I have seen the smiley faces and people of Berlin-based Street Artist, Mein Lieber Prost (often shortened to Prost) on the streets of Berlin since I first visited the city in 2009. His simple but effective drawings and occasional advertising takeover antics always bring to mind the phrase ‘Smile and the world smiles with you…’.
Yesterday afternoon, with Berlin’s weather teetering on the edge of the depressive part of its bi-polar summer weather cycle, I went to the Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum).
I have been conscious for a while now of neglecting Berlin’s museums. I’ve posted about the Deutches Historisches Museum and The Stasi Museum, both of which I loved, and the Museum für Kommunikation, which I was not impressed with, but featuring just 3 of the 180 museums the city has to offer (so I read recently) in 8 months isn’t representative of the cultural options available here.
When I woke up to grey skies and threatening clouds it seemed fated that I should go to the Museum für Naturkunde, as it had been recommended to me the previous evening.
Walking into the museum you are immediately greeted by The World of Dinosaurs exhibition and the impressive skeleton of a Brachiosaurus, looming over you at a height of more than 13 metres.
Just the right kind of thing to fire up a visitor’s enthusiasm and inspire awe in children and adults alike.
For me though, the highlight of the museum was walking around The Wet Collections. According to the Museum für Naturkunde website there are:
around one million zoological objects – from spiders, fish and crustaceans to amphibians and mammals – in 276,000 vials, preserved in 81,880 litres of ethanol.
The collections have only been on display to the public since September 2010 when they were moved to a state of the art storage and display area in the newly renovated East Wing of the museum.
If you’d like to see more photos of The Wet Collections check out this post on überlin.
A special exhibition, Elefantenreich – Eine Fossilwelt in Europa (Land of the Elephants – A Fossil World in Europe) was another high point for me, though I mistakenly assumed that I was fascinated by a Mammoth.
Amongst the other exhibits that impressed me were the multimedia installation about the origins of the universe, viewed from below by visitors lying on a round sofa, in The Cosmos and Solar System.
An impressive collection of Minerals and Fossils.
A number of skeletal remains.
And Keller’s Models, a collection of insect models created by Alfred Keller for the museum between 1930 and 1955.
My only criticisms are that on the day I was there the temperature inside the museum (except for the controlled environment of The Wet Collections) was way too high and I feel that the layout could be made to flow better. There were some collections currently off limits and others under construction so these may remedy that problem.
Apart from those minor gripes, I really enjoyed my time in the Museum für Naturkunde and would recommend a visit, especially to those looking for a rainy day activity with children.
This week on my wanders in Berlin I saw a number of Stolpersteine, pictures of which have been added to the gallery here.
Machle Dubinsky (Rosenthaler Strasse 19); Walter Rosenthal, Alice Rosenthal, Eva Rosenthal and Siegfried Rosenthal (Kantstrasse 132); Julius Tauber and Erna Ewer (Kantstrasse 121-120); Ellen Cahen and Frida Levy (Xantener Strasse 20); Vera Nathan, Adolph Welsch and Leonhard Holz (Ludwigkirchplatz 12).
You can read more about the origins of these touching memorials to the victims of National Socialism created by artist Gunter Demnig in my first post about Stolpersteine.
As well as being an oasis of calm in the heart of Berlin and a great place to lay in the grass and catch some sun, the Tiergarten is home to two of my favourite outdoor drinking spots in Berlin.
Walking around such a huge park can be very thirsty work and the Biergärten (Beer Gardens) of Schleusenkrug and Café am Neuen See are great places to have a beer by the water.
Schleusenkrug is just a short walk from Tiergarten or Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn stations and alongside the fences of the Berlin Zoo.
As well as serving great beer (I like the Veltins here) there is a kitchen and barbecue grill serving sausages and some traditional German dishes.
Those customers lucky enough to get a seat by the Landwehrkanal can watch boats negotiating the locks after which the Biergarten was named.
The one drawback of the location is the proximity of the rail tracks, which means that the peace is broken by passing trains.
Café am Neuen See
Café am Neuen See is a larger Biergarten and gets its name from its position on the banks of the Neuer See (New Lake), where you can work up a thirst by rowing a boat.
Löwenbräu is my drink of choice here and, though I haven’t eaten them, the stonebaked pizzas look and smell great and there is a restaurant in addition to the Biergarten.
You can walk from one Biergarten to the other with the Zoo on one side and the Landwehrkanal on the other. You even have a view into some of the animal enclosures and can see the Llamas for example.
The trees at both Schleusenkrug and Café am Neuen See are strung with lights so that the drinking can continue into the night.
