Wednesday, July 4, 2018


The Brandenburg Gate

Hello again Dear Readers - 
Blogging unfortunately ceased when we reached Berlin and joined our Renaissance Art and Music tour and cruise.

There was simply no time!

With a group of 60 fellow Australians, we were led by local Berlin guide and Architectural historian Tom Abbott, exploring the history of this fascinating city through its architecture.

With less than 800 years of history, Berlin is considered a rather young capital city.  In 1701 after Elector Friedrich III crowned himself King Friedrich I of Prussia, Berlin rose to become a royal capital.

We saw gorgeous Rococo style buildings, many faithfully restored after the ravages of various historical wars.

Friedrich the Great 1740-86

The old and the new:  a modern glass dome 

Following Napoleon's occupation and withdrawal from Berlin in 1806-08, the city was again re-created in Greek classicist style.  After 1871 the city became capital of the first unified Germany, enjoying a construction and economic boom.

Google image
Of course, we observed the haunting Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Holocaust Memorial), a powerful and unsettling sculptural park.  It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of different heights arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping ground, but arranged slightly irregularly which causes a disorientation in the viewer.

Berlin became divided after World War II, a city shared between the USA, UK, France and Russia, while located within the Russian communist East Germany.

And then, in 1961, as its citizens fled to the West, Russia built the Berlin Wall around the western sections of the city, containing the people in East Germany.

We visited Checkpoint Charlie, the former entry to the US part of Berlin, and went in to one of several museums telling the story of The Wall, in pictures and film.  Here we could inspect several sections and one can even buy little pieces of the wall as souvenirs.

As you know, history records the Wall was re-opened in 1989, and demolished by 1992, with the exception of some sections kept as memorials.

The Berlin State Opera, recently re-opened after a long-term and faithful restoration (2010-2017).  Here we enjoyed not one, but two Operas:

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to see and hear the great Daniel Barenboim conduct Debussy's 'Pelleas and Melisande'.
He is like a rock star! 
The whole performance was sublime, exquisite music, particularly the young boy treble, and fascinating Cubist sets and German aesthetic costumes.

Two nights later, we were there again for a fantastic production of Tosca -
this time conducted by Australia's own Simone Young.

Our tour group attended two orchestral concerts at the Berliner Philharmoniker, enjoying the Deutsches Symphonie Orchestra playing Beethoven, and the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle playing Bernstein and Korngold.
So much excitement in a few days!

And of course, a pilgrimage to see Nefertiti at the Neues Museum - she really is absolutely beautiful - and the Alte Nationale Galerie for a guided tour of Masterworks of the 19th Century.

Let's look at one or two or them:

Paul Cezanne' Still Life with Flowers and Fruits' 
Edouard Manet 'In the Conservatory'

One of our Australian tour guides, Christopher Lawrence of ABC Classic FM radio fame, accompanied us to the Museum of Musical Instruments.

We were captivated by all the antique keyboards, horns and stringed instruments, and the beautiful Wurlitzer organ.

As you can see, we were kept very busy, but enjoyed time walking the streets of the former East Berlin, restored and elegant, with sidewalk cafes and chic shops.  

Next stop: Potsdam



  1. It sounds as if you had a wonderful and memorable time in Berlin Patricia, enjoying some wonderful music and seeing the great architecture and paintings. I recall going to the Birmingham Symphony many years ago when it was led by Sir Simon Rattle with his mop of curly grey hair. I went to the memorial service for Jacqueline du Pré in 1987, and her husband Daniel Barenboim both played the piano and lead the service.

    1. Rosemary, I am awestruck that you went to the memorial service: what a star was Jacqueline du Pre, and their marriage the stuff of legends. I treasure my old recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto, and it never fails to thrill. Sir Simon also has the same star quality of years ago, and some of that curly hair too! What energy from both these legendary conductors. Our trip was indeed wonderful, and I am still processing it all in my mind :)

  2. Ah is that where Christopher Lawrence is. What a wonderful experience Rattle, Young and Barenboim.....sigh!!!

    1. Yes we had Christopher with us for 15 days as a music lecturer and tour guide. He is great fun!

    2. What a terrific tour it must be. Christopher always comes across on FM as having energy and passion and someone who knows how to live life to the full.

  3. Wonderful! I would have loved to see the musical insrtruments, Patricia! And what a treat indeed to see Daniel Barenboim! He is a legend in his own lifetime. I’m amazed they sell pieces of the Berlin wall as souvenirs. What a great tour you had!

    1. Val, if you ever get to Berlin the Museum of Musical Instruments is a must. There were dozens of antique pieces, and their guide played many of them for us as well as giving lots of great information. And yes, the legend that is Barenboim - I was so excited to see him. I will write one or two more posts on our tour; in fact it is difficult to know what to leave out, because everything was quite wonderful.

  4. I like Berlin and hope to return there in the summer, my foot permitting. I remember the museum of musical instruments. I remember a viol with a face on its back, very strange, and some kind of a wind instrument like a painted dragon. Your cruise sounds very good- nice to get such an insight.

    1. I do hope you get back to Berlin, Jenny. Yes, there viol with a face is there, and I have a photo of it too, slightly creepy. The cruise was lovely, and I will write a blog about it soonish :)

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