Pergamon and Neues Museums Berlin

Lions Ishtar Gate Pergamon Museum

Yesterday was rainy and gray, so I spent several hours exploring two museums – the Pergamon and Neues. Both are on Berlin’s Museum Island and spectacular!

Bust of Queen Nefertiti – c visitBerlin Foto Frank Nuernberger

Pergamon Museum

The famous Pergamon is known as a “visitor magnet”. It’s named after the Kingdom of Pergamon an ancient city in northwest Turkey. During the Hellenistic Period (281–133 BC) Pergamon was a major cultural center.

Mshatta Facade Pergamon Museum Berlin – Wikimedia Commons

Expansion and renovation are in process but the museum is still open to the public. I’ve walked by the Pergamon many times and viewed it from different exterior vantage points. Finding the entrance amidst the construction was a bit like following a maze!

Museum of Islamic Art Pergamon Museum

The Pergamon is adding a fourth wing to house the “monumental architectural exhibits of Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, and the Islamic culture”. Renovations are set for completion by 2026, and some halls are closed during the process.

Market Gate of Miletus Pergamon Museum

Pergamon’s impressive antiquities collection includes:

Market Gate of Milet Pergamon Museum

The Museum of the Ancient Near East is one of the world’s most important museums of oriental antiquities. With 2,000 square meters (21,500 sq. ft) of exhibition space, “it portrays 6,000 years of history, culture, and art in the Middle East”.

Berlin Green Head Neues Museum

The collection includes “major architectural monuments, reliefs, and smaller objects excavated by German scientists”. These treasures come from the “Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Northern Syriac-Eastern Anatolian regions – today’s Iraq, Syria, and Turkey”.

Athena Altar Pergamon

The museum’s reconstruction of several ancient Babylon buildings is fascinating:

  • Ishtar Gate
  • Professional Way
  • Throne Room Facade of King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC)

Queen Nefertiti and  King Akenaten – Neues Museum

The walls of Ishtar Gate are made of exquisite original tiles composed of “numerous fragments”. The stunning images of lions, bulls, and snake-dragons are symbols of Babylon’s main deities. Some highlights are described below.

Islamic Art Pergamon Museum

Ishtar Gate

Built around 575 BC during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the City of Babylon. The magnificent gate was dedicated to the Babylonian Goddess of War – Ishtar. As part of the city walls of ancient Babylon, Ishtar Gate is one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.

Market Gate of Miletus

The Market Gate of Miletus is a Roman gate from a 2nd century AD Asian town called Miletus. The marble gate has three passages and combines Greek, Roman, and Hellenistic architectural elements. Not surprisingly, some of the statues are similar to ruins I’ve seen in Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

Mschatta Façade

Mschatta Façade is a 33-meter-long (110 feet) piece of wall from a desert castle in Jordan. Transported from Jordan, each segment of the massive wall is unique. Some of the elaborate reliefs reminded me of temples at Angkor Wat Cambodia.

Pergamon Museum – Museum Island Berlin

Collection of Turkish Carpets and Tiles

Turkish carpets and tiles have been a fascination. I have several Turkish carpets in my home and smile every time I look at them. Pergamon’s carpet exhibit is amazing. Some tiles displayed are reminiscent of those in Istanbul’s glorious Blue Mosque.

Aleppo Room Pergamon Museum

Neues – Humboldt Forum Highlights

The Humboldt Forum Exhibition at the Neues (New) Museum highlights objects from America and Micronesia and includes artifacts from the:

Neues Museum

“The collections provide insight into ancient culture evolution stretching from the Middle East to the Atlantic and from North Africa to Scandinavia.” The full program of Humboldt Forum Highlights is on their website.

Neues Museum

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“The Humboldt Forum invites people to find out how things in our world are related, discovering the strange in the familiar and the familiar in the strange. Visitors explore, experience, and understand the world as a whole through exhibitions and events.”

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Eros Greek God of Love Carrying Garlands – Neues Museum

Barrigón Cuman Stone Figures Humboldt Forum – Neues Museum

Bull Ishtar Wall Pergamon Museum

Egyptian exhibits include images of royalty, burial chambers, and Queen Nefertiti. Pre and early history and archaeology reflect culture and history from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. Exhibits include:

Stone figures from Central America reminded me of pre-Columbian archaeological sites I visited at San Agustín Archaeological Park in San Agustin Colombia in 2015. The Barrigón figures from Guatemala were fascinating as was the Aztec eagle snake Cuauhcoatl, a national symbol of Mexico.

Photography was tough with the lighting and glare. Sorry, but not all photos have captions. After three hours, my brain was fried. These spectacular museums require several visits and a few guided tours to comprehend!

