Wednesday, we hung out in the morning. I was trying to get a couple of days posted on JetsyTravels, and once I did, most of the morning was gone. We did go out and see the Gemaldegalerie, an art museum located in the Kulturforum. This is an art museum that specializes in painting from the 1200s to the 1700s, German, Dutch and Italian. There are some notable works in this museum – Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Caravaggio and others, but the museum is big, and you can get lost listening to the audio guide. I did, and as a result I had to skip a lot of the museum to finish up so that we could move on to the next thing – a special Picasso exhibition. That was fascinating. Though not large, the pieces were grouped thematically, and the labels were all in English as well as German, making it accessible to tourists, too.
After this smattering of culture, we returned once again to the hotel, to rest. Tonight is our “big” dinner! We had reservations at “Facil”, a very fancy restaurant on the fifth floor of the hotel Mandala, across from the Sony Center at Potsdammer Platz. Naturally, every dish we ate was microscopic. Isn’t that the way – the more you pay, the less food they give you! We had essence of this and foam of that, everything served in a little rectangular block (the foie gras, the fish, the meat and the cheese). Lots of little, tasty, green dots decorated the plates. We got many extras – compliments of the chef – like appetizers, soup, and chocolates for dessert (these all microscopic also). But don’t for a minute think I am telling you it wasn’t good! It was all delicious and, no, we didn’t have to go out for a hamburger afterwards (though we discussed it!).
Then today, Thursday, was our final day in Berlin. We had plans to go to the KPM (porcelain manufacturing) in the morning and then the Turkish market about lunch time. Fortunately, we stopped to ask the concierge about the Turkish market and she told us it is only held on Tuesday and Fridays, not Tuesday through Friday as I had read it. Drat! That was something we had really wanted to see. Because it was freezing today, walking around was not going to be an option, so we opted to go see the Jewish Museum.
Every guide book we have talked about the architecture, and it certainly did not disappoint. In fact, for me it was the highlight of the museum. More than a building, the museum is a giant sculpture. The planning of the spaces, the way they interact, the way they make you move around inside, all contribute to the architect’s vision of what the 20th century meant for German Jews. It is definitely a must see.
The exhibits portion of the museum was very long. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t get it from the audio guide. The museum purports to show the history of the Germans and Jews from the Middle Ages to the present day, and it does. Some eras of that 1000 year period are more interesting than others. For me the 20th century was key. Keen to learn something more about the Germans in WWI, I found that this museum dedicated a bit more ink to that topic than anywhere else. At least here I learned that the Germans supported the war enthusiastically and that the German Jews hoped to finally show their countrymen that they were loyal Germans, too. That both these efforts met with failure is history. There is not as much ink given to the Second World War and the Holocaust as you might expect. We have seen a lot about that elsewhere in Berlin, and though the topic is here, and runs underneath everything in this building, it is clearly not its only focus. The exhibits end on the note that Germans have still to come to terms with what happened to the Jews under the Nazis, and that is happening, slowly.
After the museum, the day was improving so we walked out looking for lunch before heading to the porcelain factory. We couldn’t find anything that suited us, and so ended up with a bratwurst from a stall next to the river. The brats were hot and spiced with mustard. We ate them surrounded by swans and ducks and sparrows all begging for a bite. We offered them bread, and I even got the sparrows to eat out of my hand. I have been amazed here at how bold the sparrows are! They do not seem afraid of people at all. They go right in open doors to restaurants, and will approach when you’re eating outside with great bravado. They’re adorable!
Refreshed, we took the train across town and walked to the KPM factory. A quick refreshing in the café, and we were ready for the exhibition. The exhibit covered the history of the company – a company that is 250 years old! It was started under Friedrich II (the same monarch who built Sans Souci in Potsdam). He was also the biggest customer of the factory back then, having innumerable dinner services for 24 plus people made – to coordinate with the rooms of the palace! We marveled at the changes in design and scope of the company through the years. Though very little of what we saw was to our taste, the pieces are like art works. That’s the way they are priced, too! We couldn’t even afford the outlet prices!
By late afternoon the day had improved substantially. Still cold, but the sun was out! As long as we could stay out of the wind, we could walk. We finally got to take a walk in the Tiergarten, one end of which is just a minute or two from KPM. There wasn’t much to see – the park is very wooded in the section we walked. It was getting near time to think about dinner, before going back to the hotel, so we took the train to Alexanderplatz, based on a map showing a whole area of restaurants nearby.
Lucky us! As we got off the train we hit the most beautiful part of the evening right near the TV tower, the Rotes Rathaus and the Triton Fountain. We scrambled around trying to get pictures of the sunset, and the pink clouds that went with it.
Finally, we set off for dinner in the Nikolaiviertel, and found a welcoming place with the un-German name of “Chicken & More” and had a delicious dinner accompanied by great beer. It was a wonderful note on which to end our Berlin sojourn.