Oct 3, 2018

The Berlin Diaries #2: Museum Island, Berliner Dom and Ampelmann.

And just like that, day one in Berlin is done and dusted.

My initial fear of the S and U Bahns has been well and truly overcome. So successfully it seems that German out of towners have taken to asking me for directions.  In German.  I would have thought that my holding a laminated colour copy of the rail network would have been a red flag but obviously not.  We chat in two different languages for a bit before I offer them a look at my map.  It's an offer that is mostly declined because the print is so small.

I'm still loving the all day activewear whilst abroad thing, by the way.  I feel like I'm getting double the wear out of what seemed like ridiculously spendy gear at the time. Everything fits like a glove, nothing rides up or down, nothing shows the dirt and who doesn't love that high waisted power compression design feature that activewear designers are wont to incorporate into leggings these days?

Speaking of active wear...

My hotel gym seems to be my spiritual home.  This is the weights and 'all those exercises my physio said I still have to do' room.  Can you see?  Hermes' Eau d'orange verte is the official fragrance of the gym and its shower facilities.  There's also an electric diffuser which ensures that the scent of a Diptyque candle is always in the air at a satisfactory concentration.

Even the treadmills are my favourite kind.  They have virtual running programs preinstalled which allow you to pretend you're someplace scenic and usually only within reach of people who like camping and the great outdoors.  I did my intervals in New Zealand this morning.

Germans don't seem to be big fans of Raisin Bran but they do have a wide range of Dr Oetker's (of the famed frozen pizzas) muesli.  It's delicious and I wish I had more room in my suitcase to bring some home with me.

My proper sightseeing for the day began at the Hackescher Markt train station which I got to on the first attempt from the U Bahn station close to my hotel.

There's something a bit surreal about sitting back with a cup of coffee, looking to your left and seeing the Berlin TV Tower glittering in the distance.

Being a tourist in a country completely foreign to me has been relaxing in a strange kind of way.  It's been physically and mentally demanding trying to navigate my way through both the city and the language.  As a solo traveller, I also have that sense of being just a bit on edge and being more aware of my surroundings.  However, it's been energising being able immerse myself in this different world.

As a traveller, I've felt myself relax a little about trying to cram in as much as I can each day.  What I haven't been able to see properly during the day I read a little about online when I get back to my hotel room.  Most of all, I've enjoyed the privilege of simply being here and having the city share its past and present with me.

My day tour began with a walk along the bank of the River Spree before crossing a bridge into Museum Island.

One thing I'll always remember about Berlin is its skyline.  It's not dominated by functional, bland skyscrapers but instead it's like a personal wardrobe of favourite or memorable looks from seasons past.

The Berliner Dom and TV Tower are two of my favourite stars of the skyline and I saw both frequently during the walking tour.

Museum Island is the name for the northern half of an island on the River Spree. This piece of land houses six internationally significant museums and is a UNESCO world heritage listed site.  Berliner Dom and the Lustgarten in front of it also make up Museum Island.

We only had time to wander the lawns between the museums.

I felt like I was retreating from the modern world as I walked between the perfectly manicured hedges and admired the sculptures.  I could see the river between the columns that frame the garden but all the sounds of the outside world seemed to be muffled.  Perhaps it's what the walkways were designed to do so that visitors could fully immerse themselves in the works of art around them.

Alte Nationalgalerie

Neues Museum
The Neues Museum houses the Egyptian collection, including the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti.

If you look closely at the buildings, you can still see bullet holes from Berlin's wartime history.

There's a 1:450 tactile scale model of all the museums of the island in the Lustgarten.  It's sculpted from bronze and features the names of each museum in Braille as well.

The Altes Museum was initially built to house the Prussian Royal Family's art collection.  It currently houses the antiquities collection of the Berlin State Museums.
The Altes Museum

The current Berliner Dom was completed in 1905.  It was then severely damaged by Allied Forces bombing during the Second World War and was rebuilt in 1975.

Berliner Dom
Finishing off today's post with a contemporary cultural reference.

Do you know who this green man is? He's the East German symbol for 'go' on pedestrian signals. Prior to the reunification, these symbols were slightly different for the two Germanies.  An attempt was made to standardise all signals with the more universal symbols of the former West Germany but the people protested this. Ampelmann are now both an iconic symbol of Germany and a thriving business.

I did my bit to support the cause by buying these gifts for Master SSG and his best friend.  The mini fridge magnets are actually mine but the large red stop tags are for the boys to attach to their schoolbags.  You know, as a gentle reminder of all the times their mums have yelled 'STOP' at them every time they've run out onto the streets around the school seemingly at random.  I'll let you know if the red men do the trick for improving road safety awareness in nearly six year olds.

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