Gettin’ my art on in Berlin

The local paper published an ever-so-timely article on the museum scene in Germany’s capital. I was there this past weekend and while I didn’t make a point of going to the Bode, I did discover two very, very cool institutions that have made it onto my list of favorite museums of all time.

7. Jüdisches Museum – Berlin
8. Hamburger Bahnhof

It’s remarkable how much museums have changed in my (albeit short) lifetime. Or maybe just in the past decade. I guess if you want to see the old-school methodology for exhibit and information display, you might go to the Egyptian Museum in Turin. But the Jüdisches Museum ranks right up there with the Terrorháza (admittedly also in theme) in terms of innovative exhibits. The latter is probably more tactile or interactive, but the former gives you all kinds of personal narrative to make the exhibit (“Home and Exile: Jewish Emigration from Germany since 1933”) really hit home. I also like that they inundate you with so much information, so much evidence of the difficulties, the nightmares and tragedies that these emigrants had to deal with that you emerge from the museum feeling you’ve had the shit kicked out of you. That’s what museums should do to you.

The Hamburger Bahnhof is similar in the visceral sense, but I more marvelled at the physical space and use of this former train station. The Hamburger is one of many modern art museums in Berlin (I also went to the Neue Nationalgalerie, which, while designed by architecture demi-god Mies van der Rohe, has a very institutional (read: gym-like) feel. I’m not into the short screen-wall things they’ve hung stuff on on the main floor. Modern art needs telescoping, swooping spaces. Or at least that’s what I’ve been cultivated to think anyway. Short walls = short shrift.) They have some really great installations there right now. Definitely a must-see.

This is the Altes Museum, which I didn’t actually step inside, but I like what they had to say out front.

Anyway, what I ate in Berlin:

Most of my time was spent in the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, which are very, very cool neighborhoods. Mitte/parts of the PB are sort of like the Lower East Side/East Village/Williamsburg. In fact, much of Berlin reminded me of Williamsburg. I’ll even go so far as to claim that Berlin IS the Williamsburg of Europe. Other parts of PB are almost like the Upper East Side or St.-Germain-des-Prés.

Just up the street from where I was staying is the famed W Imbiss that was mentioned recently in the NYT piece on Berlin street food. I don’t know if Gordon W was actually ever there the two times I ate there, but there were definitely plenty of ex-pats hanging around both behind and in front of the counter. I had

the avocado-chipotle naan pizza. With sprouts and arugula, as you can see. Naan is excellent at this place. Berlin is like NYC in terms of food — you’re not necessarily going to find anything spectacular that’s ‘local’ per se, other than bratwurst and currywurst, but there are many places that specialize in that sort of neo-continental student fare of, like, carbohydrate + spreadable item (+ cheese when appropriate; + greens when you’re in an area riddled with hipsters or yuppies). Basically variations on burritos, pizza, bagels, etc. Even better when it comes with a mango lassi! W’s are excellent.

A few blocks further north, I stumbled upon one of those little boutique/coffeeshops that’s so hot these days. Misses Marbles, this one is called, and they have some delicious kirsch-streusel-torte:

and really nice, really expensive tote bags.

Berlin, you’re A-OK. I’ll be seeing you soon, you can bet on that.

Random notes:
I caught Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore” at the Staatsoper, and it has to be one of my favorite operas yet. Clever, funny and just plain fun. I spent half the time trying to tease some kind of meaning out of the German subtitles and understood maybe 5% of the Italian they were singing in, but I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I think I’ve commented on this before, but in Europe, operagoers skew on the young side.

A list I made after finally getting from Milan to Berlin:

Metropolitana di Milano S/U-Bahn
Bad/infrequent signage Well-designed signs everywhere, where they ought to be
Dirty Pristine
Ticket machines from 1970s New ticket machines
Inscrutable instructions for ticket purchase Clear instructions in 8 languages
Where are the maps? Maps everywhere
Where’s the train official? Train official very helpful and right where he should be
Where’s the train? Train ETAs electronically updated by the minute

1 Response to “Gettin’ my art on in Berlin”

  1. 1 greenbean January 8, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Hi winnie, lookingforward to reading ’bout your new adventures when you get round.
    thanks for the mushrooms i had when JC and I (un)ceremoniously scoured your kitchen for goodies
    they got good and used (as did all the other delicious delicacies i squeezed into my luggage!)

    hope your well,


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