The Pergamon Museum – Justifiably one of the top Museums in the world


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.

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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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ephesus

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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.

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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.

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After admiring this feet of ancient engineering – you proceed to the ultimate expression of Ancient Building Technique – the Istar Gate.

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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.

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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.

The Madness Continues – Another stunning castle, another wasted 3 years


Ludwig II continued… Or where he really lived…

Ludwig never lived in Neuschwanstein. He did spend some time overseeing the construction work from the Gate House. So where was he living while his dream castle was being built?

Linderhof Castle – our stop after a quick visit to the glorious pilgrimage Church at Wies.

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You can read all about it – and its miraculous statue of Christ here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wieskirche

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The Church boggles the mind – it’s a whirlwind of Rocco madness. If you’ve seen one cherub – you’ve seen a hundred. After our walk thru, and hungry for lunch, we popped into the restaurant just opposite the door to the church. Surprisingly yummy – I opted for dessert – HexenStrudel – and I had the best meal! Oh it delcious. Color me content if there a nice sweet cake to enjoy.

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Tummy happy – it’s on to the Linderhof.

Linderhof Castle is located in an isolated area – a short distance as the crow flies from the drop dead splendor fo Neuschwanstein – but if the crow is driving a gear shift car – it’s an hour on curvy country roads. Worth the trip though – this is a wonderful castle to see – made more interesting by the fact that Ludwig II actually lived here in almost absolute isolation for the last 3 years of his life.

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Linderhof, unlike Neuschwanstein, is located on rolling grounds that lend themselves nicely to some serious landscape gardening. Opposite the front door is a large pool – with a highly decorative and very attractive fountain that ‘erupts’ every 15 minutes. Ludwig II had been to the worlds fair in Paris (1867) – and had seen Versailles – so he decorated Linderhof to honor the Sun King – Louis XV. It’s filled with gifts given Ludwig from various monarch, and planned so that Ludwig could live here without seeing his servants.

For example – his dining room features a table that sinks into the kitchen so it can be set and served – then ropes pulled to raise the table in front of the king. No servants to ignore. Perfect.

Like Neuschwanstein, you must take a guided tour. Unlike Neuschwanstein, the out-of-the-way location and less dramatic appearance keeps the crowds away. In our tour group there were just 7 people – the guide, us (English), our friends (German), and a couple of Russians. So our guide handed out printed books to our friends and the Russians – and gave us the best tour ever. She showed us hidden cabinets and staircases that the servants used to hide from Ludwig. She pointed out details on paintings and explained Ludwig II’s fascination with the Sun King and his mistresses. And most importantly – made sure we knew to go visit the ‘Venus Grotto’.

Following her directions, we wandered into the extensive gardens, admired the arbors and various planting – including the magnificent waterfall system framed to perfection by the windows of Ludwig II bedroom. You can see it behind the Castle in the picture taken from the top of the landscaped buildings in front of the castle.

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Eventually we make it to the Venus Grotto – and again must wait for a tour group. Well worth the wait I have to tell you! Ludwig II was enraptured by Richard Wagner’s operas – and the fact that scene painters not architects were asked to design Neuswanstein is well know. Less well-known is that he had the same person design for him a personal grotto. The place is huge – completely artificial of course – with a oversided rough shaped pool and a swan boat for the king to relax in while singers and the chorus performed Wagner’s operas from ‘shore’. All for an audience of exactly one. The hight of extravagance – a 25′ waterfall that turns on and off on command.

Futher foolishness – while at the Worlds Fair in 1867, Ludwig saw the Moroccan exhibit – and bought it! It now sits proudly in the garden of Linderhof.

Magnificat decor, beautiful furniture, and a fascinating back history. The Linderhof is worth driving out-of-the-way for.