Berlin’s Bundestag, Reichstag Building and Dome

Reichstag Building – Wikipedia

Last night I visited the German Bundestag and toured the Reichstag dome. I took the U-Bahn and then enjoyed the city lights during a misty walk along the canal. Reichstag security is tight with guards patrolling the building inside and out. You must register in advance and present your passport for identification. It’s a tedious drill and the frisking part isn’t pleasant, but it’s worth the experience.

Marie-Elisabeth Lüders House on the Canal Near Reichstag

The Reichstag is in the Berlin Government District which has interesting buildings named after parliamentarians. It’s near Brandenburg Gate where a small group of people gathered to pray, sing, and dance celebrating Hanukkah. Berlin constructed a temporary menorah in front of the Gate to honor the Jewish holidays.

German Bundestag

The Bundestag is the National Parliament and the legislative branch of the Federal Republic of Germany. Since 2017, Wolfgang Schäuble is the President of the Federal Assembly and the Bundestag. He’s been a “member of the Bundestag since 1972 and is the longest-serving member of all German parliaments ever elected at national level”. Dr. Schäuble was formerly Minister of the Interior and Finance and instrumental in negotiating the German Unification Treaty in 1990.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble

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“The Reichstag bears silent witness to the turbulent history of Berlin and is one of the city’s most significant historical buildings.”

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Reichstag Dome

The Bundestag:

  • Creates federal law
  • Changes the constitution
  • Approves treaties
  • Decides the federal budget
  • Exercises parliamentary control over the government and executive branch
  • Expresses the wishes of the people

Reichstag Dome –  Berlin Like A Local Guide

Since 1999, the Bundestag is in the Reichstag building in Berlin. The Federal Assembly meets in the Plenary Chamber, the largest hall in the building. The chamber has a visitor’s gallery. Rules and decorum of the current German government seem very complex – rightly so

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“In its long history, Germany has rarely been united. For most of the two millennia that German-speaking peoples inhabited Central Europe, the area now called Germany consisted of hundreds of separate states…”

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Original Berlin Reichstag

In the lobby at the base of the dome there’s a permanent exhibition with photos and narrative presenting a detailed historical account of the German Government. It covers ununited Germany to postwar unification, beginning with Charlemagne Holy Roman Emperor (742-814), and including the House of Habsburg (1618-1648), Weimar Republic (1919 to 1933), and Hitler’s Nazi  Regime (1933 -1945).

View of Plenary Chamber from Above

“Germans elect representatives by universal, direct, free, equal, and secret ballot in 299 constituencies.” Through election these representatives receive a mandate and are called MPs. The complicated system of “personalized proportional representation allows voters, on the one hand, to vote for the political party they prefer, and on the other hand, to vote independently for a candidate of their constituency”.

Interior of Plenary Chamber of German Parliament

I was more interested in seeing the spectacular glass dome than learning about German government but to understand a country, first you must spend time there and learn its history. Otherwise, it’s easy to make wrong judgments and incorrect assumptions and conclusions. Germany is a complex country requiring concentrated effort to fully comprehend its rocky past. What I learned is there’s lots more to learn

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Plenary Hall is “illuminated by a mirror system that diverts daylight from the dome into the Reichstag building”.

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Wolfgang Schäuble President of the Federal Assembly and Bundestag – cdu.de

Reichstag Building and Glass Dome

In 1990 the Reichstag was the site of the official reunification ceremony. After restoration from 1995 -1999, it once again became the home of the German National Parliament. The glass dome was not part of the original plans for Reichstag renovation – that’s a separate and interesting story.

Architect Norman Foster – © dpa Guillaume Horcajuelo

After the rebuild, British architect Norman Foster designed the glass dome to symbolize Germany’s reunification. There’s an incredible 360 degree view of Berlin from the top!  A mirrored cone in the center allows visitors to see the Reichstag’s Plenary Chamber below and watch government in process.

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You reach the top of the dome by climbing “two steel, spiraling ramps that are reminiscent of a double helix“. The Dome “symbolizes that the people are above the government, as was not the case during Nazism”.

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Brandenburger Tor in 1945 After Berlin Bombing

Foster designed the glass dome to be environmentally friendly. “Energy efficient features use daylight shining through the mirrored cone to decrease carbon emissions”. A large “sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and blocks direct sunlight to prevent large solar gain from dazzling those below”.

Menorah at Brandenburg Gate

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The futuristic and transparent design of the Reichstag Dome symbolizes Berlin’s attempt to move away from a past of Nazism toward a future with emphasis on a united, democratic Germany.

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Paul Wallot Original Architect German Bundestag

History of the Original Reichstag

The original Reichstag was built in 1895 and designed by Frankfurt architect Paul Wallot. The building featured a large dome. In 1933, the Reichstag Fire destroyed the entire building. The Communists were blamed, but there was no conclusive evidence.

