Must-See, Cafes and Restaurants, Culture & History, Architecture

Neukölln to Neues Museum

cafe on the corner of Weserstrasse and Weichselstrasse, Neukölln.

cafe on the corner of Weserstrasse and Weichselstrasse, Neukölln.

Wednesday:

While we were wandering around after our apartment viewing, we saw a nice cafe to stop in at for a mid afternoon cup. No real surprises though, considering this area is rife with lovely cafes.

Ivanhoe turns out to be a seriously enjoyable classic and makes me yearn for the times when people said things like 'thou hatest not thine wine.'

Ivanhoe turns out to be a seriously enjoyable classic and makes me yearn for the times when people said things like 'thou hatest not thine wine.'

The next pursuit of the day was the Neues Museum, which I had been to before but Jed hadn't. The museum was renovated by David Chipperfield Architects and apparently caused quite the uproar because he restored AND reinterpreted through new design.... and the Germans would have preferred that he just restore an exact replica of the previously existing building.

Let's not be hasty here though, it wasn't as if David Chipperfield was suggesting a completely different interior. He painstakingly went through the debris and picked out every useable, original piece, including bullet holes in the bricks and smoke damaged columns, and where parts of the museum were completely destroyed he used the proportions from the original architect.

There is a problem with those who make decisions about Berlin's architecture and design projects though (and maybe this is throughout all of Germany...). They don't want to be reminded of what happened in the wars. They want either brand new, but extremely boring, design, or they want things to be re-conjured to their original designs, as replicas of how the city was in say... 1928.

From the NY Times just after the museum was reopened:

Germans who complained over the years about “ruin nostalgia” (they were the real nostalgists) said that the country, by association with such a symbolic site, shouldn’t continue to be held hostage to the worst episode in German history. Better, they argued, rebuild the Neues Museum as it originally looked, from scratch, without all the bullet holes and rotting columns, along the lines of the fake 18th-century Hohenzollern Stadtschloss on Unter den Linden, the city’s central boulevard not far away, which, if Germany ever comes up with the nearly $1 billion the building will cost, is now on the drawing board.

Hopefully as the years have gone on and David Chipperfield has won the German Architecture Award for this building, critics have reconsidered their position. But from what still gets picked in competitions... I would say the vast majority of the design decision makers in Germany still favor the 'let's not do anything new here' approach.

I think this is a world-class building renovation. Antiquities tend to bore me after one or two rooms because they are often curated in a haphazard, incoherent fashion. Not here. I almost could have learned my first semester of art history in one audio-tour through the Neues Museum, though that wouldn't have been as fun as hearing Prof. John Stocking discuss the giant purple clay dildo of the cult of Dionysus.

~

Since I lack photographic evidence of what we did after the Neues Museum, I'm going to assume we went home... nope, nope, we went to Prenzlauer Berg. Right.

I am on a constant mission to find good second-hand English books. I thought Berlin would be the ideal place to get cheap literature, but it turns out that used books cost more here then in Copenhagen. How's that for a shocker? I bristle at paying more than half of the original sticker price of a book, especially if said book is a classic or older than 10 years. I cannot get past the 5 euro mark without feeling slight resentment towards the reseller, even if the reseller is a bright and chipper expat who serves brownies and coffee. 

Shakespeare & Sons has both new and used books, but the used books occupy a mere corner of the store. The books are marked up, either reflecting the area (Prenzlauer Berg being known as the yuppy / expensive part of Berlin) or the cost of importing English books to Germany. Either way, the new books were totally out of my range and the used books were somewhere between 6 and 12 eur. I really don't care how 'carefully' the books were selected based on their condition and renoun... I don't want to pay more than 5 of any kind of currency for used books.

Having now visited Another Country and Fair Exchange in Kreuzberg, I only really have to go to East of Eden in Friedrichshain and Books in Berlin in Charlottenburg to get a full sense of the offerings. So far, Fair Exchange is my favorite.

Next up: Potsdam.