Back in Berlin

It’s misty when I arrive back in Berlin, with the summit of the Fernsehturm shrouded in the fog. As I walk in the Tiergarten though, a hazy light gradually filters down through the autumnal tree branches. I start by walking near the Bundestag, I spot a rabbit nibbling at the grass and note that it’s difficult to imagine anything similar in London. I walk past Siegessäule and the Soviet War Memorial before backtracking down Unter Den Linden. There are a few things I haven’t seen before, like Holocaust Memorial and the Ampelmann store (I’m somewhat amused at the combination of Ampelmann pasta shapes and cookie cutters). I have a look at places like St Hedwig’s Cathedral and the Neue Wache; much of the centre remains as much a building site as I remember it. Finally, I take the S-Bahn from Alexanderplatz to my hotel near the Oberbaumbrücke, which I arrive in time to see silhouetted against the sky.

The following day, I make my way to the Museuminsel. I begin by walking round the Neues Museum, looking at the bust of Nefertiti, statues of Sekhmet and Egyptian sarcophagi before looking at the German section; colourful clusters made from stained glass melted in the firestorm, a sacrificial tree stump and a conical golden hat. I then visit the Altes Museum; statues of Athena, Meleager, Antinous, Dionysus, Cleopatra, Caracalla, Marcus Aurelius, Apollo, the Medea sarcophagus, Augustus Etruscan funerary sculptures and Roman mosaics. Next is the Pergamon Museum, with the Ishtar Gate, Lamassu from Nimrud, the market gate from Miletus and Islamic tapestries and ceramics. Next is the Bodes Museum, with its Della Robbia altar ceramics, mosaic apse from Ravenna and medieval sculptures. Finally, I visit the Altes Nationalgalerie; sculptures by Canova and paintings by Schinkel, Friedrich, Cezanne, and Monet.

The next day I finally get to visit the Berliner Dom (after failed attempts on both of my previous visits to Berlin). The interior has been beautifully restored, with is walls limed with monumental tombs to the Hohenzollern family while the crypt is lined with their large lead caskets, reminding me of the Kaisergruft in Vienna. I then travel out to Treptow to visit the Soviet memorial. I walk through an austere stone gate that looks a piece with much of Berlin’s neo-classicism except for the hammers and sickles adorning it. This leads to a long avenue filled with large stone slabs with reliefs carved on them and leading to a giant sculpture mounted on an artificial mound. I realise that the base of the sculpture has an interior; its gated off but it’s possible to peer through at a set of Soviet mosaics. The layout of the monument is not so different to those I’ve seen in Washington but the imagery used throughout veers from Tom of Finland style cults of masculinity to sentimental images of women and children.

I then head off to West Berlin and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche; something else I had failed to enter on any of my previous trips. The interior is filled with wonderful mosaics, glittering with gold but depicting 19th century figures with impeccable realism. Lastly, I take the S-Bahn out to its furthest extremity in West Berlin and exit at the green woods. I walk through them for a few miles before I finally see my destination in the distance; the ruined cold war listening station built atop the Teufelsberg, an artificial hill built atop the rubble of Third Reich Berlin. I lose sight of the station as I climb the hill but begin to realise how high up I am; I can easily see for miles in every direction. One way lies Berlin and the Fernsehturm, the other unveils miles of forests with only a single 19th century brick tower in their midst (interestingly, I can see that it’s decorated with the Prussian eagle). Finally, I arrive at the station and am more or less left t explore it myself. It mostly seems to be something of a hippy squat now and Berlin’s graffiti artists have been hard at work on the interior. Ivy covers much of the metal struts. At the top floor the wind whips around me and the noise inside the golfball domes is incredibly loud as it tugs at their frayed fabric.



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