Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 10: Chocolate! And Other Stuff...

By David Whisenand

After the freezing cold of the walking tour, today was a much warmer experience! To begin, we headed out bright and early (or cloudy really, as all of our days in Germany have been). Our destination was the Euler archives where a Professor of Math History and the Director of the Archives had brought out a variety of manuscripts and placed them upon a table. After climbing up six flights of stairs, we reached the room they had set aside. Once there, the Professor, who had been awarded a medal from the DDR [old East Germany] named after Euler and whose said medal was part of the display, gave us a brief overview of the life and work of Euler. For each of the general points he gave us, there was a least one manuscript to illustrate. After his introduction, we were allowed to take a closer look at the manuscripts and, since Euler didn't know English, we were provided translations of the opening texts.

After thanking our wonderful hosts, we went back out into the cold in search of lunch. On the way to the archives we had seen a Turkish place by the station. In order to experience more fully German cuisine and culture, we had wanted to have some real Turkish food [there has been widespread immigration in recent years]. Despite my initial reservations, it was actually really good!

From the Turkish eatery we went to the Jewish Museum. The Jewish Museum had two sections, the new building and the old building. The new building focused mostly on pre-Holocaust and Holocaust experiences. There were traditional exhibits, but the real point was the architecture, which aimed at disorienting the visitor. Especially moving was the Holocaust tower which (perhaps disturbingly so) made the visitor experience the power of isolation and confinement.

After the power of the architecture in the new building, the tour then lead to the old building where the permanent exhibits are. This provided a comprehensive and moving picture of the history of Jews in Germany. 

After such a deep experience, we decided it was time to do something a little lighter. Thus, we went to a chocolate shop. Quite a good decision!

After a bit of free time, we gathered again at the Berliner Dom for Evensong. The inside of the building was incredibly beautiful and it could only be matched by the organ playing. The music was so well done that I began to doubt that it was improvised as the bulletin claimed!

Finally, we went from the Berliner Dom to the Pergamon Museum. In doing so, we moved from the power of music and art in recent centuries to the glories and wonders of the ancient world. It was thoroughly overwhelming looking at the Ishtar Gate, the gates and friezes of Pergamon, and the art of the Islamic world. The only disappointment was that we could stay for just a brief time.

As the day ended, we got back to the hotel and began to debrief from the wonders we had witnessed. Everything from ancient Greece architecture to modern art to the improvised music of the moment - we could scarcely take it all in!

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