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Berlin, Auf Wiedersehn!

August 4, 2011

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This is our last post from Berlin, so I may have to just hit the high spots to bring everything up to date. Tomorrow we leave for Prague via the Hauptbahnhof, pictured above. More on this later.

Sooo, let’s take a step back into the distant past, back, back, back to Monday. It’s been basically just one big museum crawl, interspersed with little lessons on getting around, and searches for those magical letters, “WC”. Whatever else your priorities may be, one thing eventually takes precedence. You know that already.

Here I am on the plaza of the Gemaldegalerie, a complex of museums that is the younger cousin to the museums on the Museumsinsel. Their holdings cover basically European and British painting from the 1400s through the 1700s. It’s quite extensive, and trying to do it justice in one day is out of the question, so we just did it, without the justice. I must confess that panels of the saints got old quickly, and gold leaf backgrounds put a glaze over my eyes.

I realize that this says more about me than it does about the art. At the same time, I just couldn’t get used to the generally poor draftsmanship of most early painting. You can take just so many infants that only a mother could love, heads that seem pasted on to bodies that were painted beforehand, gazes that wander off somewhere outside of the center of interest. If this were true for everyone, you’d cut some slack, but then you come on a van Eyck, a Cranach, a Durer, or later, a Caravaggio, and you just have to chalk it up to a bad Internet connection.

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Speaking of van Eyck, here’s one of our fellow art lovers photographing one. You can take pix of anything in the museums as long as you don’t use flash, which is not a problem with most modern cameras.

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Copying masterworks is a time-honored privilege accorded to aspiring artists in just about every museum, and there were several attempts in the gallery; here, Vermeer.

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But enough of these elitist concerns for now. What do we see here on the Kurfurstendamm but a congenial spot to have a refreshing beverage, not to mention enough secondhand smoke to give you a good start on blacklung disease.

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A photo taken by one of our gracious nicotine-addicted neighbors, and a view of the interior as we seek solace with a piece of vitreous china.

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Further down the Ku’Damm, we duck into the KaDeWe, possibly the world’s most overpriced luxury department store this side of the Ginza. Charming. Nice WC, tho. Always the ever-present matron sitting at a table just inside the door, waiting expectantly for a tip of at least 30 cents. Let’s hope this is one European nicety that can’t swim the Atlantic.

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Let me take a minute to remark on how pretty and green Berlin can be once you leave the main boulevards. This is a typical scene, a few feet from the front door of the hostel, and you can find them throughout the city. The waiter from this evening’s meal told us that there sre more bridges in Berlin than in Venice. I had some vision in my head of Berlin as some industrial wasteland, but I have been set right.

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On Wednesday, to the Neue Nationalgalerie, with an exhibit of paintings from 1900-1945. Georg Grosz, Otto Dix, Jawlensky, Beckmann, and other hangovers from the German fascination with warcraft.

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And so on. What was once a painful episode has now become an industry. You can’t exactly buy Checkpoint Charlie ice cream yet, but give it time.

It’s getting late, and I have a train to catch in the morning, and so to bed. Try to catch up on the train to Prague. Ta.

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3 Comments
  1. Kathryne Horner permalink

    Very nice journal and photos! Please keep up the good work!

  2. Great post!! Did you get pictures of the hostel? I want to see living conditions!! What’s all the US Army Checkpoint stuff about anyway, left-overs from an earlier era? Why the soldier? I’m confused obviously. Have a great trip to Prague!

  3. Alyssa permalink

    Very interesting–we looked at shots from Google Maps of Berlin and didn’t see anything as charming as the tree-lined river shots you have. It looked pretty industrial. I trust you are finding Prague far more architecturally beautiful and just as, if not more, smoky. Hope all is well!
    Love,
    Alyssa

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