Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Museum Island

Berlin has over 200 museums - so even for a local it would be a daunting task to visit all of them. Good thing is some of the best museums are all conveniently located in one place - the Museum Island. Here you will find 5 museums - the Altes Museum, Pergammon Museum, Neues Museum, Bold Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie.

 The Museum Island is surrounded by the River Spree.

With limited time - one has to be very selective in choosing which museum to visit. If you can only visit 2 or 3 - then my top list would be Pergammon Museum, Altes Museum and Neues Museum.

There are many entry points onto the Museum Island - but the most prominent would be through the Lustgarten - a large park fronting the Altes Museum. To the North of the Park is the Berliner Dom - the famous 19th Century Cathedral of Berlin.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Dinner at Lindenbrau

There are many restaurants inside the Sony Centre including even Chinese or Asian. But we were looking for German food and ended up in one of the brewery restaurants - Lindenbrau. The Germans love their beer and many of the traditional German restaurants are beer houses. Once you enter Lindenbrau you are confronted with their mini-brewery which takes centre stage. It features a sterling silver brew kettle that is impressive to behold. The restaurant is quite big with 3 floors of dining space.

On the menu are the main German staples - and we ordered the Weiner Schnitzel, Berlin Style Pork Knuckle and a clear soup with liver dumpling. The soup was very good - it has a strong and rich flavour. The dumpling was like a meatball - the texture was a bit too mushy to our liking.

The Weinar Schnitzel was impressively large - it was bigger then the plate ! The batter was quite light and not oily. The veal was tender but very mild in flavour - in fact pork would probably be better. The potato salad that accompanied the schnitzel was very good.

The Pork Knuckle was also impressively large. The skin was not as crispy as we had hoped - but the meat was tender and juicy.

Of course we had to try the beer also - and it was light and refreshing - easily better then anything we can get back home.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Berlin State Library

Another of Hans Scharoun's projects is just across the road from the Philharmonie - the Berlin State Library. This is a very big library building - in fact one of the largest libraries in Europe.  It was completed in 1978 after 11 years of construction.

The library building showcases many of the signature design touches of Hans Scharoun. Externally it may look like just a big boxy building - but once you go inside you begin to appreciate the many layers of spaces which welcomes the visitor to meander through the building. Scharoun likes to give the user multiple choices to navigate the space - providing a sense of freedom that is missing from Classical axial planning.

The surprising bursts of colours brings delight and warmth to the building.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Berlin Philharmonie

The Berlin Philharmonie is one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Berlin. It is a seminal building by an often overlooked Modernist master - Hans Scharoun. After its completion in 1963 - it has consistently been ranked one of the best concert halls in Europe - and remains the home of the highly regarded Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Hans Scharoun's design for the concert hall was truly ground breaking. No building before or after looks like it - and after some many years it still looks fresh and extremely modern.

It is amazing that the complex shapes and forms were conceived and built before the age of computers and CAD-CAM. Most of it must have been built by hand - in fact you can see the imprint of the timber formwork on the concrete - the formworks were so skillfully constructed they left such beautiful textures on the structure.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Berlin Wall

No visit to Berlin would be complete without a trip to the Berlin Wall. It was constructed from 1961 to 1989 by the East Germans to separate East and West Berlin. When the wall came down in November 1989 - it was a moment of global celebration and jubilation. It is ironic that now President Trump wants to build a wall between USA and Mexico. How times have changed.

Today parts of the Wall have been preserved to serve as a memorial to the Cold War between the East and the West. There are different sections of the Wall in different parts of the City so you should do your research before heading out - or you could end up in disappointment. If you want to see the section with all the street art - head over to the East Side Gallery. Here artists from all over the World have been invited to paint the walls - and there are over 100 large scale paintings covering this 1,316 long section of the Wall. This must be the longest open air art gallery in the World - and it is free !

The most famous painting is The Kiss - a painting of the fraternal kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German President Erich Honecker by Soviet artist Dmitri Vrubel. Somehow the painting has a strange hold on the viewer. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Currywurst

One of the most common street foods you can find in Berlin is the currywurst. It is basically a fried sausage served with a spicy ketchup - usually with fries on the side. We arrived in Berlin in the morning and after wandering around in Potsdarmer Platz for a while our tummies were crying out for some food. The Arkaden Shopping Arcade - designed by Renzo Piano - is one of the main shopping centres in the area and at the basement level there was a fast food stall selling currywurst and also pork burgers. We had to give it a try.

The currywurst was a large sausage which came drenched in the spicy ketchup. The taste of the ketchup is quite strong and overpowered the taste of the sausage. I would have preferred the sausage without the sauce.

We also couldn't resist ordering the ham. The ham was slice quite thick and served with fried potatoes and sauerkraut. This was actually much better then the currywurst - the ham was tender and tasty, and the sauerkraut was a welcome relieve to the richness of the pork. The fried potatoes were also very good.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Berlin 2016 - Sony Centre

During their heydays, Japanese corporations were a formidable force in real estate developments all over the World. The 2nd larget plot in Potsdamer Platz went to Sony - who built their European headquarters on the triangular site. This is also one of the most striking buildings in Potsdamer Platz - with its soaring conical tent roof covering a huge central atrium space. The shape of the roof was supposedly inspired by Mount Fuji. the complex was designed by German Architect Helmut Jahn.

The central atrium is an awe-inspiring space.  The sheer size of it and the complicated yet elegant support structure for the roof is truly impressive.

The Sony Centre looks even better at night when the roof is lighted up in ever changing colours.