After the devastating fire, remains of the building and the dome were further demolished with horrific bombings of The Battle of Berlin, through World War II, and during Berlin’s fall to the Soviets in 1945. The original Reichstag building – minus the dome – was partly reconstructed in the 1960s as a conference center.

Every day, people line up and wait for hours to visit the Reichstag. I decided to take a night tour, but it was a rainy evening so visibility wasn’t great. Touring the dome is a special experience!

Bolero Berlin – Chamber Music, Philharmonic, and Latin Jazz

Bolero Berlin – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Last night was another evening of outstanding music in Berlin! Bolero Berlin performed at the Berlin Philharmonic and finding a group of musicians with more charm or talent would be difficult!

Martin Stegner Viola – berliner-philharmoniker.de

After becoming “enchanted and inspired by melancholic, mysterious, sensual Cuban bolero,” violist Martin Stegner created the Bolero Berlin ensemble. The popular group fuses chamber music and philharmonic with Latin American jazz creating their own exceptional sound.

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The “warm, dark, soft sound that characterizes Cuban bolero appeals to the viola player in particular.”

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Esko Laine, Contra-Bass – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Philharmonic Meets Jazz

Martin Stegner plays viola with the Philharmonic, and Bolero Berlin includes three of his “like-minded orchestral colleagues”:

In addition, the ensemble has two incredible internationally known jazz performers:

Bolero Berlin Solos

Each musician performed solos demonstrating mastery of their instruments. The stunning solos were fully appreciated by the audience.

Preis’s mastery of his four instruments is amazing. Stegner’s bolero takes your heart and mind on a Latin vacation. Esko Laine’s solo during a composition inspired by Duke Ellington blew the audience away, and it was a delight watching Gioia flawlessly play a myriad of exotic Latin percussion instruments.

Daniel “Topo” Gioia, Percussion – m.mainpost.de

During an encore, guitarist Nieberle surprised the audience by playing a gorgeous ukulele solo – evoking big sounds from the instrument. Raphael Haeger held everything together with his impeccable piano skills and accompanied Gioia on drums during a Latin percussion tambourine solo.

Bolero Berlin – iTunes

In addition to their distinguished careers as musicians, Bolero Berlin members are also composers and teachers. They perform with other artists and have won many awards.

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“We look forward to every concert and have a relaxed, respectful approach. Nothing has changed in ten years.”   Martin Stegner Bolero Berlin

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Raphael Haeger, Piano and Drums – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

The group’s goal is “surprising listeners with familiar melodies in an unfamiliar sound”. Because jazz and classical are so different, in the beginning some wondered if the concept would work.

Bolero Berlin – © 2018 Hagke. Music Management

Clearly the music does work, and their audiences love them! The concert last night celebrates their 10th anniversary performing together. They’ve perfected Latin American music in philharmonic sound while complimenting each other superbly.

Bolero Berlin – Photo Alba Falchi

For their anniversary program, Helmut Nieberle arranged music combining tracks from Consuelo Velázquez’s Besamé Mucho, Django Reinhardt’s Troublant Boléro, Duke Ellington, and tango master Astor Piazzolla with operatic melodies from Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto and Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The result was absolute heaven!

Manfred Preis, Clarinet and Saxophone – Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

I regret not being able to understand Stegner’s German narrative which amused the audience and created laughter. The program was in German, but the compositions played were originals inspired by contemporary and classical artists and composers.

I especially liked their tango music and reminisced about a Piazzolla Tango Performance in Buenos Aires several years ago. The evening featured the traditional songs of Astor Piazzolla, the world’s foremost tango music composer.

Helmut Nieberle, Guitar © Arvo Wichmann

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“Classical concert organizers don’t dare offer jazz sounds to their audience, while jazz organizers doubt whether philharmonic musicians get the right groove for jazz and Latin American music.”

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Bolero Berlin’s performance was a memorable evening! You must hear them in person to appreciate their talent and incredible sound. After rousing applause and two amazing encores, the audience still didn’t want to let them go!

Berlin Jazz Clubs and Émile Parisien Quartet

Mike Russell’s Funky Soul Kitchen at Quasimodo – http://www.mikerussell.de

With so much happening in Berlin deciding where to go and what to do gets complicated. Berlin’s jazz clubs are a perfect nighttime venue for me. The atmosphere is comfortable and friendly – the music fantastic! Most clubs are small and fill up fast, so the challenge is booking a space before performances sell out.

Gauthier Toux Trio Live at b-flat – Peter C Theis

Booking Jazz Performances

There are a few helpful local websites – Jazzity and Guide to the Jazzy Side of Berlin – but they don’t book your ticket for you… Jazz clubs don’t always take credit cards or have apps that allow you to book performances and download tickets on your phone.

