral), which is notable for its mighty organ, a crypt sadly full of tombs for royal infants (what a wonderful success for science that we now consider infant death to be a rare tragedy), and busts of hairy men where the sculptor didn't avoid showing off the massive eyebrows and the brustling ear hair. Finally we visited Pergamon Museum. The Pergamon Museum is quite unusual. Rather than the typical museum, with many rooms filled with an assortment of artefacts, the Pergamon is based around just a couple of enormous rooms. The first room, and the namesake, contains the reconstructed original of the entire Pergamon Temple, and ancient Greek temple from modern Turkey.
Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Rather than restore it on site, the German archeologists packed up all the pieces and put the whole thing back together in central Berlin. The next room contains an enormous Roman site, similarily "borrowed", and when you walk through the Roman gate and you turn around you are staring at the original reconstruction of an ancient Babylonian gate! (the colour was spectacular, while the Greek and Roman statues were painted, with a short lifetime, the Babylonian sculptures were glazed and have kept their colours). Amazing that a museum can be so spoilt for riches that it contains outstanding speciums of major city features from throughout history, although sad that these treasures were not reconstructed on their original site.