June 14, 2012 (Day 4)
Berlin weather: rainy, chilly enough for jackets
Today we allowed ourselves to sleep in. It’s a good thing, too because we woke up to rain and clouds. The apartment is wonderful, though. We were very lazy waking up and getting ready for the day hoping the rain would subside. When it didn’t, we changed our plans a little bit to try and get the indoor museums in today.
We started with the Jewish Museum. Getting there was a little bit of an adventure as the rain started pouring buckets down from the sky on our walk from the Ubahn station to the museum. We had rain jackets, so our torsos were dry, but our pants and shoes were soaked. Perhaps we should have worn sandals today….. We tried to drip dry as much as possible before going inside, but they did have a coat check so we didn’t have to carry our wet rain jackets through the museum. Our pants dry incredibly fast, so really it was all about the squishy shoes. oh well. we survived.
The museum is fantastic! If you ever come to Berlin, I highly recommend it. So often we learn about the Catholic or Christian history in Europe, but we don’t know much about what the Jews were up to between say the 10th century and the 20th. This museum covered the whole history of the Jews. You might think that it would just cover the last 100 years or so, but it went far back. Also, the building was a very unique shape, close to a lightning bolt, but with more twists and turns. The architect also built in various voids in the museum which were just empty rooms scattered around.
We started with some monitors where we could navigate to listen and watch several people tell their stories about various things like Kosher food, the Orthodox religion, their traditions at Passover, and many more various Jewish traditions. It is interesting to see how many other people follow traditions. We continued on to start with an ancient history of the Jews and move forwards in time all the way to the present. The museum was huge and we spent several hours here. Many of the exhibits were interactive in a new way that I hadn’t seen before in other museums.
The most memorably void room was full of metal faces that you could walk on. As we entered the room we heard lots of clanking noises and Mark was asking what in the world the racket was. I was thinking somehow we were adjacent to the cafe kitchen or something, but then we turned the corner and saw people walking on these metal faces! We were not expecting that.
We were allowed to take plenty of photos in the museum as well. It’s always nice when they let you do that mostly just so you can remember what you’ve seen. For instance, I’m typing this entry up on June 22, and trying to remember back to June 14th what we saw and did.
We ended our museum tour and it was still raining outside, so instead of wandering around trying to find lunch we just at at the museum cafe. It was actually pretty good and had a marvelous chocolate cake slice for dessert.
Finally, we braved the wet weather again and headed out intending to head to another museum. It was really only sprinkling outside at this point and we took the Ubahn to our next stop, walked outside and found a huge line at an ice cream stand. Well, this must be the place to get ice cream…..so we did. =) We took our ice cream and walked along the river towards Museum Island that we had briefly visited yesterday on our Segways. Here, we realized it was already about 4 or 4:30pm and the museum was closing too soon. We wouldn’t have time to see very much. I was hoping they would be open until 8pm. We ended up relaxing in museum island as the sun came out warming us up and making the day pretty nice.
The museum island is really just a quad of buildings (museums) around a nice courtyard with a fountain and lots of nice grass for sitting in. We watched some kids playing and tried to decide which way to head from here. We ended up deciding since the rain was gone to walk to over to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or just Holocaust Memorial.
Of course as we started walking it rained again, but not as hard as before. The memorial is a little controversial because a) it cost 25 million dollars to build b) it only labeled itself as a memorial for the Jews lost in the Holocaust, and c) it was built in 2005 and already the stones are cracking. I’m sure there are more reasons. However, we forgot all those and just marveled at the memorial. We segway-ed past it yesterday, but today we got to walk through it. It is 4.7 acres large and consists of thousands of rectangular stones, unmarked, just rising up from the ground in a grid pattern. No rectangle is the same size as another and the ground tilts and shifts as you walk through it to give you a sense of disorientation and confusion.
Underneath the memorial was a small Holocaust museum. I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in New York and I remember walking through exhibits showing me what it was like to be in a concentration camp and other scary statistics about the holocaust. This museum, however, was more of a memorial to those that were victims of the holocaust. The goal is to remember those who were reduced to numbers and forgotten buried in mass graves. So, we read through exhibits of stories of individuals including their life before they were shipped away on a train. It was still a very sad exhibit, of course. After learning and relearning so much about the concentration camps or the Cold War, it is hard to complain too much about our own lives. Next time I get frustrated with some first-world-problem, perhaps I should remember just how good my life is.
When we came out from the museum beneath, we walked around inside the memorial itself, allowing ourselves to feel lost and disoriented inside the sea of stone rectangles with the rolling floor. It is quite a piece of artwork. With the sky still gray, but not raining, we could put ourselves in the right mood for this memorial.
Upon emerging, we decided it was time to end our day by finding some dinner nearby and maybe a movie. As it turns out, there was a cineplex within walking distance that was showing English movies. It was incredibly confusing, however, to figure out what movies were showing when, so we ended up just going to the counter to ask what movies were showing. We found that Men in Black 3 would be showing later that night, so we purchased our tickets for the movie and then were asked if we brought our own 3D glasses. Alas, I didn’t pack any to bring, so we purchased some. This was highly amusing at the time at least.
For dinner, we went to a recommended Italian place that ended up being quite odd. There was a large counter where you could get in a pasta line, a pizza line or a salad line to order what you wanted. Also, you were given a card that was scanned when you ordered food. When you took your card to the register at the end, you could pay for what you ordered. The unfortunate part was that you had to stand in line while they made your food right in front of you……and the food of everyone in front of you in line. So it was a lot of standing and waiting around before we could sit down at eat. Mark received his pizza and appetizer long before my pasta was ready, but since I eat faster, it worked out okay. The food was delicious and worth the wait. Also, it was kind of neat to see them make the pasta while I watched.
With time to kill before the movie, we sat in the Sony Center and watched the roof change colors while Mark sipped a beer. The movie ended up being in English as promised, but with no German subtitles which surprised us. It was a lot better than I had expected and we really enjoyed our time laughing with the movie.
Luckily on Friday and Saturday nights, the Ubahn runs all night because our movie was out very late. It was easy to get back to our apartment and fall asleep. Even with the rain, this turned out to be another great day in Berlin. With all these late nights, I never did get around to typing up journal entries every night, so I’m just now getting around to updating. Be patient, more entries are coming. =)