08 December 2011

Those Prussians!

Day 10 - Sunday, 4 December 2011 - Spree, Berliner Dom, und Gendarmenmarkt

The last time we were here we took a delightful cruise on the River Spree from near our hotel at Hansablick around the center part of Berlin.  We loved it and thought that we would try it again.  We were able to take the cruise, but a much shorter one.  We went from near the Berliner Dom to around the National Library, and then back to near the Chancellery, and then back - about an hour.  Not as fun, but pleasantly warm inside with a hot chocolate.

Arthur wanted to go see the Berliner Dom, so we did.  When I was in England in March of 2010, I went to Windsor and as a part of my time there I went to see St. George's.  The quire there blew me away with all of its flags and heraldry.  One wondered where the Church was in the midst of all this.  The same is true at the Berliner Dom.  Built for the self-aggrandizement of the Hohenzollern family it (like the Kaisewilhemgedächniskirche is more about the Gospel of Prussian government than anything else.

As a piece of architecture it is overdone and overwrought.  As a church it is underdone in its ability to convey the Gospel.  I was reminded of the Medici chapel that is attached to St. Laurence in Florence, where huge statues of the Medici princes overwhelm the worship space below - well it was a funerary church after all.  The Hohenzollerns had the same plans for the Berliner Dom.  Along with Luther and Zwingli (oh, yeah, these are the guys that forced the union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches) there stand larger-than-life statues of their princes as well.  The original cathedral was planed as a three-stage operation.  A predigt church for Eucharist and Preaching, a taufkirche for baptisms and weddings, and a grabmalkirche, for the entombment of family members (an attempt to be like the Kapuzinerkirche in Wein, where all the Habsburgs are buried).  When the building was bombed in 1945, the Dom suffered damage but the funerary chapel was destroyed and not rebuilt.  The family was resettled in the crypt under the church.

We did climb up to the dome to experience some amazing views of the city, but then it started to rain, so we beat a hasty retreat.  There is an interesting museum containing all the architectural proposals for the Dom.  Unfortunately Schinkel's italianate proposal was not built.  If you visit the Friedenskirche at Potsdam, you get a small idea of what it would have been like.

Across the street, at the edge of the site of the Schloß (destroyed by the DDR in the 50s) sits the Humboldt Box, a temporary installation (although it looked pretty permanent to me) that is there to interpret the proposal to rebuild the Schloß.  There is a weird little cafe on the top, along with a terrace that overlooks the site where the Schloß and the Palast der Republic once stood.  After a quick lunch, we visited the exhibition downstairs and were entranced.  All of a sudden we understood the importance or at least the intention of Unter dem Linden, which was a path leading from the Schloß to the Brandenburg Gate and thence to the Tiergarten for hunting!  Who knew?

After this we went across from the Altes to a contemporary gallery, which was unfortunately closed.  So we beat a hasty retreat (it's cold outside) to the Altes Museum to spend some time with their collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities - quite a collection.  There were interpretive films, a small collection that explained the sexual aspects of several krator, and collection of Flavian and Julian busts.  I really found it all quite engaging.

There is an organ concert at St. Hedwig's, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Berlin.  It was built when the Prussians "acquired" Silesia and suddenly had a Roman Catholic population.  The building was severely damaged in the Second World War, and the interior was completely rebuilt.  I rather like it, but traditionalists hate it.  

The organ is a Kleis.  Tonally it is wonderful, bright and full of zest, but without much umpf.  The all Bach program was well-placed, and I only fell asleep once in a Largo movement.

We have dinner again at Brecht's in their temporary pavilion at Gendarmenmarkt, and have a wonderful conversation wtih our waitress, who had lived in Canada and has traveled in the US.  She was delightful, and the chef spent some special effort on a desert for us.  People have been good to us here.  We trudge back to Friedrichstraße and take the S Bahn home.  A good day!

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