02 December 2011


Day 6 - Wednesday, 30 November 2011 - Tiergarten und Museum Insel

I don't know which surprises me most.  Is it the fact that there is a tractor parked in front of our hotel in the Hansaviertel?  Or is it that the tractor was built by Porsche?  Both are intriguing.

Arthur got up very early to catch a train to Köln, where he visited our last trip here, and wanted to go back for more.  Who can blame him - it's a delightful place.  I image that he'll especially go to the Kolumba, a very unusual museum there that seems to delight the both of us.  My plans were to go to Leipzig, however a long date with Mr. Sandman seems to have ruled that out, so I will do something else.  I go back to Kulturforum next to Potsdamer Platz, and on the way look to see if I can find the restaurant there that I went to with Günter and Franziska.  It was in an older building (something quite unusual for Potsdamer Platz) however I couldn't find it, although I did find a fine older building wrapped up protectively by newer stuff.

Moving through the Weinachtsmarkt, I make my way over to the Gamäldegalerie, which we visited yesterday.  I had an early lunch and then went over to the Kunstgewerbemuseum, to see their collection. It wasn't what I thought it would be, but it is a very fine collection of decorative arts.  There is a film on cabinets that are part automata, and part desks - it was fascinating.  There were secret doors, organs, theatre sets, doors within doors, all very inventive.  

What I began to wonder was, and I began this wondering at the GemäldegalerieI, where did all of this stuff come from?  With the division of the city at the end of World War II, all of the interesting collections were on the Russian side, the East.  Where did the West Berlin collections come from, as they struggled to build a cultural life in their island city during the cold war?  This I shall have spend some time researching.

Since we went together in 2009, and I didn't think that Arthur was ripe for another visit, I returned to the Alte Nationalgalerie.  It is like coming home for me, visiting old friends - friends that I didn't meet there but in books and encyclopaedias.  I started out by having coffee in the Café, and having a delightful conversation with a native of Berlin.  She wondered why I spoke German, and why I liked coming to Germany.  We talked of my parents, and their upbringing in Kansas and Colorado where German was the house-language, and how that was abandoned in the mid '20s.  She wondered why, and I responded that it was for "political" reasons.  We each had a glance of understanding - over, I think, a deep deep gulf that still exists.  Then we went on to talk about two of my favorite painters, Feuerbach and Böcklin. I ran into her later in the upper floors of the museum, and wished that we could have talked more.

Arnold Böcklin has been a favorite of mine since I read about him in a book called Dreamers of Decadence in the '70s.  It was filled with a number of symbolist painters, and he among a few others stood out for me.  There are several works by him there, but the Toteninsul - "Isle of the Dead" is the piece that has captured my imagination.

There are several versions of the painting, and there is another version that I like more.  This one, however, I could see in the canvas and oil.  It appeals to the introvert that I think I really am (in spite of my ENFP Myers-Briggs Type).  The quiet, the calm, and the stand of evergreen trees in the midst of the collection of graben speak to me in a very fundamental way.

His friend, Anselm Feuerbach, is also in evidence in the museum.  They share a corner of the gallery with a few others.  Feuerbach is not as dark as is Böcklin, but they all share classical qualities that I find quite handsome.  I wonder if I could have lived in their world?  Or was it a world of privilege that would have not been available, either materially or intellectually.  How stimulating it is, however, to look back and admire.

It is a short distance over to Hackescher Markt, so I go their and find a nice little Italian restaurant (I have had my fill of schnitzel) so some vitello tonnato does quite nicely.  On my way back, I stop off at the Hauptbahnhof and buy a ticket for Leipzig.  I do this at a kiosk, which asks me all kinds of questions: when am I traveling, when do I want to depart, when do I want to return, if I stay over in Lutherstadt - Wittenburg how long will I be there?  When I finally print the ticket, it is generic - good until 2013!

All of this stuff!  Time for bed.

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