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Berlin and Dresden: A Cultural Tour

Live from the Berlin Philharmonie

Bernard's recent report from Amsterdam was a rich and vivid account of the city's arts culture. So when he followed this with a trip to Germany, we requested that he took notes once again. Here they are…

Our first visit to Berlin began well. Julian could not have found us a better hotel – The Adlon Kempinski, situated on the Avenue Under the Linden Trees, just by the Brandenburg Gate.

The city impressed us for its tidiness and, of course, for its wonderful museums and cultural centres. Our principal reason for going was to fulfil a more than 50-year old ambition: to say hello to Nefertiti. She did not disappoint. In fact, we were so impressed by her that we returned twice more!

There were also many other interesting exhibits to enjoy at the Egyptian Museum, such as the famous Green Head and reliefs of Akhenaton and his family.

We also visited the Pergamon Museum and, although we could not see the Pergamon Altar itself, we were able to enjoy such marvels as the Market Gate at Miletos and the fantastic Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way at Babilonia.

We also saw the Gemäldegalerie. To tell you the truth, we were not favourably impressed by the distribution of this museum, as we had to be constantly going up and down stairs to find places such as cloakrooms, and, moreover, the ticket saleswoman was quite unfriendly. No complaints, though, about the museum's content.

The Brandenberg Gate, Berlin

There was room after room of splendid masterpieces from most, if not all, the major European schools. Among so many wonderful paintings, including some excellent Gainsboroughs and Reynolds, Velázquezs and Murillos, Raphaels, Titians, Tintorettos, Hals and Rembrandts, Holbeins and Van Eycks.

The other outstanding cultural activity of our stay in Berlin was the two concerts at the Philarmonie Concert Hall. The hall itself, while possessing none of the classical beauty of the Amsterdam Concergebouw, is a tour de force in its own right.

The concerts were both magnificent. In the first one, The Berlin Philharmonic got Seiji Ozawa to conduct for the first time after his serious illness and the result was great beauty of sound and intensity in Beethoven's Egmont Overture and Choral Fantasy with Peter Serkin as the distinguished piano soloist.

In the first half, we were astonished by the wonderful interpretation of Mozart's Gran Partita Serenade as performed by the wind soloists of the Orchestra. In the other concert, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia Orchestra from Rome performed a most delightful programme under the baton of their chief conductor, Antonio Pappano.

For us, the highlight was a divine performance of Beethoven's Piano Concert No.4, with Hélène Grimaud as soloist.

During our stay we also spent one day in Dresden, a very different place, much less tidy, but with much more beautiful architecture (at least to our way of thinking). When we arrived in Dresden after a two-hour journey on the train, we took a taxi to the Zwinger, where the great Art Gallery is situated.

If the Rijksmuseum and the Berlin Gallery collections are magnificent, the Dresden Gallery one is no less so. And, moreover, here the museum people were extremely friendly and cooperative, going out of their way to try to help us.

Our highlight is the Spanish Room. where we found a superb portrait by Velázquez , El Greco's Healing of the Blind Man and one of Murillo's best Virgin and Child. But the Italian collection is no less exciting with a wonderful Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple by Cima da Conegliano, Raphael's wonderful Madonna Sixtina and several magnificent Titians.

After several hours we left and found a very pleasant bar adjoining the building where they served us a very welcome snack. Then we started a tour of the old part of Dresden. As we said, we were impressed by the beauty of the architecture, but disappointed at its lack of up-keep.

The Theatre Square, situated beside the Zwinger, offers a splendid view of the Semper Opera House and of the Cathedral. We went along a narrow street beside the Residential Palace decorated with spectacular porcelain mosaics. At the end, we came upon the magnificent Baroque Church of our Lady, which has been restored fairly recently after its destruction in the terrible bombing of 1945.

The interior of this church, extremely impressive, seemed to us more like a theatre than a church. Rain delayed us, and when it stopped we were able to enjoy the last hour of our visit walking around the Zwinger and enjoying the magnificence of its architecture.

Bernard & Mercedes

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