mardi, août 26, 2008

Luis and the Ishtar Gate

Sounds like the name of a video game, eh?

Well, after getting up sometime late and taking care of my blogging needs (so to speak), I got ready to head out for some museum-ing. You see, last weekend as I hung out with Fantômette, she complained about not seeing enough museums and other touristic destinations while spending nearly 2 months in Berlin and I realized that I had done about the same. So the theme for this week is: “Hit as many museums as possible while also going to nightclubs and preparing to move to Paris and perhaps also finally signing on an apartment.” It seems doable, no?

Anyway, I headed off to the Pergamon Museum first, which holds Germany’s Near-Eastern and Middle-Eastern collections (mostly the spoils of their complicated colonial-era relationship with the Ottoman Empire). The main highlights of the museum are the Pergamon Altar, the Ishtar Gate, the Market Gate of Miletus, the Fortress Wall of Mshatta, and the Aleppo Room. In addition, Pergamon was hosting an exhibit on Babylon called “Babylon: Mythos und Wahrheit” (Babylon: Myth and Truth), which seemed to be getting good reviews.

Once I got to the museum, I remembered one of the reasons why I don’t do touristy things very often: tourists fucking annoy me. I was in line, waiting to get my ticket, while a loud South-German family of 6 yelled at each other about something while the kids ran about screaming and bumping into people. In front of me was a group of embarrassingly American tourists, dressed in the typical “ugly tourist” uniforms (although with creepy and preachy Christian Evangelical t-shirts instead of Bermuda shirts), complaining about how things are better in the USofA. And by the time I got to the front of the line, I was rummaging through my bag, trying to find something sharp enough to inflict pain and put an end to this.

Once inside, though, it was lovely. The price of the ticket included one of those audio guide thingys, the English version of which had a rather supercilious British narrator, but it was still rather informative. Upon entering the museum, the first thing you hit is the Pergamon Altar which is this massive structure that used to be a temple of sorts in Pergamon, Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). The impressive part of the whole thing is that the building was wrapped in a series of sculpted friezes that portray the gods fighting with giants, as well as the origin story of Pergamon’s founder, Telephos.

From there, I headed to the southern wing of the building and through the Miletus Market Gate, which was being restored but could still be seen through the scaffolding. It was a pretty impressive piece of Roman architecture.

As you passed through the gate, you came into another room which had the Ishtar Gate. This was perhaps one of the most impressive items in the collection, towering at least three stories and wrapping around the entryway and down the hall. These were the blue cobalt-glazed tiles the covered the entryway and corridor to the king’s throne hall in Babylon, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. The tiles also include a series of animals in relief: dragons to represent Marduk, the city’s patron God; lions to represent the goddess Ishtar, and bulls to represent another protector god that is less certain.

The “Reality” portion of the Babylon special exhibit was here, bringing together Babylonian collections from the Louvre and the British Museum as well as the Pergamon’s own items. The whole thing took a good two hours to tour in detail, and included lots of the standard descriptive / archival information on the life and times of Bablyon.

On the other side of the building, above the Greek collections, was the “Myth” portion of the special exhibit. There, they had put together a series of rooms addressing various myths associated with Bablyon and their persistence in more recent history. For example, there was a room that held several Renaissance paintings of the Tower of Babel, several medieval books retelling the myth, and sketches from Fritz Lang’s futurist film Metropolis, the subject of which was sometimes called a futurist tower of Babel. There were similar rooms on the Madness of Nebuchadnezzar, the Whore of Babylon, Babylon as Sin-City, Semiramis, the fall of Babylon and the Confusion of Tongues.

After all of that, I headed over to the Islamic Art section to admire the arabesque detail of the works on display, and especially to gawk at the huge chunk of a decorated fortress façade from Mshatta. Also, there was a beautiful and intricate room paneled in wood inlay from a wealthy merchant in Aleppo.

By the time I made it out of there, it was already almost 18h00, and there was no way I was going to make it to my next destination (Hamburger Bahnhof for the Wolfgang Tillmans retrospective), so I took a walk along Unter den Linden. I had been planning to go out with my roommate and his girlfriend for dinner, but I wasn’t getting any phone calls, until I looked at my phone and realized that it was still on silent mode from when I was in the museum. Actually, he had called twice. When I tried to call back, my battery died. Dammit.

I managed to fire up the phone long enough to get his number, and then I called him from a phone booth. They were already sitting down to eat at a Moroccan place near Rosenthaler Platz, so I ran over and joined them for dinner. Delicious!

After getting home from dinner, I was getting ready to turn in for the night when a friend told me he was getting out of an art show near Club der Visionäre and was up for a drink. So I got myself together again, hopped on my loaned bike, and zipped over there. I tell ya, if it wasn’t for the shitty, shitty weather this past month, I’d be biking everywhere. It’s so much quicker than public transit, at least for shorter distances.

Anyway, drinks at CdV were fun and relaxing and I managed to make it home and into bed before 1am, which is something of an accomplishment.

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