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East Berlin
East Berlin
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Museumsinsel
Museumsinsel
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The Museumsinsel is an island in the Spree River, on which several museums have been situated. Or, to be more accurate, the Museumsinsel is the north half of this island. The south half is known as Fischerinsel, a reference to a fishing community that once lived there. Older buildings covered Fischerinsel well into the 20th Century, and it was something of a tourist attraction prior to World War II. The old buildings actually survived the war reasonably well, but they did not survive the communist German Democratic Republic, which bulldozed them in 1964 to make way for high-rise residences. Which brings up the fact that the entire island is well east of the path of the former Berlin Wall. This means that its museums were not accessible to most westerners for more than four decades.

The principal museums on the Museumsinsel, and the years in which they first opened, are as follows:
  • The Altes Museum, or Old Museum (1830)
  • The Neues Museum, or New Museum (1859), actually the second-oldest museum on the island (but newer than the Altes Museum)
  • The Alte Nationalgalerie, or Old National Gallery (1876)
  • The Bode Museum, named for curator Wilhelm von Bode (1904)
  • The Pergamon Museum, named for the ancient Pergamon Altar from Asia Minor, which was brought from Turkey and rebuilt within the museum (1930)
Over the years, the museums have undergone changes to their names and collections. The Altes Museum now displays classical antiquities, the Alte Nationalgalerie houses a collection of 19th Century artworks, and the Bode Museum has a mixed collection of sculptures, paintings, coins and medals. We didn’t visit these museums. But we did visit the Pergamon Museum, which will be discussed in more detail in a future web page, and the Neues Museum, which is the subject of this one.


Neues Museum

Neues Museum
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The collection of the Neues Museum (noy-ess) consists mainly of ancient Middle Eastern and European artifacts, with an emphasis on things from Egypt. Its most famous piece is a 3300-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti. The Egyptian government has repeatedly requested the return of the bust to Egypt, and many Egyptians maintain that it was acquired by the Germans through underhanded means in 1913. But the Germans maintain otherwise, and for now the bust remains in Berlin. Of the many objects in the Neues Museum, the Nefertiti bust is the one item that visitors are not allowed to photograph. The bust is located by itself in a small room, and is flanked by museum guards who enforce this restriction. But photographs are easily found on the Internet, and here is an artist’s rendering:

Bust of Nefertiti

Bust of Nefertiti
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We got to the Neues Museum by linking up with the S-Bahn (Stadtschnellbahn, or "fast city railway", distinct from the U-Bahn, but with some connecting stations). This took us to the Hackescher Markt station east of the Spree, from which we walked back across a bridge to the island. On the way to the museum, we had a good look at the Alte Nationalgalerie, and at some statues in the courtyard in front of the Neues Museum. We’d heard that tickets to the museum could be difficult to obtain, so we’d purchased ours on-line before leaving the U.S.

Nella on Train

Nella on Train
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Alte Nationalgalerie
Alte Nationalgalerie
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Connie and Statue
Connie and Statue
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The Neues Museum itself was heavily damaged during World War II, and remained closed for the entire second half of the 20th Century, only reopening in October of 2009. There were apparently some architectural elements that could not be restored, but the museum building is still attractive, and is filled with an impressive array of artifacts. As stated above, Egyptian artifacts are in abundance, and here are some of them:

Statue of Amenemhet III
Statue of Amenemhet III (ca. 1840-1800 B.C.)
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Objects and Chairs
Objects and Chairs (ca. 1450 B.C.)
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Ancient Egyptian Painting
Ancient Egyptian Painting
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Sa-Iset and Samut Praying to Sungod
Sa-Iset and Samut Praying to Sungod (1500-1400 B.C.)
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Tomb Relief of Amenhotep III
Tomb Relief of Amenhotep III (ca. 1360 B.C.)
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Royal Couple Nefertiti and Akhenaten
Royal Couple Nefertiti and Akhenaten (ca. 1340 B.C.)
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Offering Chamber of Metjen
Offering Chamber of Metjen
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Walk in the Garden of a Royal Couple
Walk in the Garden of a Royal Couple (ca. 1335 B.C.)
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Offering Bearers and Statue Transport
Offering Bearers and Statue Transport (ca. 1325 B.C.)
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Riy and Wife Maya and Offering Table
Riy and Wife Maya and Offering Table (ca. 1320-1290 B.C.)
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Pillar Fragment: Seti I and Osiris
Pillar Fragment: Seti I and Osiris (ca. 1290 B.C.)
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Prince Khaemwase, Son of King Ramses II
Prince Khaemwase, Son of King Ramses II (ca. 1260 B.C.)
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Family Group of Ptahmai
Family Group of Ptahmai (1250-1200 B.C.)
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Sarcophagus Room
Sarcophagus Room
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Sarcophagus Lid of Djehapimu
Sarcophagus Lid of Djehapimu (746-332 B.C.)
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Sphinx of Shepenupet II
Sphinx of Shepenupet II (ca. 660 B.C.)
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Mummy Case
Mummy Case
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Mummy Case
Mummy Case
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Mummy Masks
Mummy Masks
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Head of King Amasis
Head of King Amasis (ca. 550 B.C.)
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Tomb Treasure - Rings and Bracelet
Tomb Treasure - Rings and Bracelet (1st C.)
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Rings
Rings (1st C.)
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Also on display are some ancient artifacts from the Mediterranean area:

Head of Statue
Head of Statue (Cyprus, 5th C. B.C.)
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Jugs with Decorations
Jugs with Decorations (Cyprus, 8th-6th C. B.C.)
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Reliefs
Reliefs
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Bronze Helmet
Bronze Helmet (Umbria, 4th C. B.C.)
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Xanten Youth

Xanten Youth (Roman, 1st C. A.D.)
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More northern parts of Europe are also represented. The points of origin of some objects are not specifically known. In some cases, objects are copies of originals that were looted during the war and are now on display in Russia.

Ceremonial Gold Hat

Ceremonial Gold Hat (German, ca. 1000 B.C.)
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Statue Room
Statue Room
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Gold Cache
Gold Cache (copies, 9th-8th C. B.C.)
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Other objects would not be considered ancient, and no doubt remain from a time when the museum was less specialized.

Coptic Gravestone
Coptic Gravestone (Byzantine, 805 A.D.)
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Plaster Cast of Gates of Paradise
Plaster Cast of Gates of Paradise, Florence
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Gallery Ceiling

Gallery Ceiling
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From the Neues Museum we proceeded south, and emerged from the cluster of museum buildings, finding ourselves across a grassy area from a cathedral known as the Berliner Dom, our next destination.

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