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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday: Starting the museums

I walked the two blocks to the Bode Museum at the northern tip of Museum Island. There I made the purchase of the Jahreskarte or annual pass for the state museums, for €40. That was my first use of a credit card in Germany, and may be the only one. My lodging is paid in cash, and I hear not to count on restaurants taking them; all my meals have been under €20. Continuing on that aside, tipping in Europe is often confusing; I read just to round up to the next euro, but some of the bills have said in English "Tip not included." Anyway, it's odd to get an annual pass for this stay, but with most museums costing €8 and some costing €10, it pays for itself pretty quickly. At the museums where I've used it so far, I haven't needed to stop at the ticket booth; I just showed it to the guard, who sometimes scanned the barcode.

The Bode Museum was quiet and interesting, with varied works from antiquity through Baroque. I mentioned how the division of the city affected train lines; also, as the guide the other day said, there were separate cultural institutions in East and West, many works were damaged or taken away, and with the unified city there's been an effort to move collections to where it makes sense to have them thematically.

I made my way to the Friedrichstrasse station, needing to find my way a little farther to the entrance to the underground S-Bahn (it's interesting to consider how they made the walled-off connection between over- and underground lines when the city was divided). On the S- and U-Bahn trains, there are no turnstiles, and ticket machines are on the platforms, an honor system until you run into an inspector. This was a day to get a day ticket for €6.30; I got a €5 note in but the machine kept rejecting (fortunately returning) all my €1 and €2 coins. I finally added another €5 note and it worked; I'm building up a lot of coins. Anyway, I went the two stops to Potsdamer Platz.

Potsdamer Platz was the heart of the city and divided by the wall; now there's a great expanse of modern commercial buildings, highlighted by the Sony Center, a big gathering place with a conical roof. Following the guidebook, I went to the modern shopping Arkade down the street, and stopped at Salomon Bagels. I had a lox bagel sandwich with (unexpected) horseradish.

Back to the main street and the Kulturforum, a complex of cultural places for the West. I went to the striking Neue Nationalgalerie designed by Mies van der Rohe. Going downstairs from the empty (except for an installation) entrance level, there was a nice collection of works mostly from the first half of the 20th century. There were real-sized black-and-white reproductions of works that they thought rightfully belonged there, which mostly went into the Nazis' exhibitions of "degenerate art," and the labels note whether the whereabouts are known or not.

Then I went next door to the Gemaeldegalerie, a large museum in a building built in 1998, covering European art from the 13th to the early 19th centuries. There was much to take in there with not many people.

When I got out, it was getting close to 5, and I saw that there had been rain. I found the 200 bus stop, having seen before getting to the complex where it turned off the main street. I took it to the end, interested in seeing the photography museum. It has the works of Helmut Newton and his wife, who took the name Alice Springs; well, OK.

Although this was the day that many museums are open late, I had my fill for the day. At first I found this post lost, but I'll publish it now.

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