Executive summary by darmansjah
The turn of the 21st century saw Berlin’s inexhaustibly rich art collections shuffled, reorganized, and regrouped. Today, the city is once again firmly established as one of the world’s premier cultural capitals. Of Berlin’s array of more than 170 museums, the Gemäldegalerie’s (Picture Gallery) unrivaled compilation is in a class all its own for the breadth and depth of its collection of European masterpieces from the 13th to the 18th centuries. No fewer than 20 Rembrandts make up one gallery alone.
Lovers of antiquities could spend days on the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) in the middle of the River Spree, a cache of five museums whose lodestone is the Pergamonmuseum, built exclusively to house the colossal 2nd-century b.c. Pergamon Altar, a 40-foot-high colonnaded Greek temple, discovered in Turkey in 1864 and brought here in 1902. Reopened in 2009 with soaring new spaces and classical frescoes marked with bullets from World War II, the Neues Museum houses the Egyptian collection and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History. Its star attraction is the sublime bust of Nefertiti, created well over 3,000 years ago.
Berliners insist that their dynamic city is no longer all about die Mauer (the Wall), but its fragments reveal just how far the once-divided metropolis has come. Erected in 1961 and torn down in 1989, the Wall once measured 29 miles long and 13 feet high. Some protected sections have been left standing and designated as historic landmarks. Nearly a mile long, the East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the wall and the world’s largest open-air gallery. Covering the dull concrete slabs are striking reminders of the former regime in more than 100 murals and graffiti, including images of Trabant cars, a symbol of the failed East Germany. The cluttered Mauer Museum (Museum of the Wall), a touristy mock-up of the former Checkpoint Charlie, is still fascinating for its tales of spectacular escapes and tragically failed attempts. Visit the more poignant Berlin Wall Memorial for the Chapel of Reconciliation, which commemorates the men and women shot while trying to escape into West Berlin; climb into the museum’s watchtower to view the former “death strip.” The adventurous can hike or bike the 100-mile-long Berlin