Quasimodo – MyCityHighlight

If you can’t book in advance, the only choice is to show up and hope for the best. If you make a reservation but don’t arrive on time to pay – they sell your space.

Jazz Club A-Trane – Kauperts

Most evenings those with and without reservations line up outside popular jazz clubs. Box offices open 30 – 60 minutes before the performance begins.

I’ve visited these Berlin jazz clubs and describe them below:

  • A-Trane International Jazz Club
  • b-flat Acoustic Music + Jazz Club
  • Quasimodo
  • Junction Live Music Club

Prince at Quasimodo – Photographer Unknown

A-Trane International Jazz Club

A-Trane in Charlottenburg was founded in 1992. Performances begin at 9 pm and on Saturdays there’s a jam session “Jazz after Midnight”. Occasionally they have an earlier performance. The small club holds a max of 100 guests. It’s a popular JazzFest venue and my favorite club in Berlin!

Some artists who’ve appeared at A-Trane include Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, and others. The owner is “Turkish-born ex-graphic artist and basketball player” Sedal Sardan. In 2013 Sedal won the German ECHO music award for jazz promotion. He and his staff help with tickets.

b-flat Berlin Mitte

The club is named after John Coltrane (nicknamed “Trane”), “reminiscent of the unequaled Duke Ellington standard – Take the A Train :o)”!

I saw the Émile Parisien Quartet at A-Trane – a phenomenal performance which I’ll describe later in this post.

A-Trane Owner Sedal Sardan – YouTube

b-flat Acoustic Music + Jazz Club

Popular b-flat is in Mitte District. Two musician brothers – Jannis Zoto and Thanassis Zoto – and actor, producer, writer André Hennecke founded the club in 1995.

Jannis Zotos b-flat – David Beecroft

Architect Claudius Pratsch designed the club’s acoustics. B-flat is known for “diverse and lively” performances. Many well-known artists appear at the club, including Randy Brecker, Joe Sample, Harry Connick Jr., and Brad Mehldau.

Quasimodo

Quasimodo in Charlottenburg is one of the “oldest live music clubs on the Berlin cultural landscape”. In 1975 Genoese Giorgio Carioti took over the existing club, renamed it Quasimodo, and made it one of the most important live jazz clubs in Berlin.

Quasimodo – c Quasimodo GmbH

International stars like Branford Marsalis, Prince, and Chaka Khan have appeared at Quasimodo. The club is beneath the Delphi Film Palace and the Quasimodo Restaurant. It’s known as a “musical place of worship for quality jazz, blues, rock, Latin, soul, and funk”.

Giorgio Carioti Quasimodo – Foto Emilio Esbardo

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At Quasimodo, “fans from all over the world meet like old friends in a cozy ambiance somewhere between tradition and modernity, united by the music.”

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A-Trane – c visitBerlin.de Foto Pierre Adenis

Junction Live Music Club

Junction is in the heart of Kreuzberg a few blocks from my apartment. After German reunification in 1989, Junction “held its position in Berlin’s nightlife” when other neighborhoods became more popular music venues.

Junction is “divided into two parts” – café and bar (above) and live music club (below). Every night the basement remains “the place for live music” in Berlin.

Jazz Jam Junction Live Music Club – Brixton Buzz

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“Jazz, pop, blues, Brasil, rap, and funk – anything goes at the Junction.”

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Emile Parisien Quartet – c ACT Sylvaim Gripoix

Émile Parisien Quartet at A-Trane

Last night I saw the Émile Parisien Quartet perform at A-Trane. It was incredible!!! The performance at 9 pm was fully booked, but they had an earlier session, and I was able to get a reservation. What’s even better, I was invited to take a closer seat only a few feet from the musicians! Watching them perform was as exciting as listening to their music.

French saxophonist and composer Émile Parisien is a phenomenon who “lives every moment of his music and makes it dance”.  His talented quartet includes:

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“The Parisien Quartet plays music that maybe only French people can. It’s intellectual and nefarious, provocative and witty, anarchic and disciplined.”

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Julien Touery © Emmanuelle Vial 2013

Parisien attended Marciac Jazz College and the Conservatory of Toulouse where he studied both classical and contemporary music. He moved to Paris in 2000 and founded his own quartet.

Julien Loutelier – http://www.julienloutelier.com

Parisien performs at festivals like Jazz in Marciac and has played with well-known musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Johnny Griffin, and Bobby Hutcherson. Classical and contemporary composers Hector Berlioz, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter inspire his compositions.

