Palaces of Tears, of Queens, and of Famous Paintings – ah, it must be Berlin!

Day 3 in Berlin dawns bright and cold – given our plans for the day – more museum visits – it’s perfect.

Our first stop is a brand new ‘museum’ – called the Palace of Tears. It’s located right behind the Main Train Station in Berlin – and it served as the ‘Border Station’ during the days of the iron curtain. It has been carefully restored to look just like it did during the Cold War – where it was the main crossing station between East and West. Thru a combination of interactive exhibits, free audio guide, multi-media displays, and written text – the conditions facing people who wanted to travel between East and West were explained.

At the end of the exhibit – there’s a brief section on the events leading up to the falling of the wall – and I will admit to leaving the museum with tears in my eyes. Very very moving.

We now head for one of the two major palaces open to the public – Most go to Potsdam to see San Souci – but not us! Nope – we’re going to see the Sophie-Charlotte Palace (aka Charlottenburg Palace). It’s a bit closer to Berlin – and reportedly has far fewer crowds. And is just as big. We figure if we can do it quickly – we’ll try for Potsdam too – but that is a pipe dream.

The trip to the Sophie Charlotte (aka Charlottenburg Palace) is fast and easy – I admit to a love affair with the Berlin Metro. So well signed – every station has elevators and lifts – and the stations, the stair cases – even most of the elevators are wonderfully clean. Most importantly are the multiude of pre-warning signs. As you leave a line heading for the next line at a transfer station – there’s a sign telling you when the next train at that future line will be leaving in each direction. Consider how handy that is – you know before you start the hike whether or not to rush. Cool.

Anyway – the Sophie Charlotte Schloss is huge. And it was totally ruined during the war. The roof was gone, the insides essentially gutted. And it has been completely rebuilt. Most of the moveable interior funishing and paintings were safely stored during the war – so those are the originals, it’s the incredible flourishes and swirls on the ceilings, and the glorious wall paper (not to mention the walls, floors and ceilings) that are ‘new’. Fortunately, the Sophie Charlotte had been well photographed prior to the war – it was already a museum – so there was lots to work with for the restorers.

And the results are wonderful.

There are 2 huge sections to the building, the older more intimate section that was built before she became Queen, the wing that was added by her grand-son – Alexander the Great, and of course the magnificent garden. Most beautiful room – the ball room with it’s high ceiling, green paint carefully chosen to make the dancers feel they were dancing in a garden – and in their day – mirrored windows so as you danced, you could see the reflections of other dancers. The impact is amazing.

There were 2 paintings that particularly caught my eye. One I’ve seen copies of many times – Napoleon on his horse crossing the Alps by David. As per Wikipedia – source of all knowledge – The version produced for the Château de Saint-Cloud from 1801 was removed in 1814 by the Prussian soldiers under von Blücher who offered it to the King of Prussia. It is now held in the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. So this time I was seeing one of the 5 existing originals.


But even more intriguing – in the next room is a strikingly similar painting of Blucher – also on a rearing horse. According to the audio guide – Blucher – fresh from the win at Waterloo – commissioned an artist to create a painting of him that mirrored that famous one of Napoleon – and for many years – the two paintings hung side by side. Today they are in seperate rooms – but easily close enough to be admired one after the other. Also in the room with David’s Napoleon is one of the famous one’s of Napoleon as Emperor – clearly also spoils of war!

Another fascinating fact – when Napoleon conquered Berlin – he slept in Queen Luise’s bedroom in the new wing – which has been redone to look as it looked when he was there. When she returned to power – she refused to sleep in that room – so her darling husband – the King – created a new bedroom for her – closer to his own. Nice, huh?

After walking our feet off at Charlottenburg Palace – we checked out the three other famous museums that are clustered at the entrance – the Berggruen Museum, The Collection Scharf-Gertenburg, and the Brohan Museum. We carefully tour all 3. My clear favorite was the Berggruen – color me pink, but any museum with 85 Picasso’s is going to make me happy. I loved it. The Brohan Museum was much smaller – and featured a lovely collection of Art Deco objects. I would happily take any of the tea sets if you want to get me a birthday gift. The Scharf-Gertenburg was much more difficult to appreciate. It’s collection of works by Surrealists like Max Ernst and friends is interesting – but hardly joyous. Most intriguing to me were the series of etchings on a Lady’s Glove – and the glorious Egyptian Arch that just happens to share space in the Museum. Overall, however, I ended the visit feeling sorry for artists that suffered so much for their passion.

Clearly 6 museums in one day – at our speed of travel – is a challenge. To describe us as exahusted would be an understatement. We slowly dragged our bodies back into rush hour on the Berlin metro, made our way back to our hostel – and while Jill rested up (and set up plates and silverware for dinner) – I bravely went out to hunt down food.

The Cat’s Pajama’s Hostel is located in a funky area of Berlin – lots of inexpensive options – including the omni-present Doner establishments. I spot one that not only has a Donner machine – it has a chicken rotisserie – and there are 3 chickens on the spit. I order one (wait 10 minutes please), find a bottle of Spanish red wine for 2.5 Euros, and hunt down some pastries. Back to my chicken restaurant – for my chicken and a huge salad. We feast well tonight!

We are joined for conversation by a young Australian, our quiet but passionate male Argentine friend, and the young Pole who was defending Democracy against the Russian the night before. Tonight our conversation is mostly about walking tours – they had all taken different ones and were comparing notes.

Tired, full, happy – we tottle off ‘early’ at around 10:30 for bed.

Tomorrow is another day.

Signing off – The Soup Lady and the Intrepid Traveller.

2 thoughts on “Palaces of Tears, of Queens, and of Famous Paintings – ah, it must be Berlin!

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