I love Berlin – Munich was fun, Nuremburg was intriguing, the Battle of Leipzig was a lot of work but well worth doing, but Berlin – ah, Berlin.
I keep thinking that I’ll round a corner and bump into Sally Bowles – or at least someone with painted nails and an over-the-top carefree attitude. Instead I’m seeing students on their way to class, well dressed women and men heading here, there, and wherever – and of course lots of tourists. There are glorious shops, bakeries with goodies that defy description, out-door terraces even in late October, trams everywhere – and a remarkable lack – at least here in the ‘old’ city – of sky scrapers. It’s a city scape without the negative aspects. I love Berlin.
And I adored the Pergamon Museum. All the guide books mention it, it’s on every list, every top ten compilation, and was even featured on Museum Secrets. But all the hoo-ha aside – nothing prepares you for the glory of this museum.
We knew the crowds might be an issue – even as off-season as we are – so we pre-purchased a 3 day museum pass for 24 Euros (12 for me with my student card). This acts as your ticket – and allows you to by-pass every line. Cool deal – save money and time. My kind of discount card! Even so – we showed up at the door to the Pergamon at 9:45 (it opens at 10) – just to be on the safe side. At the dot of 10 they opened the doors, we picked up our free (nice price point) audio guides, and walked in.
Oh My. Wow. Amazing. Astounding. Mind-blowing. Words simply don’t describe the glory of the Pergamon Altar. I had to sit down, it is that stunningly beautiful. The building was actual built just to house the Altar – and you can argue about moving antiquities out of situ all you want – this totally works.
I’ve actually been to Ephesus, 180 km from Pergamon in Turkey, and one of the other 7 churches of Asia cited in the book of Revelations – and I have to tell you – seeing the Pergamon Altar was just as amazing – without the hours of travel, the heat, the crowds, and the challenges of visiting turkey. Plus it’s in a lot better condition.
The extremely well done audio guide talks you through not only the altar itself – but through the models also presented, as well as giving you a brief over-view of the history of the find and the challenges of getting it to Berlin. Underneath the Altar in the back is a quick, but fascinating introduction to the challenges involved in piecing together the magnificent frieze that run around the altar. The entire thing – Altar, Frieze, description, Models, Museum – are simply breath-taking.
But that’s not all!
In the same building is the Market Gate of Miletus – along with one of the best preserved large Roman mosaics I’ve ever seen. You literally walk through a narrow door from the Pergamon Altar to the Gate. At 50 feet tall – the marble gate quite literally towers above your head – impossible to take in at one glance.
After admiring this feet of ancient engineering – you proceed to the ultimate expression of Ancient Building Technique – the Istar Gate.
Jaw droppingly beautiful – It accomplishes exactly the desired result – admiration for the King that could commission such magnificence to be built-in Babylon. It is impossible to face this gate without feeling the awe and fear that anyone coming into this city must have known. You literally are surprised when there are no camels, no bells, no procession.
After these 3 uniquely huge and marvelously well-preserved examples of ancient art, it wouldn’t even matter if the next door was the exit. You’d have gotten your money worth.
But of course – there is still more. There’s a copy of the Stela of Hammurabi, a huge part of the walls of the Caliph’s Palace of Mshatta, and finally the Aleppo Room. The processional way of Babylon, the huge carved half beast half men that guard the entrances to palaces in the ancient world, and even the elaborately beautiful jewelry takes a bad second place to these incredible finds.
Did I tell you I love Berlin yet? Well I do.