Berlin's Island of Museums ; in the Pergamon Museum, My Mouth Dropped Open in Awe

By Judy Lowe writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

Berlin's Island of Museums ; in the Pergamon Museum, My Mouth Dropped Open in Awe


Judy Lowe writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


What a welcome delight for foot-weary travelers - seven top cultural attractions gathered on an island within easy hailing distance of one another.

Not that King Friedrich Wilhelm III was thinking of tourists and coach tours in the early 1800s when he asked painter and architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel to design a suitable repository for the royal art collection.

The impressive neoclassic building, now known as the Altes Museum (Old Museum), found a home on Berlin's Insel Colin, in the River Spree. It was within walking distance of the palace - although one assumes that the king instead rode in a royal coach across Schlossbrucke (Palace Bridge), also designed by Schinkel, at the end of Unter den Linden street.

Today's visitors should definitely go by foot. After all, royal carriages aren't much in evidence in what used to be East Berlin. Besides, the short stroll makes it all the easier to admire the bridge's impressive ornamentation and the groupings of marble statues depicting Greek warriors plying their trade.

Since the king had more treasures to show off, the Neues (New) Museum opened its doors nearby 25 years later. Eventually, another museum was added about every quarter-century until 1930.

By this time, the island - one of the oldest settlements in the area, dating back to the early 13th century - was being called Museuminsel (Museum Island).

Some of the museums suffered damage in World War II, and most were neglected by the East German government, so all have been undergoing renovation the past few years. At any time, one or more may be closed for construction. While that could be a problem for those who had their hearts set on seeing a particular piece of art, it won't matter as much to the ordinary visitor. …

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