I walked into the Jewish Museum in Berlin today and was surprised to see metal detectors akin to an airport. I have been in many museums on this trip and have never seen such security before.
Hmmm, I thought to myself, perhaps something of interest to the readers of Polish Ham. I mean, don't you think that it is interesting that there is so much security in the Jewish museum in modern day Germany? I took my camera out of my pocket and snapped a quick picture.
Suddenly, everything went haywire. Security men were yelling and pointing at me. I was surrounded. People were yelling at me in German. And then finally a man in English said, 'Show me the picture you took.'
I showed it to him, and said 'I am sorry. I did not know.' I flashed him the picture, of someone walking through the metal detector, and erased it.
'Show me again,' he said.
'I erased it already!' I said, and to prove my point, I showed him all the pictures from yesterday including about five versions of 'I love Dan' spelled out in cookies.
'Okay, okay,' he said, letting me go. I was horribly embarassed. What was I thinking? I walked around nervously in circles and wondered if now I was being watched.
Agitated, I waited on line for the audio tour, and it took so long that I walked away. Went inside the musuem, which was creatively designed by Daniel Libeskind. There seemed to be lots of long hallways. I wasn't sure where to go and found myself first at this memorial for Holocaust victims, which was really stunning. It was in this isolated dark grey corner, and on the floor were thousands of thick pieces of metal shaped like faces. The faces looked simple at first, almost like cut out faces, but if you looked closer, the faces each had individual characteristics, the expressions filled with anguish. You were encouraged to walk over the floor of faces and when you did they emitted a loud clanging that sounded very eerie in that big quiet room. It was a powerful experience.
I walked out of there a little perplexed, still a little anxious, and began walking through the permanent exhibit, which was a hodgepodge of Jewish history, mementoes, artwork, biographies and interactive displays. I felt completely confused by the structure of the museum and the flow of the exhibit until half way through I saw a bunch of arrows on the floor facing the opposite direction. I was walking through the exhibit backwards.
I shrugged it off. It was just going to be one of these days. I learned in reverse everything there is to know, including seeing the other two abstract memorials, which did not impact me as much as the first one did.
I left the museum into the cold pouring rain, where I got all wet and realized I was heading the wrong way, so I walked back to the museum and the rain stopped. After a quick bite to eat, I trotted to the Topography of Terror, on recommendation of my hosts, which is an outdoor exhibit that talks about the structure and crimes of the SS during the Nazi era. The exhibit stands in the place where the headquarters once stood, where they planned all the strategies of terror and destruction including the extermination of the Jews. It is strange to think that people sat around and discussed and planned this, it did not just happen spontaneously. I was half way through the exhibit, cold as anything, squinting at the words as the sun went down, and then they kicked me out because they were closing. Oh well.
Walked through more rain and then I decided to get some warmth by going ontop of the Reichstag, the parliament building here. It is a traditional grand-looking place, however, on the top of the building is a glass sphere that was designed by Norman Foster, the same person who designed building where I used to work. You can go to the top and walk through a spiralling ramp that gives you views of the architecture and of the city. I did not take pictures at this security checkpoint (there were signs telling me not too--and I would expect to see security at a government building). But I was dismayed to find that there was no heat in the sphere (you could actually go outside) so I went in and out rather quickly, taking some fun pictures of the different shapes and designs.
I came back to the apartment wet, cold, exhausted, cranky, embarassed to tell my Philipp and Christina how I made a fool of myself in their country. (They laughed). Ada was going to bed, but she was so excited to see me, wiggling around and saying da da da over and over. After hearing about day (oh, the horrors!), Christina came up with the brilliant idea for me to take a bath. She even drew the water and let me choose the bath salts. It was just what I needed. And then they fed me dinner.
Floor of faces at the Jewish museum.
Sphere ontop of the Reichstag.
Inside the sphere.
View of the parliament meeting room. See blue chairs.