The 29th Lange Nacht der Museen Berlin

August 29, 2011

Germany

Ticket office

When I discovered I’d be moving to Berlin in time for the ‘Lange Nacht der Museen’ (Long Night of Museums) on 27th August, I was ecstatic, since I’d never been to a ‘night of museums’ before, and Berlin is the one that started all the others that now happen worldwide. Now in its 29th round, it takes place twice a year at the end of January and August, and this time it was all under the theme of music, with choirs and voice ensembles performing at many of the venues. Berlin has between 150 and 200 (depending on the source) museums, galleries and memorials, and around 105 of those took part – making the choice of what to go and see almost impossible!

Opening gong

I started out the evening at the ‘Kulturforum’ in downtown Berlin for the opening ceremony, where the major of Berlin declared the night officially open by sounding the same gong that has been gracing all the posters and programmes. Then I was off to see my first museum of the night, the ‘Museum für Film und Fernsehen’ (Museum for Film and Television), which was showing a special exhibition on storyboards “from Hitchcock to Spielberg”. Each of the around two dozen films was presented through an introduction panel for the film and selected scene, the storyboard artwork, and a film clip of the relevant scene. Although the film clips allowed you to envisage those films that you hadn’t seen before, I definitely got more out of the ones I was familiar with, which was still about half of the exhibition (I think I need to watch a lot more classic movies…) The light sword duel between Darth Vader & Obi-Wan Kenobi from ‘Star Wars IV’, the face melting scene from ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ when the Ark of the Covenant is opened, and one of the creepiest scenes in film history, the crows gathering in the playground in Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’, were among the highlights for me.

Next I hopped on one of the free shuttle buses, which connect the majority of participating venues along seven different routes, and took a 20 min ride to the ‘Loxx am Alex – Miniatur Welten Berlin’, which is situated on the top floor of a giant shopping mall at Berlin’s famous Alexander Platz. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call this a museum, it is the most amazing place – it shows, as the name implies, a miniature version of Berlin, on a scale of 1:87. While some of the scenes are exact miniature copies of the real world city – e.g. the Alexander Platz, the Olympia Stadion, the Reichstag or the TV Tower which dominates Berlin’s skyline – others are more generic representing e.g. a typical Berlin suburb. The attention to detail is incredible, the cars and trains move along the roads and tracks, and they’ve even recently added an airport. And if you wait long enough, then all the overhead lights go out and you can experience the miniature Berlin with all its nighttime city lights. I probably would have got even more out of it had I been more familiar with Berlin – there were plenty of people having fun spotting familiar sights – but I’m still glad I went.

Miniatur Welt - day time scene

Miniatur Welt - night time scene

My stomach was starting to rumble at this point, so I decided a stop at the ‘Deutsches Currywurst Museum’, the spiritual home of Germany’s most beloved curried sausage, was called for. After a slight confusion with the shuttle buses, I ended up at the Berlinische Galerie first instead, which is Berlin’s Museum for Modern Art, Photography and Architecture. A short workshop on life drawing was just about to start, and despite my lack of drawing skills I joined in. It was a new experience for me, and fun in an artistic kind of way, though unfortunately it did not make an artist out of me and I’m afraid I didn’t do the beautiful young actress from Columbia who was posing for us any justice. I think I’ll stick to photography^^ Since this will be one of our local museums as of later this week, I didn’t hang around for long and instead continued my currywurst quest – I was not disappointed, it was worth the wait and truly delicious! As the Currywurst Museum will also soon be one of our locals, and it was very popular i.e. crowded, I wanted to save exploring it in detail for another day (maybe as a treat for my birthday next month?), but I did take part in the quiz and got to meet the famous Currywurst @Qwoo himself!

Currywurst snack

Meeting Qwoo

On my way to take the shuttle bus back to the Kulturforum for the midnight climax, I popped into the ‘Mauermuseum’ (Wall Museum, as in the Berlin Wall), which had not been on my itinerary. The Mauermuseum, documents the story of the Berlin Wall from its construction, through its history of escapes and fights for freedom, to its fall, as well as related issues such as the Cold War and the fight for democracy, not only in Germany but elsewhere in the world too. It’s a very text heavy museum, even more so as all the interpretation is in German, English, French and Russian, but you’ll definitely get your money’s worth if it’s information you’re after. And it’s much bigger than it looks when you first enter, the place is like a rabbit warren, just when you think you’ve seen it all you discover another room. Alongside the text and many photographs and newspaper cuttings, there are also historical artefacts, art work and sculptures, audio recordings and video clips. One of their current temporary exhibitions is of contemporary photographs from the recent revolution in Egypt. If you want to immerse yourself in this significant part of Berlin’s history, I’d say definitely don’t be put off by the fact it doesn’t look as neat and ‘shiny’ as other museums you might have visited.

On the home stretch now, I made it back to the Kulturforum in time for midnight, when all the choirs performing around different venues that night, as well as the ‘visitors’ to the night themselves, had been invited to congregate for a midnight sing. After a warm up and some extra performances, everyone joined together for a heart warming rendition of the well known German lullaby ‘Der Mond ist aufgegangen’ (The moon has risen), overlooking the fact it wouldn’t rise for a few hours, to the neon glow of hundreds of Glo-sticks. Brilliant!  Although there were now still close to two hours of the night to go, I was starting to get tired – extreme museum visiting can be exhausting, as can sleepless nights with a grumpy baby unsettled by our trans-European move – so I took the shuttle bus back to the ‘Museum für Naturkunde’ (Natural History Museum), feeling more happy than ever before that it was right next to our current accommodation. Of course, I couldn’t just walk past it so popped in to see the 1am performance of the ‘Myths about Trees’ storytelling theatre. Sadly it had been cancelled, but at least I was on my way home anyway and hadn’t travelled across town just to see it. And anyway, I got to schmooze with some dinosaurs after midnight, which was pretty awesome!

So, to cut a long story, or rather night, short – despite the rain which had been pelting down for half the night, the confusion with the shuttle buses, and the fact I was heading out all on my own in a new and unfamiliar city, I don’t think I could have had a better time. Many, many thanks to @MuseumsnachtB for organising such a fantastic night, and to @MuseumsHeld for giving me his two tickets (I made an unsuspecting person very happy by giving the other one away to someone waiting in the ticket Q). The 30th Long Night of Museums will be on 28th January 2012 – I can’t wait!

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