Known as a “jazz visionary” Parisien’s many distinctions and awards include:

Ivan Gélugne Bass – http://www.jazzimbild.at

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“The reference points on Parisien’s personal musical map are wide. They range from France’s popular folk traditions to the compositional rigour of contemporary classical music and abstract free jazz.”

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Emile Parisien Quartet – c ACT Sylvaim Gripoix

The group captured the audience completely and held their attention every minute. A-Trane is a relaxed environment and the animated movements and humor of the musicians were a treat. They played outstanding original compositions written by Parisien and other members of the quartet. It’s clear they’re professionals who love their music deeply and perform from the heart.

Emile Parisien Quartet – c ACT Sylvaim Gripoix

The group just released a new CD – Double Screening – and were signing copies at the club. I’ll return for more A-Trane performances, but none like the Émile Parisien Quartet!

Berlin Reflections

Bergmannkiez Kreuzberg – Tagesspiegel

I’m approaching two months in Berlin and there’s still more to see and learn. Each city has personality, and Berlin is uniquely difficult to describe. I’m not a fast-moving tourist, so that shines a different light on things. It’s a complex city with a young population and immense history and nuances – nothing is quite what it seems…

Kreuzberg Apartment Building

Kreuzberg

At first, I was looking for an apartment in Mitte – known as Berlin’s “historical heart”. I ended up in less touristy Kreuzberg formerly part of West Berlin and an area of great urban energy and diversity. It’s south of the River Spree and was once enclosed on three sides by the Berlin Wall. Today it’s a haven for artists. Emily Bland’s entertaining video below describes nearby places and Kreuzberg streets I experience every day.

One interesting street – Bergmannkiez – is a favorite a few blocks from my apartment. The buildings, shops, and restaurants are fabulous. During warm weather everyone sits outside, but over the past week I’ve noticed deserted tables, despite woolly blankets draped over each chair.

Facades in Bergmannkiez Kreuzberg

My first week was a semi-catastrophe. I got lost often. When I found someone who spoke English and asked for directions back to Kreuzberg, first they corrected my pronunciation and then their eyes went blank. Someone finally told me how huge Kreuzberg was and that it’s impossible to give directions without a specific street and cross street. I learned to identify my flat location by the nearby underground station called Gneisenaustraße – still can’t pronounce it. I also learned to never leave my apartment without a fully charged phone and Google Maps!

Bergmannkiez

Language and Communication

Few speak English in Berlin. Many know it but chose not to speak it because, depending on their circle of acquaintances, they really don’t have to. Occasionally some kind soul may take mercy on you and translate – generally you’re on your own. Menus and food labels are the most confusing. Learning German is essential for anyone who wants to live long-term in Berlin. It’s a difficult language.

Flower Shop Zossener Straße Kreuzberg

I’ve visited Germany several times, including Frankfurt, Munich, Düsseldorf, Wiesbaden, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, Cologne, and smaller towns along the Rhine River like Rüdesheim. Those trips were before I began a travel journal / blog and I was traveling for shorter periods of time with other people. My clouded memories are mostly of traveling companions, not the places we visited. Short term travel is more for enjoying yourself, not focusing on the deeper aspects of a country’s culture and history.

Aerial View of Kreuzberg – Wikipedia

I wrongly imagined more English would be spoken in Berlin. It seems in cities like Rome, Lisbon, Prague, Istanbul, and Budapest it was easier to communicate, but I’m not complaining – well, maybe a little :o(

More Kreuzberg Apartment Buildings – GPSmyCity

Communication or the lack there of can become more of an issue when traveling solo. I like the challenge but unless you seek other Americans – that defeats the purpose of travel for me – you must learn to adapt and survive in an unknown and sometimes unfriendly environment. It’s exciting and at the end of each day there’s a feeling of accomplishment.

Huh???

Immigration

Germany is the second most popular destination for migrations – after the US – and Berlin is a diverse city of immigrants. Kreuzberg has a large Turkish population. At times it feels like you’re on a street in Istanbul.
These days, German immigration is complicated. I did cursory research on the process and decided it wasn’t for me. Schengen visa requirements will change in 2021, allowing extended tourist travel (more than three months).

Street Art Kreuzberg – commons.wikimedia.org

Germany encourages immigration of “highly skilled professionals” and “scientists”. There’s no market for unskilled workers. I’ve heard the process of obtaining a permanent visa is daunting, with application reviews backed up for six months or more. I’m not sure what people do while waiting for their immigration review, but they must prove financial independence and learn German before obtaining a permanent visa.

Bergmannkiez Building

While traveling on public transportation, I’ve seen and heard immigrants from all over the world – Africa, Mideast, Asia, South America, and other European countries. They often stick together and speak their own languages, not German or English. They seem content and settled although some have sad-looking faces, maybe indicating they’ve experienced deep trauma and tragedy in their lives. They’ve been helpful and kind – more than most Germans.

