Berlin: 21st September

I started my first solitary day (after the initial teary goodbye to my mother outside the hostel) with coffee and smoked salmon scrambled eggs at Blaues Band, while sampling the delights of their free wifi. Mr Super-Kool-Ponytail wasn’t there though.

I managed to navigate the U-bahn and made it to the Jewish Museum, which is worth a visit just for the architecture.

The whole building is designed to represent the history of German Jews, down to the 45º slope of the floors.

The ground floor is divided into axes – the Axis of the Holocaust which leads to the Holocaust Tower, the Axis of Exile, which leads to the Garden of Exile and the Axis of Continuity which leads to the main exhibit.

The Holocaust Tower was originally just a void, which was not associated with the Holocaust at all, but over time the meaning has sort of seeped into it. It was completely silent in there, but a small opening in the roof lets you hear some of the sounds of the city.

Next I went into the Garden of Exile, which was a profoundly weird experience. It is a perfect square, with a slanting ground, with 49 columns standing straight up, with olive willows growing out of the top. It’s designed to make you feel slightly sick – which it does. It makes one feel completely isolated, until someone else emerges from behind a column.

At the end of the Axis of Continuity there’s a staircase – which looks short until you’re on it, then it seems to go up forever – which leads to the main exhibit.

Before you go into the main exhibit there’s another void, like the Holocaust tower, which is called the Memory Void. It is an exhibit by Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman called ‘Fallen Leaves’ – 10,000 iron faces covering the floor, representing the victims of the Holocaust. And totally eerie.

The main exhibit itself followed German-Jewish history from its beginnings to post-war. It had so much in it that it was a little overwhelming, but there was some amazing stuff there.

There was this little stand of yamicas  (I honestly have no idea if that’s how you spell it) which were themed, which I found hilarious – here’re some examples:

After the main exhibit, there was a special exhibition of art exploring what it is to be German, which included a couple of really trippy installation pieces:

the office of one of those Micro-nation ‘declare-your-own-country’ things –

and a little waiting room blasting classical music, the entrance to which was a little nondescript door:

also there was this ridiculous ad which I really hope wasn’t government-sponsored

(but also whoever decided to wrap Claudia Schiffer in a German flag is a genius, why did they have to sully it with advertising?)

On the way out I got a good look at the brilliant exterior of the building, which was designed to look like someone had gashed it where the windows are.

On the way back to the hostel I stopped at this über-kool design shop called Schönhauser (probably because it was on Alte Shönhauserstrasse) and bought (after days of deliberation) a hot pink Marx head. Seriously. This one here:

How awesome is that? I couldn’t resist. I may be a little regretful at some point, considering that it is a moderately heavy block of wood that I have to carry in my backpack for another month. But still. HOT PINK MARX HEAD.

I rounded off the day with dinner at – can you guess? Good Morning Vietnam!

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