Berlin is definitely not a city short on museums. I like to think I've been to all of them at some point, but in gathering photographs for this blog post I discovered there is even a Museum für Kommunication (Postal Museum). Just look at all of the colorful mailboxes they have there! I've also never been to the Technisches Museum (Technical Museum), though maybe I'll be spared that one since I have daughters and not sons. Anyway, over the years I've developed a definite fondness for several museums and have gone back again and again. Oddly enough, each of them is housed in a truly amazing building, but then what museum here isn't? Maybe the Postal Museum. I'll check it out and let you know. ;) Ok, here is my little list:
1. Das Museum für Naturkunde (The Museum of Natural History)
Anyone who has read this blog with any kind of regularity is probably saying to themselves "Well, duh!" True, this is not the first time I have blogged about the Naturkundemuseum. It's one of my girl's favorite stomping grounds; indeed, we even went there today which was how I became inspired for this post. The building is colossal and Victorian, filled with train-station-like skylights and wrought iron staircases. The displays are musty and impressive if not somewhat outdated. But hey, Miss Mia already knows the names of all the planets and what they look like (Jupiter is her absolute fav.) When she's learning about the solar system later in grade school she's probably going to roll her eyes and say, "Gawd, that's so 2010!" Did I mention it only costs 5 bucks admission? What more could you ask for.
Martin Gropius Bau (building) was built in 1881 by the architect Martin Gropius, father (I think) of the architect Walter Gropius of Bauhaus fame. The building has revolving exhibits, usually charging different admission prices for the one upstairs and the one downstairs (or a combi card, of course.) One of the best exhibitions I've ever seen was held there in 2000. It was called Sieben Hügel (Seven Hills) and it took seven different concepts (core, jungle, space, civilization, belief, knowledge and dreams) and explored them through art, noise, light, object and room design. Truly mind-blowing (obviously since I remember it ten years later.) I've seen many good exhibitions there since, though none in particular come to mind. Recently they had a Frieda Kahlo exhibition which was nearly impossible to get into (a four hour wait to buy tickets I heard.) I would have to be a pretty hardcore fan to wait four hours for anything, so I didn't go. Frieda Kahlo was definitely a very interesting person, but I've never really been all that impressed with her work. As a good friend of mine said, "In the end, it's just a whole lot of chick with a uni-brow."
3. Das Ethnologische Museum (The Ethnological Museum)
One of the world's biggest museums for ethnology, the ethnological museum is housed in leafy Dahlem on the campus of Die Freie Universität (The Free University), founded by us Amis for Berliners after the war. The museum is across the street from the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies which, by the way, has the most amazingly kick-ass library and, no, you don't have to be a student to use it. The museum is in a beautiful 1960s building and is separated into several wings: Asian (lots of pottery and kimonos), South Seas (scary masks, shrunken heads and full-sized boats), Native American (tee-pees, headdresses, and one full-sized horse), just to name a few. They have a pretty amazing Voodoo exhibition going on right now. I went there yesterday with the babies (lots of rain these days=lots of museums...) You go under a blue curtain to this dark maze they built with particle board walls. Inside are lots of life-sized (or, rather, people sized...) statues of spirits and demons. Definitely interesting, but not exactly toddler-fare (some of it even spooked me out.) When we were finished, Miss Mia said, "Mama, I don't want to go back to that museum until I am older." If you do go to the museum you definitely need to also go to the Dahlem Dorf U-Bahn station around the corner. Dahlem (part of the district of Zehlendorf) is quiet and affluent, filled with impressive villas and an older, academic crowd (not many students actually live there), but the benches at the train station are in the style of the museum. They look like African art, some of them with fairly impressive breasts and watch out or you may end up sitting a large wooden penis (no lie.)
*Disclaimer: My absolute favorite museum is still C/O Berlin, the museum for contemporary photography, but I'm heartbroken that they will be moving out of the Postfuhramt building. The Postfuhramt was the post office of the Kaiser (emperor) and the building is gorgeous and in a decadent state of post DDR decay. They will be kicked out come March because the owners probably want to make it into some trendy Vietnamese fusion restaurant or something. I'm sure they will also renovate the building to death until it's lost nearly all its charm. The area around Oranienburgerstrasse has been irritatingly touristy for a long time, but without C/O Berlin or Tacheles (renegade art squat that is also loosing its lease), it will be a lost cause. Don't even bother going there (though Dada Falafel is still pretty damn good!)