Bergmannkiez – welt.de

Early one morning I was awakened by a buzzing door bell. My apartment building is huge, and since I don’t know that many people in Berlin and wasn’t expecting a visitor, I ignored it.  A few minutes later there was loud knocking on my door. I looked through the peephole to see four policemen and quickly opened the door. They were polite, asked several questions, and looked at my passport. They showed me photos of a Syrian couple they were looking for – not sure what crime they committed and didn’t ask. I didn’t recognize them.

The massive front door to the building closes slowing on a heavy hinge, so anyone determined to get inside could wait outside and sneak through – especially at night. I find that slightly unnerving and usually wait to make sure the door has closed completely behind me. Even with the lights on, the stairway to my flat is dark and slightly creepy.

Bergmannkiez Market

Economy

The economy is bustling and Germans are avid consumers and into their professions and making money – you don’t find many loose ends. Berlin is full of high-tech. Almost every other car is a sparkling Mercedes. So far, I haven’t noticed any homeless encampments. A few drug addicts and panhandlers roam the streets and subway.

Blog Only Apartments Kreuzberg

Of course the Berlin apartment I rented is not quite as wonderful as the photos… That’s the chance you take when renting in a foreign country. I’ve experienced “apartment reality versus advertisement” before. However, hotels are way too expensive for a long visit and I’m not a fan of hostels. The apartment suits my purpose and is warm and private. Except for one loud all-night party, it’s been mostly quiet. I’m prepared for late-night holiday festivities and have ear plugs. Maybe one of the neighbors will invite me to join a party, although most Germans are not overly friendly – holiday markets merrymakers being the exception.

Street Art Kreuzberg – Urban Presents

Short-term rentals for less than three months are not allowed. In 2016, Berlin implemented some of the world’s strictest laws for vacation rentals.

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“With few exceptions, Berlin made short-term rentals on platforms such as Airbnb and Wimdu illegal, with fines of up to 100,000 euros (about $123,000) for hosts who violate the law.”

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It’s called the misappropriation prohibition law (Zweckentfremdungsverbots-Gesetz), and the German government enforces it. Compared to New York, San Francisco, London, or even Munich, rental prices are reasonable.

Angela Merkel – thepressproject.gr

Politics

I’m still trying to figure out what’s happening with German politics. There are changes in the air with Angela Merkel’s recent resignation as leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Some of her policies are unpopular. One of three people is considered her likely successor as CDU party Chair in December –  Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Jens Spahn, and Friedrich Merz.

Kreuzberg Church

Music and Arts

Music and arts are the major jackpot in Berlin with extremely talented artists and everything you could imagine or desire! I like art galleries but am not great at touring museums, and after a few hours find them overwhelming. I still have many to visit in Berlin.

River Spree Kreuzberg – Adobe Stock 81684539 1000

I’ve posted several blogs about live performances. There’s variety and high quality, and I’m getting my fill of theatre and first-class classical and jazz. People in the jazz clubs are fun and friendly – blog post to follow. During the last month I’ll focus on museums, Christmas markets, and more music – enough to keep me occupied. Ballet and opera performances are of interest but tickets are pricey – $100+.

Back View from My Apartment

Food

Not a foodie, I still appreciate a good meal. Some Berlin restaurants are disappointing, but I’ve found a few I like and keep returning to them. The choices around Kreuzberg are endless, but it can be somewhat uncomfortable dining alone on weekends when most restaurants are busy and usually fully booked.

dean & david – karriere

Menus aren’t in English – and in some restaurants, asking for an English menu is downright painful… When I’m really hungry, my favorite “go to” restaurant is a little place called dean & david where they serve fresh food and make incredible salads! The atmosphere is friendly and comfortable.

Bergmannkiez – Photography ProdJo

Weather

Weather during October and the first half of November was heavenly. It’s turning cold now and gets dark by 4 pm, but I came prepared. The shops and stores are super-heated so if you’re shopping for longer than a few minutes it’s almost unbearable inside, and you start taking off layers. The cooler temperatures will be good for outdoor Christmas Markets where you can buy hot drinks to keep warm.

Berlin Kreuzberg Map

Next Stop Dubrovnik
My next stop is Dubrovnik Croatia – a non-Schengen country. Although I traveled around Croatia for several months a few years ago I didn’t get enough time in Dubrovnik, so booked a small apartment for January 2019. By December 29, I’ll have exhausted my 90 day Schengen visa limit and can’t re-enter any Schengen countries until April 2019. Hopefully the weather in Dubrovnik will be a little warmer than Berlin. Haven’t decided which non-Schengen countries to visit after Croatia. I’m considering Albania, Cyprus, and Romania.

