What makes a museum?

In conversation at the Neues Museum, Berlin

Earlier this year museum visiting the acclaimed Museum Insel in Berlin, I ducked in at the Alte Nationalgalerie. To browse at leisure through it’s rich collection of  Romantic and Impressionist paintings and sculptures.

In the entrance hall, “STOP!!”, commanded a staff member. “All coats MUST be deposited at the cloakroom.”

This essential cloakroom turned out to be a little hole in a wall tucked into one side of the lobby. It’s entrance like the narrow one-man-only corridors in medieval forts. A hassled lady stood behind the desk while groups of excited schoolkids meleed around for their coats and bags.
Feeling from this moment on that this was not the right place to soak in art, I ventured in further nevertheless.

Inside the museum continued in a similar vein. Poorly planned, badly lit, over heated and rudely staffed. Its  Constables and unparalleled collections of German Impressionist painters made it a treasure trove, yet barely half an hour later, I was standing outside.

History and art had lost to the quality of the experience.


Part of me thinking it might just be pleasanter to find a nice Coffee Shop, I walked over next to the Neues Museum. The Neues Museum is located on the same plaza. Standing physically at 90 degrees to the Alte Nationalgalerie. As an experience it proved to be a full 180 degrees different.


“Hallo!” smiled the man at the entrance as he let me into the large foyer.

There I was free to meander and explore.


I joined a stream of happy visitors, engrossed in the Art. Surrounded by priceless statues and objects from ancient Egypt, some of the earliest human creations. Including the exquisite statue of Nefertiti. In terms of importance in art, just this one statue could have perhaps competed with a whole floor of art in the previous Museum.


A couple of hours later, mentally saturated, I still didn’t want to leave. And next time in Berlin I’ll be back there.

So what makes a museum?

Is it the quality of its collections or the quality of the experience?

What is the purpose of a museum?

Is it only to collect and save or is it also to interest and involve?

Does art stored in vaults serve a purpose or is art valuable only when it is viewed, interacted with? When it is loved and appreciated.







The soul of a city

Brandenburg Gate from Pariser Platz.

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A friend once told me, many years ago, a city’s monuments are the visible expression of the soul of its people.  And perhaps no monument speaks for its city more eloquently than Brandenburg  Gate, Berlin.

Built to commemorate peace in the end of the 18th century. With Eirene, the goddess of peace, atop the six pillared structure.The gate became a symbol of victory and triumph first for Napoleon and then the Germans in the early 19th century. Eirene got replaced by Victory with her wreath of oak leaves, a Prussian eagle and the Iron Cross on her lance.

But Peace and Victory seemed very far away during and in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Gate survived but badly damaged. Broken as the city it was a part of . The visual symbol of the state of the soul of the people as the city got brutally divided between East and West. Communism and Capitalism.

postcard 1.jpgNext came the concrete wall right across it. The Gate now isolated. Inaccessible to Berliners and just about everyone else. Even the checkpoint originally positioned there was permanently closed in 1961.

The Wall that divided. (A commercial postcard)

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But it survived and waited for seasons to change again. Standing triumphal once again in 1989. East and West Berliners many related by blood, survivors of many years of a brutally enforced separation reached across. The Brandenburg Gate was the first place where The Wall was broken down. Concrete shard by shard.

The Gate a symbol of the people’s soul again. The people who said ‘One City’.

Today Brandenburg Gate is a pedestrian only area.  Perhaps the most popular landmark in a city of landmarks.

Flirtations of the touristy kind

And as we stood before it mesmerized during the Festival of Lights, it lit up in one breath-taking transformation after another.

If music could be seen, it would have colours like this.
We really do love Berlin!


The mountain that beckoned from the Autobahn

I saw it for the time first time last year, as we drove to Brandenburg, and then again this weekend on our way back from Gotha (which is well worthy of another post). Luckily this time, we had time to go crazily down many winding roads and through small villages. The lady on our car GPS went crazy too. Trying to re-calibrate routes back to its setting for ‘home’!
An half hour later we finally came to The Salzberg (“Salt Mountain”, also known locally as “Monte Kali”) at the Wintershall potash works in Heringen.It dominates the landscape for miles. And naturally so, since the mine is today the world’s biggest potash-mining area and has an area about the same as Greater Munich’s.20140726-Heringen-9.jpg
The strange colour of the mountain comes from the ‘Tailings’ which are extremely fine particles of rock mixed with water during the chemical extraction process. This slug flows down the mountain and giving it a creamy marble like appearance.At the end of World War II, the libraries of the German Army’s Military Geology Unit (Wehrgeologenstellen) and the German Patent Office (Reichspatentamt) were removed from Berlin and secretly stored in the deep Wintershall potash mine in Heringen. There they were discovered by the US Third Army in March 1945, and removed to the US. The German Patent Library was later restored to Germany, but the military geology materials of maps, reports and books, often stolen from other countries during the invasions, were retained by the US as Nazi materiel.[2] Most of these maps and books remain in the US Geological Survey Library today, with an obscure United States Army Corps of Engineers stamp on each that reads “Heringen Collection”.
Thank you Wikipedia for the info I quote here 🙂

Zooming out -Saturday night outings


Yesterday evening we decided to make the most of some fabulous weather we’ve been having and the fact it was a Saturday to drive out to Wetzlar, a small heritage town close to home, for some photography. But a plain blue hour shot was not appealing enough that evening. Instead we experimented with some vertical panning. While I kept the shutter open, Stefan zoomed. Here’s one of the resulting shots.


Here’s where you’ll find me…

A long planned road trip from Vienna to Frankfurt. My first holiday in Europe…

• 22-23 July
– Vienna
• 24 July
– Afternooon leave for Salzburg
• 25th July
– Salzburg
• 26th July
– Early morning drive to Werfen, visit Visit of Giant Ice Caves
– Take the alpine road onto the Großklockner
– Late evening reach to Zell am See
• 27th July
– Visit Swarowski Crystal Tour
– Onwards to „Garmisch-Partenkirchen
• 28th July
– Visit Zugspitze
• 29th July
– Visit Neuschwanstein Castle
– Reach Munich in the evening
• 30 July
– Munich Sightseeing, Beerdrinking & Sausageeating
• 31th July
– After breakfast drive to Frankfurt, depart to SFO