Today our dear Dr. Birchfield let us have the day to explore museums and more of Berlin on our own. Besides the gloomy sky and inconsistent rain from Mother Nature, today was a great day filled with fun excursions.
I began the day with a visit to the Jewish Museum. This is the largest Jewish museum in Germany and was intended to preserve and present Jewish history as well as highlight Jewish art collections. On the first level there were artifacts from Jewish people who were forced to leave behind their possessions upon evacuations orders from Hitler’s regime. There were journals, postcards, jewelry, pictures, etc. paired with descriptions of the people and families to which they belonged.
Also on the first level were two main exhibits – the Holocaust Tower and the Memory Void exhibit. The Holocaust Tower had dimmed lights with one flash of silver light every so often. The tower gave me the feeling of what I imagine the streets of Germany were like during the time Jews were forced out of their homes by Nazi soldiers – with the watch towers and random house searches. The Memory Void exhibit in the second tower had metal sheets in the shape of faces. The artist dedicated his work to the victims of violence and war.
The other half of the museum was a special temporary exhibit – Welcome to Jerusalem. The exhibit walked us through daily life in current Jerusalem, the history of the city, and the history of the conflict surrounding the city. Being in Europe, where a number of former colonial powers have a history of supporting Israel, I somewhat expected the exhibit to be one-sided with a more favorable light shining on Israel. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the story more balanced. Overall, the museum was very informative and I enjoyed the experience.
After the museum, we were a bit hungry so we went to a really nice soup shop, Soup Kultur – after all this was the perfect weather to have soup. Although they did not have any English menus, the server was kind enough to tell us everything they had, soup by soup. Each option looked delicious, but I decided on rice and spinach soup. It was amazing!
My next adventure was a visit to Berlin’s Museum Island – an area with five major museums. I went to the Neues Museum. The museum was built in the mid-1800s but closed during World War II because of substantial damages from the bombing of Berlin. You can still see the damages to the building and the artifacts today. The museum houses a Prehistoric and Early History collection as well as an Egyptian collection. The prehistoric section feature artifacts from early history – dishes, tools, weapons, jewelry, journals, paintings, and more! My favorite part of that section was the exhibit on Homer and the myth of the Trojan War. The Trojan War and the downfall of the city of Troy based on Homer’s the Iliad used to be one of my favorite things to read and learn more about. It was really cool to see depictions of parts of the story and the lengths historians and archeologists went to in order to find the lost city.
The Egyptian section of the museum was incredible! There was so much history and so many untold and under-told stories. There were so many paintings and relics that I had only ever seen in books and movies, so it was quite an experience to see them in person. On display were partial statues, walls, and paintings.
They had a section devoted just to pharaohs! Something really fascinating I noticed was that many pharaohs’ noses were destroyed. This was striking because the rest of the pharaohs’ faces were almost perfectly intact – just the nose was missing. One of the main features of the Egyptian section was the exhibit that paid homage to Queen Nefertiti. I really enjoyed the Egyptian part of the museum. Overall, I had a great day and am so glad we got the chance to explore.