Typical Kreuzberg Street – Sound Vinyl Store

There are tons of stories about my Berlin experiences and the challenging time here, but this post contains enough rambling. I haven’t taken many photos. Berlin isn’t known for its beauty, although some older buildings and streets are exquisite as are the parks, canals, and rivers. I’m not into selfies and it’s complicated getting your picture taken when traveling solo. It’s easy finding someone to take the photo, but the result is rarely good. Before leaving Berlin, one way or another, I’m getting a photo in front of the Brandenburg Gate!

More later…

Baroque Masterpieces Charlottenburg Palace Berlin

Schloss Charlottenburg Berlin

Last night I enjoyed an interesting concert at Charlottenburg Palace. Dressed in period costumes, the Berlin Residence Orchestra performed baroque masterpieces by Vivaldi, Händel, Bach, and others.

Scholss Charollotenberg

Before the concert, some savored a three-course “themed candlelight dinner”. Years ago, I experienced a similar but disappointing dinner in Salzburg, so I opted for the concert only. Charlottenburg Palace is in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf District and easily accessible via U-Bahn. From November 26 through December 27 a popular Christmas market is set up on Palace grounds.

Queen Charlotte – by Johann Georg Ziesenis

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Today Charlottenburg is a working palace and one of Berlin’s most “grandiose event venues”. It’s a great place for concerts.

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Schloss Charlottenburg During Blood Moon – U. Gernhoefer Photocase

Charlottenburg Palace History

Charlottenburg is Berlin’s last remaining palace “reflecting the one-time grandeur of the Hohenzollern Family“. The complex covers several blocks along the banks of River Spree. Restaurants, hotels, and cafés near the Palace feature paintings of the grounds and Queen Charlotte. The Palace is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden best visited during the day, but also lovely at night.

Queen Sophia Charlotte

In 1696, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Hanover, wife of Prussian Friedrich III, commissioned construction of Lützenburg, a “summer residence in Lützow”.

King Frederick I – Emerson Kent

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“Originally a petite summer retreat, Lützenburg grew into an exquisite baroque palace with opulent apartments, festival halls, collections of precious porcelain, and paintings by French 18th century masters.”

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Orangery Garden – Pinterest

Soon after his coronation in 1701, King Frederick and Queen Sophie Charlotte expanded their Lützenburg residence. Tragically, Charlotte died of pneumonia in 1705 at the young age of 37. After her death, Frederick renamed the residence Charlottenburg Palace, built a magnificent dome, and added an “elongated building” named the Great Orangery.

Great Orangery Schloss Charlottenburg – Qiez.de

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“Loud against quiet, solo against ensemble, a competition of instruments dominates the Baroque period…”

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Baroque Masterpieces Compère – Pixel and Dot Photography

Berlin Residence Orchestra

In 2006, the Berlin Residence Orchestra began staging classical music concerts in Charlottenburg’s Great Orangery. The chamber music ensembles formed within the orchestra play at events throughout Berlin. The staged atmosphere transports audiences beck in time to when kings listened to Baroque music.

Berliner Residenz Konzerte Schloss Charlottenburg – Berlin Welcome Card

“Derived from the Portuguese barroco, or ‘oddly shaped pearl,’ since the nineteenth century, the term baroque describes the period in Western European music from 1600 to 1750.” The concerts are popular with locals as well as tourists.

Chamber Music Players

Last night, the chamber orchestra consisted of a harpsichord, cello, bass, flute, violin, and four violas. There were flute, viola, and cello solos. Soprano Sara Gouzy and countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow were the featured vocalists, and their operatic solos and duos were fantastic.

Charlottenburg Palace Dome – Framepool

For a while, the commentator (compère) presented parts of the narrative in English and German – it was obvious he didn’t care for it. Later he spoke German only, so I missed the nuances and jokes that made others in the audience laugh….The program was slightly confusing to follow, but the music was wonderful.

Berlin Residence Concerts – Image Berlin

The program included well-known German and Italian composers, kings, and friends of kings:

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster – ResearchGate

Anna Fedotova Concertmaster

Multi-talented Russian Anna Fedotova studied at the Far East Art Academy in Vladivostok and later at Moscow’s Gnessin Academy. She’s participated in Salzburg masterclasses and is a “laureate of competitions in many countries”. Fedotova co-founded the Tango Ensemble Coamorous” and toured with the group throughout Europe. Last night she played a lovely violin solo.

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann Musical Director

Alexandra Rossmann is from Minsk Belarus, where she studied piano and became a teacher and accompanist. She performed at international festivals and made her début at the Belarusian Philharmonic at the age of 17. Rossmann moved to Germany and studied at the Musikhochschule Munich. Currently she lives in Potsdam and teaches piano. Alexandra played harpsichord during the performance.

