And so that's the four of us in front of the Berlin Cathedral. 柏林 because it has been the most speak-chinese-intensive five days of my life. ok it's good. To think that the things I've gained most from my exchange trip here to Lund is:
1. Speaking Mandarin.
3. Live a humane life.
ANYWAY. Berlin's a great city. I can't imagine how long this post is going to be. It'll hopefully end before you guys get too bored.
A while back, when still in Singapore, I heard a discussion over BBC radio about how Berliners were grumpy people who are not exactly very friendly to the tourists and stuff. I still don't know how true that is. The Berliners we met on the trip were friendly, at least by Singaporean standards. (except for this security guy who totally ticked us off for being 10 mins late for a tour.) Anyway, yes I do like Berlin, as a tourist. I feel that it has a very balanced mix of everything, of culture and sub-culture, of historical richness and contemporary appeal. We can look at old buildings, new buildings, we can shop, stroll or enjoy art. I'm pretty much all praises.
I think it all started with our wonderful youth hostel:
Probably one of the cleanest, funkiest around. They've got pretty much everything. The four of us had a room to ourselves, complete with a sparkling clean bathroom, 4 individual lockers and a mini table set where we played cards. And the provided bed sheets came in sealed plastic bags. My mum would be totally pleased. And yes. I had indomie for dinner. It's not sad. It's a delicacy. I think Berlin is generally very backpacker friendly. (I had a terrible time trying to find a place to stay in London. Maybe because this Berlin hostel has already set quite some standards. )
Our first day was a mad-walking day. We covered a whole lot of attractions, only because they were situated in a convenient straight path. By the end of the day we were really almost legless zombies. So here's the roll of pictures.
First was Norman Foster's famous Reichstag parliament building. I didn't expect myself to be at all impressed by the building because I've seen so much of it in pictures. But I would have to say that I was still awed by the space inside. It's almost functionless. Yet how often does a contemporary building like that attract so much people who are willing to stand and wait in a queue for an hour at least just to take a look at it?
Norman Foster ah Norman Foster.. why did you build Berlin such an impressive dome but planted a spaceship in Singapore???
We continued walking, past the famous Berlin gate, to Frank Gehry's DZ Bank. We agreed that it looks like a pig's flared nostrils. I, really don't understand the concept behind it but well, it's quirkiness grants it some merits. And yes, I wish he had won the competition for Sentosa Resorts World. I think it'll be amazing to see a Frank Gehry work in the so-rational Singapore.
Okay I've totally forgotten what building this is. It's some kind of a art house. Argh what is it.
Peter Eisenman's Holocaust memorial. This one, I probably would have been more impressed if I haven't seen so much of it in pictures.
We had hot dogs for lunch of course. It was fat, tender and piping hot. Definitely tasty.
And ahhh.. Mies Van der rohe's new national gallery. Two years ago, I was at Mie's Barcelona Pavilion. I hadn't really been able to appreciate it. I remembered that the security guard at Barcelona Pavilion retorted "ahh it's just some building" when asked what building that is. 3 years later, I'm at another of Mies Van der rohe's work. Just look at it. Built in 1962, and it looks as if it's been there for only 2 years.
We also walked to the Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall to check out their concerts. and so sadly the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra was in new york. how sad. haha.
Equally tiring. We visited a couple of places. But allow me to babble about my favorite building of this trip.. I. M. Pei's extension to the Deutsches Historisches Museum! We paid the museum entry fee only to spend 2 hours walking around I.M. Pei's extension and a mere half an hour on the extremely elaborate (and very overwhelming) exhibits on Germany's History starting from the Middle Ages.
So here's I.M. Pei's extension. (for the benefit of non archi people. I.M.Pei's a renowned Chinese born, American educated architect who designed the Gateway building and Raffles City in Singapore. and the pyramids in Louvre, Paris)
He implemented his favourite triangles on the plan of the extension. It was deliberate, yet un-noticed. And the building is designed to the smallest details. The stairs, the concrete formwork. Not so sure how much of it was I.M.Pei the starchitect's efforts but I like it still.
Okay yes. this is an insanely long entry.
Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Crazy use of glass.
The Jewish Museum, honestly quite disappointed. At least I was informed by jere and elaine that it didn't impress. Yea it didn't. I think it looks good only in pictures. Well ok to be fair, the exhibition was again very elaborate. The thing that impressed me was the use of the brand new MAC magic mouse on their computers, the I-pods that were used as audioguides and my sennheiser earphones. Very well funded indeed.
The Philological Library. That fateful library. We were gambling on our luck that day because we realized that it might not be open since it's a Sunday. It was a pretty rough day for us. We were bumping into a series of pure bad luck. Going to the wrong station, the train that went forward and then backwards, walking towards the opposite direction while looking for the library. Everything seems to tell us that the library is closed and we've wasted 2 hours just trying to get to that place. ( it isn't that far. took so long only because of all the mishaps) but FINALLY, we landed yet again on another of Norman Foster's spaceship. It turned out pretty interesting at least. Worth all the effort just trying to get there.
It's just too bad that the reconciliation church was closed. It was built to commemorate the old church that stood in the same grounds before it was torn down because it was situated on a no-man's land between east and west Berlin. We passed by some parts of the Berlin Wall on the first day and I did feel pretty sad just seeing it and thinking about the city's historical past. Berlin seems like a city that has been scarred so much by its past and yet it's such a thriving, lively city today. The rest of the day was spent shopping at Alexanderplatz, visiting the Parliament again (to see it at night), and enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee (ironically at Starbucks) by the Berlin Gate which was a very nice relief to the rainy weather.
Day and night:
A tour to the Dutch Embassy by Rem Koolhaas. As mentioned earlier. The grumpy security guy who 'marked' our attendance was so mad that we were 10 minutes late. It was a total misjudgment of distance on our part.
To me, the building was like a realization of one of our fala-lala concepts we come up with in architecture school. The spaces conceived are really interesting. But the intention of Koolhaas to design this ramp thing that spirals from ground floor to top floor as a means to encourage interaction between the public and the working people doesn't exactly work (according to the guide) in practical terms. But yea it's pretty cool still.
The last stop was the Contemporary Art Museum, housed in the old central station.
They have really out-of-this-world queer exhibits, some inspiring, some downright eerie.
I was gonna upload some videos but it couldn't work somehow.
Woah. This is such an architecture-intensive entry. I'm surprised with myself. Since when was I so ever into it.