Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Trip To Berlin

My daughter and I arrived in Berlin on a grey, wet and rather cool Thursday morning and after leaving our luggage at our hotel - the Adina Apartment Hotel - we went for a wander round and a spot of lunch. Check in time was 2pm so we had a couple of hours to fill. The hotel is in East Berlin and close to Hackesher Markt and the River Spree which runs through the centre of Berlin eventually joining the River Elbe and then flowing into the North Sea at Hamburg. The building in the centre is the Berliner Dom.

This is Hackescher Markt, the market square was originally laid out in 1750 and the area around here is absolutely awash with places to eat and small independent shops and is apparently a pretty 'in place' these days. On the right you can see the entrance to the railway station and the railway itself runs behind the top of the ornate brick facade which I found rather attractive.

The one place I really wanted to visit was the Pergamon Museum so after settling in to our hotel off we went. The Museum was only a few minutes walk and I had booked tickets in advance for the 4pm entry so we were able to go straight in. The Pergamon houses antiquities from the Classical world and the Ancient Near East and also the Museum of Islamic Art. My objective was to see the Ishtar Gate and I'm afraid that this is a really bad photograph of it, I couldn't stand square on or far enough back because of the number of other people who were also taking photos but you get the general idea:) The Ishtar Gate was the main entrance to the city of Babylon (in what is now Iraq) and was built by King Nebuchadnezzar around 575BC - or perhaps I should say was built for him, I rather doubt that he had anything to do with the actual construction:) It was excavated by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey between 1902 and 1914 and the material was brought back to Germany and used to make a partial reconstruction. It was originally a double gate but it was so enormous (over 38 feet high) that only the smaller frontal part is on display, the second gate is in storage. The Pergamon is undergoing extensive refurbishment at the moment so parts of it were closed and there was a lot of background scaffolding etc visible that wouldn't normally be seen.

The Gate was dedicated to Ishtar the Babylonian goddess of love and war whose symbol was the lion.  One hundred and twenty of these lined the Processional Way which led from the inner city through the Ishtar Gate to the Bit Akitu or 'House of the New Year's Festival'. The festival lasted for twelve days and began after the first new moon following the Spring Equinox. The lions were there as a symbol of protection.The corridor in the Museum which leads to the Gate is lined on both sides with these striding lions in a recreation of the Processional Way

The Gate itself was decorated with alternating rows of bulls and dragons symbols of the weather god Adad and the most important Babylonian god Marduk. The animals were made with brown and yellow glazed tiles surrounded by blue tiles made of lapis lazuli which was highly prized in the ancient world for its intense colour. The only source at that period was Afghanistan so it was both rare and expensive. The 'dragon' has the head and forked tongue of a snake and the hind feet of a bird.

Here we have the reconstructed Market Gate from Miletus a wealthy Greek trading city in what is now Turkey. It's absolutely enormous - over 98 feet wide (c30metres) and 54 feet high(c16 metres) so the photo shows only the central portion. It was built in the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian - he of Hadrian's Wall fame - as Greece was of course a part of the Roman Empire at this time.

The relief above is carved on basalt and depicts a lion hunt. It dates from about 750BC and comes from the palace of Kapara in Tell Halaf , north east Syria. By the 9th century BC this area had become part of the Assyrian Empire. Does anyone else remember learning the lines from Lord Byron's poem?

 The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold
 And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea
When the blue waves roll nightly on deep Galilee

 I must have learned that when I was about 9 or 10 years old and I've never forgotten it.

This enormous 9th century BC statue of a bird, probably a griffin, is also from the palace at Tell Halaf

I think this was probably my favourite of all the exhibits. The jewellery, made of gold, carnelian and lapis lazuli, was found in the Royal Graves of the ancient city of Ur and dates from about 2600BC. It was worn by the female attendants of Queen Puabi with whom they were buried. When the Queen died her attendants died with her and I don't think they asked for volunteers! The Royal Graves were excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s and the jewellery that the Queen herself was buried with is even more stunning but I believe that you will have to visit the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology to see it. Ur was a city in ancient Mesopotamia which is now southern Iraq. I would really love to travel in Iraq and Syria and visit some of the wonderful archaeological sites that are there though there isn't much chance of that at present.

Finally we moved into the section of the Museum devoted to Islamic Art. This is part of the Aleppo Room and it is apparently the oldest surviving and most valuable painted wall panelling from the Ottoman Empire. It was made about 1600AD for the reception room of a house in the Syrian city of Aleppo. There are glass screens in front of it hence the reflections.

A detail of one of the panels showing a little picture of courtly life, a lovely bird and some of the intricate floral designs.

These are really beautiful, a carved ivory casket from 11th-12th century Sicily and an equally beautiful carved ivory drinking horn - at least I think it's a drinking horn.

This was just stunning - a prayer niche from the Maidan Mosque in Iran dating from 1226. A prayer niche is the focal point of the interior of a mosque and would be oriented towards Mecca.

I have no idea how old this is or where it came from but I love the shape and simplicity of it. My daughter was getting a little restive by this stage so I didn't linger long enough to read the explanatory label. She was doing the Pergamon in exchange for me going with her to look for street art later on:) This was a really good day to spend time here as the Museum is open until 8pm on Thursdays so even though we didn't go in until 4pm we had plenty of time to look round and it was also a very good way of staying out of the rain which was pretty heavy. After a brief return to the hotel we went out for dinner and then had an early night - we'd been up since 3.30am as our flight from Manchester left at 7am so exhaustion was definitely setting in by this time and a lot of walking lay ahead of us over the next couple of days.


Mac n' Janet said...

Did not get to visit this museum as it was in East Berlin, did get to visit one that had the famous sculpture of Nefetti's head. But oh, your pictures make me want to see this one!!!

Lynda (Granny K) said...

What a super museum and such gorgeous exhibits - that jewellery is stunning.

coke said...

Wow, thank you for a wonderful tour. I am sure I will never travel to the site but going with you was really great. Coke

Barb said...

Hi Rowan,

What an exciting trip this must have been for you.

The pictures are wonderful....such rich history. I must say I am in awe.


Dog Trot Farm said...

Rowan, I am just in awe!!! How wonderful to have the opportunity to visit such incredible places...with such history...thank you for taking us along...

The History Anorak said...

Looks like a great place. The museum has some amazing things. That's somewhere I'd love to see.

Patricia said...

A place I've always wanted to go to. It looks just as I imagined. Glad you enjoyed your trip. x

Rosie said...

It looks an amazing Museum with so many interesting and beautiful things to see, glad you had a great visit there:)

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Stunning photographs and wonderful historical notes - there is so much in this world that we have only barely heard about. I love the gates - so impressive, but the slave labor would have been deplorable.

Katharine A said...

I love museums and have never heard of the Pergamon Museum, perhaps I should have but I've never been to Berlin either. I've pinned one of your photos to my to-visit list on Pinterest, so perhaps one day I will get to go, I hope so. it looks stunning.

Gracie said...

I really enjoyed your post, bringing back so goos memories of my trip to berlina few years ago. Thanks for sharing.

Gretel said...

What a fabulous journey you've given us - I am sadly untravelled, but I've so enjoyed reading this and enjoying the pictures - armchair travelling!

Granny Sue said...

Amazing photos, Rowan! I never think of Berlin in this way--I always think of the bombed out photos from the war, and obviously there's so much more to the city than that. Thank you for the tour :)