Vet Med Students 2011 Study Abroad in Germany

Vet Med Students 2011 Study Abroad in Germany

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  • Day 7: Berlin, Sunday, May 22, 2011

    This was our second day on our own in Berlin. I wanted to see as much of the city as possible within a limited amount of time. After spending the previous days in lectures, I decided I needed a good walk around Berlin. I considered a guided walking tour, but learned they take 6 hours (!). That seemed a bit too much for me, so I compromised with a self guided walking tour I had downloaded from itunes (Berlin Walking Tour- EveryTrail). That way I could walk around at my own pace without rushing to catch up.

    One of the first stops on the tour was the Brandenburger Tor. The gait marks the entry to the city of Berlin and leads to the historic Unter den Linden boulevard, which is lined with linden trees and formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs. It was a little tricky to get to since there was a major bike race that day. The area past the gait was flooded with tents and booths. The racers were everywhere and the main roads included in the bike route were roped off. Crossing the street was a challenge, but I was able to approach the gate. Just beyond the gate I saw the parallel black lines in the street marking the previous location of the Berlin wall.

    After visiting the historic gate into Berlin, I walked to the Reichstag building, which is where the parliament is housed. The top of the building has a glass dome symbolic of transparency of the government to the German people.  After the Reichstag, I visited the Bundestag, which is a more modern parliament building. The building seemed to be primarily glass and was positioned right next to a canal running through Berlin. The water reflected off the building creating a serene and peaceful scene.


    After visiting the Bundestag I went to the Holocaust Memorial. It was built to comemorate all those killed in the holocaust and contains 2,711 pillars, one for each page of the Talmud. It was somewhat tricky to find, but eventually I did, apparently I had passed close by it several times that morning. The memorial was jarring. The rows and columns of concrete blocks reminded me very strongly of the Mount of Olives cemetery I saw in Jerusalem.

    After the memorial I noticed my camera battery getting low and made a quick detour to the hotel to pick up a spare before jumping back on the train and heading toward the next stop, the Statue of Frederick the great. The statue was interesting, but covered with construction equipment, so somewhat obscured. Hopefully by next year it will be back in viewing form. The statue is a representation of Frederick III who ruled the  Kingdom of Prussia from 1740-1786.

    The next stop on the tour was Bebelplatz where you can look through a window in the cobblestone to the library stacks below. However, by intention you are not supposed to see anything but empty shelves. Its meant to be symbolic of the 1933 book burnings which occurred in that very square as a prelude to the holocaust and second world war. There is an inscription which reads (in English) “Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people”. And, by design, I couldn’t see anything, just reflected glass... Even the empty book shelves below where shielded by the midday sun.

    The tour continued down the Unter den Linden passing by the Altes Museum and the Berliner Dom. Both buildings were beautiful and very photogenic. The Altes Museum, also known as the old museum was built between 1823 and 1830 and currently houses the antiques collection of the Berlin State Museums. The Berliner Dom is a cathedral built between 1745 and 1747 which is Berlin’s largest church.

    The tour led me next i to the statues of Marx and Engels, the co-authors of the communist manifesto. The statues, and the park surrounding them, lie in what used to be East Germany. They were created by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a communist government, to celebrate the founders of communism. After the dissolution of the GDR, the park was preserved for artistic and historical significance.

    The tour next led me to several places that I just looked at while passing by. The Rotes Rathaus (red town hall)  is the town hall of Berlin where the mayor and government of Berlin convene. I passed next by the TV tower, which is the tallest structure in Germany, and it was VERY tall. The tour led me to Alexanderplatz next. Instead of wandering around there looking for lunch, I decided to head back towards museum island to check out the exhibits. On the way I stopped at a crepe stand and had one made up fresh in front of me, it was delicious!

    On the way back to the museums I stopped at St. Marien Kirche which is the second oldest church in Berlin. The church is still in use and has been painstakingly restored to its origional condition. The inside was quiet, and the air was cool and refreshing after the hot sun outside. It was very peaceful taking a few moments to rest inside the church before continuing on.

    I continued on and made it to museum island around 2:00 pm and bought a day pass which  allows you to enter most of the museums in Berlin (a few have separate fees). I was interested in seeing 18 and 19th century paintings primarily, so I set out to find the Alte Nationalgalerie first. The Nationalgalerie was built between 1872 and 1876 and houses classical, romantic, Biedermeier, impressionist, and early modernist artwork. I followed the map to the area I thought it should be, but was unable to find it. Instead, I went into the Pergamonmuseum first. The Pergamonmuseum houses original-sized reconstructions of ancient architecture including the Pergamon Alter which was transported in pieces from Turkey. It is somewhat controversial at present, whether the collection should be returned or not to Turkey. It was a very popular museum with many tourists crowded inside.. As a result, the air was somewhat hot and stuffy. After looking at the Pergamon Alter, I decided to try my luck at finding the Nationalgalerie again. On my way there, I realized I must have passed it since I was all the way down by the Bodes museum. I was about to head back, not knowing what the Bodes museum contained. However, in an adventurous twist, I decided to see what was inside. It turns out, the Bodes museum is home to a collection of sculptures, byzantine art, coins and metals, not to mention the architecture of the building itself, which is akin to one giant sculpture. In a serendipitous twist, the Bodes museum turned out to be my favorite. The building was beautiful, and I very much enjoyed the sculptures. The coins were somewhat less exciting, although I did find a one million dollar coin which got my attention!

    After visiting the Bodes museum I was determined to see the Nationalgalarie, so I continued on in my museum quest. The Neues museum was on the way to the Nationalgalarie, so I stopped in quickly to browse the collection. The Neues Museum was built between 1843 and 1855 and houses Egyptian and Prehistory and Early History collections. The museum is famous for housing the bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti. I looked around a bit. The museum contained a lot of interesting architecture and found objects from prehistoric people. It was also, however, somewhat dark and gloomy in the wing I visited. I didn’t make it down to the Egyptian wing since it was getting late and I still wanted to visit the Nationalgalarie.

    After leaving the Neues Museum I once again consulted my map, determined to find the elusive Nationalgalarie. And then, it hit me, the building I had been searching for all afternoon. It was in fact, the very first building I had seen, and decided to skip over in search of, apparently, itself. Found at last, I visited the Alte Nationalgalarie. The museum was well worth the wait. The paintings were lovely, and I even found one of a professor at Purdue! (who apparently has a 19th century Doppelganger). After walking around the gallery a bit I decided I’d had enough walking for one day and headed back to the hotel.

    I happened upon several of the other students from our group and we went out to find some dinner and check out the Sony center at night. The center was lit up and very cool. We even found a Lego Giraffe! I didn’t have my camera at the time, but was able to snap a drive by shot later on in the week. All and all, it was another beautiful day in Germany.

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