And I wasn’t the only one.
Some people chose a spot on the banks of the canal and were absorbed in a book, others lay in the grass in one of the many open spaces, entwined in the arms of a lover, but everyone was enjoying the relative peace in the heart of the city.
But the Tiergarten is such a large park that even on a hot summer’s day when everyone has the same idea and people flock here it doesn’t feel overcrowded.
The name Tiergarten (Animal Park) comes from the park’s previous life as the hunting ground of the electors of Brandenburg when it was fenced off and stocked with deer and other animals. It was Friedrich II (Friedrich der Grosse) who decided to turn the park over to the people of Berlin.
Some of the statues in the park hint at its history.
And there are many more statues in the Tiergarten – likenesses of poets, philosophers, composers and politicians and a memorial to Karl Liebknecht who was murdered there.
I was so taken by the Bismarck Memorial that I think I will devote a whole post to it soon.
It is hard to believe walking along the park’s leafy paths or enjoying its shady spots that almost all of the trees here were chopped down to be used as firewood in the aftermath of World War II.
There’s no shortage of water in the park either. The Landwehrkanal and the River Spree both run through it and those eager to get out on the water can row a boat on the Neuer See.
As the park is so vast, walking here in hot weather generates a thirst but the Tiergarten is home to two of my favourite Berlin Biergartens but more of them here.
This is one of those places that has something for everyone.
There’s even a section for devotees of Freikörperkultur (free body culture to those in the know – or getting naked to the rest of us), which you can read more about on Travels of Adam.
And as with everywhere in Berlin, the Tiergarten is full of surprises, such as this tree, into which, the lyrics of Ben E King’s Stand By Me have been carved.
I have added this photo of a pair of Stolpersteine that I saw in Berlin in the last week to my photo gallery here.
These stumble stones were laid in memory of Arthur Wiener and Pauline Wiener (Herrfurthstrasse 5).
My first post about Stolpersteine explains the background to these memorials to the victims of National Socialism created by artist Gunter Demnig.
As a currywurst fan I would have gone anyway but the sensationalist headlines in the papers about the ‘family feud’ that led to its opening certainly added to the intrigue.
Ziervogel’s Kult-Curry is owned and operated by Mario Ziervogel and his wife, Viola. The name Ziervogel may not mean much to you but his grandfather’s name, Max Konnopke, may ring some bells. Chances are, if you’ve read a Berlin guidebook, you’ve heard of Konnopke’s Imbiss.
Any comment on the dispute between Waltraud Ziervogel, the current owner of Konnopke’s Imbiss and her son, Mario, would be pure conjecture on my part (for all I know it could be a brilliant marketing ploy), as everything I know I’ve found out second hand.
So, onto the currywurst.
I had my first taste of the food at Ziervogel’s Kult-Curry on the second day of trading when the cards, flowers, balloons and other gifts from well-wishers were laid out on a table in the Imbiss.
In a similar vein to Curry 66, Mario Ziervogel has decided to give customers a choice of sauces of varying spiciness. The sauces available are:
On my first visit I chose the ‘Scharf’ sauce and my first impressions were that the taste and quality of the meal were very similar to Konnopke’s – the sausage was tasty, the sauce lightly spiced but slightly sweet and the chips delicious. Which is what you’d expect when the owner spent so long preparing and serving the currywurst there.
As Konnopke’s has established such a reputation for serving good currywurst, that’s certainly no bad thing.
On my second visit I went one hotter and had the ‘Sehr Scharf’ and this is where the two Imbiss differ. There was a marked increase in the spiciness of the sauce and for those who like a little kick to their food that’s a definite bonus.
I also like that this new Imbiss has an indoor counter and dining space and the service is very warm (as you would expect from a newly opened business but, hopefully, long may it continue).
Time will tell if this will be enough to gain Ziervogel’s Kult-Curry the cult following Konnopke’s Imbiss has and its owner plainly seeks.
I posted photos of a couple of the CLET street sign interventions I have seen in Berlin recently on my Facebook page and they were well received so I thought I’d write a post about the artist.
CLET (Clet Abraham) is based in Florence but comes originally from Brittany. He is most well known for his subtle art, which involves the manipulation of a street sign. For me, this is Street Art at its best. It is clever and witty and encourages people to pay more attention to their surroundings. Perhaps most important of all, it brings a smile to the faces of those lucky enough to see it.
Not everyone enjoys these alterations as much as me. In October CLET received a €400 fine and according to an article on the Berliner Zeitung website (in German) posted on his Facebook page, German police are not appreciative of his Street Art in Berlin.