Sara Gouzy Soprano

Sara Gouzy Soprano

French soprano Sara Gouzy completed her piano studies at the Conservatoire de Toulouse. She studied voice at the Academy of Music Hanns Eisler Berlin and attended masterclasses in France and Germany. In 2012 Gouzy participated in projects at the “Hanns Eisler” and Berlin’s Komische Oper (Comic Opera). Gouzy is a scholarship holder of the association “Yehudi Menuhin Live Music Now” and soloist with the Berlin Residence Orchestra.

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

Georg Arssenij Bochow Countertenor

The German-Russian countertenor Georg Arssenij Bochow began his career as a chorister in the Berlin Staats- und Domchor and received Canada’s Saint Nicolas Award from the Royal School of Church Music. He began vocal studies at the “Hanns Eisler” in 2011 and took masterclasses. Bochow appeared with the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the world première of Evan Gardner’s Die Unterhändlerin (The Negotiator).

Great Orangery at Night

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“There are many misconceptions and mysteries about the countertenor. Some take it for a whim of nature, though this type of voice has nothing mysterious about it.”

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Charlottenburg Palace Courtyard

This is the first time I’ve experienced a countertenor in close quarters – a beautiful but most unusual voice!

Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic

Andreas Martin Hofmeir – Pilippe Gerlach

With countless variety and live performances every day of the week, Berlin is a great city for music lovers. Last night I attended – Jazz Meets Classic – a special performance at Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall.

Benjamin Schmid – Lienbacher

Andreas Martin Hofmeir & Band
The performance marks the fifth season of Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic. It included three duets by Andreas Martin Hofmeir & Band – beautifully illustrating how “classical and jazz stimulate each other”.

Stage – Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic

Hofmeir, a German tuba virtuoso, is the lead. Incidentally, on stage he performs barefooted. Hofmeir’s band includes renowned Austrian violinist Benjamin Schmid, two Viennese musicians – Matthias Bartolomey cello and Klemens Bittmann violin and mandola, and two Norwegians – Bugge Wesseltoft piano and Henning Kraggerud violin.

Matthias Bartolomey and Klemens Bittmann – http://www.bartolomeybittman.at

All the multi-talented musicians have impressive careers. Hofmeir has held positions with many European philharmonics and received prestigious awards. He’s also a composer, author, cabaret artist, and professor of tuba at the University Mozarteum Salzburg.

Bugge Wesseltoft and Henning Kraggerud Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic 2018

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“The formula that makes the Philharmonic jazz concerts so successful is that each is ‘an edition of one,’ a special, unique event.”
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Years ago, as a high school marching band member, tuba and brass instruments were a fascination. Hofmeir organizes brass bands, and when it comes to Tuba, he’s in a league of his own. He’s the best tuba player I’ve ever heard, producing an unbelievable range of flawless sound! His stage presence and commentary are endearing and humorous. Verbal descriptions and the printed program were in German, but the audience’s reaction spoke for itself.

Described as “progressive strings” Bartolomey and Bittmann create a young, contemporary sound adding a “unique dynamic, rocking power” to the band. I loved the original compositions they played with such passion.

Pianist Bugge Wesseltoft was a favorite. Wesseltoft, known as a “pioneer in the fusion of classical jazz with electronic music,” played with Henning Kraggerud, one of Scandinavia’s most distinguished string players. Their sound is brilliant!

Each duet included several sets, and as you were thinking nothing could top what you just heard, the next performance was equally fantastic! Benjamin Schmid and Henning Kraggerud are master violinists. Their beautiful music steals your heart away.

After their duets, all six musicians performed together completely blowing the audience away. They’re an unbelievable group of dedicated professionals. I enjoyed every minute of the concert!

Matthias Bartolomey – Andrea Peller

Jazz History in Germany

During fascism jazz and classical music were “strictly separated.” The Nazi regime banned jazz radio broadcasts.

Bugge Wesseltoft Pianist

The Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic series began in 2012. A great success, the popular performances continue to sell out. The concerts bring “jazz out of Berlin’s clubs and place it in classical halls to make more people aware of the astonishing skill levels in jazz and of its uniqueness and diversity”.

Foyer Berlin Philharmonic – Arch Daily

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“After 1970, government ministries gave up their antagonism towards jazz, explaining that it had become part of East German culture and politics.”

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Berlin Philharmonic Designed by Hans Scharoun 1963

I’m looking forward to more performances at Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall and started making a list of live jazz clubs to visit including B-FlatQuasimodo, A-Trane, and Yorckschlösschen.

Andreas Martin Hofmeir – News 38