Tag Archives: Moorish architecture

Gates of History

From the moment I started announcing to my family and friends that I would be going to Berlin, the single-most popular phrase I heard was, “You MUST got to the Pergamon Museum!” This past Sunday, I finally made the pilgrimage to this exalted space.

The Pergamon Museum, located on the Museum Island near the center of Berlin, specializes in artifacts and original-sized monuments and buildings from the ancient Near East. Some of the most popular items Byzantine mosaics, the Aleppo Room, and the Pergamon Altar. The pieces here are magnificent and truly bring the visitor back in time to ages long past.

My first attempt to visit the museum was in vain – I was rushing to the Island from the DOV office where I am doing my internship (more on that later) and was majorly confused by the distracting signs attempting to redirect the museum traffic due to massive reconstruction efforts. There seems to be construction every where in Berlin right now, but Museum Island was definitely the most concentrated. By the time I found the temporary entrance (around the back and by the Old National Gallery), they had stopped allowing visitors to enter. I also discovered that two-thirds of the museum was also under reconstruction, not just the facade, meaning that several of the exhibits were temporarily closed until 2019.

I was a little wary – the whole reason I truly wanted to visit was to see the Ishtar Gate, which were the beautiful decorative gates and entryway into the city of Babylon. Would they be in the part of the museum that was shut down?

Unsure of whether or not I would get to see the Gate, I decided to go ahead and try again to visit the museum on Sunday. Thankfully, there was no waiting line and I even was able to get a discounted ticket by showing my student ID (Tip: Always bring a student ID when traveling!) and was directed down a hallway into the exhibition hall.

Before I realized where I was, my eyes were filled with a dazzling blue and gold, flecked with green and dotted with white daisy-like flowers. Proud bulls and dragons seemed to strut mightily before me. They climbed ever higher in a towering facade that was obviously meant to intimidate as well as display the wealth and power the king of Babylon.

The Ishtar Gate in all its glory.
The Ishtar Gate in all its glory.

Gazing upon the Ishtar Gate, tears involuntarily welled up in my eyes. I allowed myself to be overwhelmed not only by the beauty and size of this magnificent structure, but by the sheer fact that through this Gate King Nebuchadnezzar had walked, and most likely so had the prophet Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. My eyes were gazing the same facade that people of ancient Babylon and the captives of ancient Israel had looked upon centuries ago. I felt a strong connection with the past at that moment, and suddenly history became very, very real.

Model of Ishtar Gate, displaying what it most likely looked like when entering into Babylon.
Model of Ishtar Gate, displaying what it most likely looked like when entering into Babylon.

When I was finally able to pry myself away from the Gate, I wandered around the adjacent halls to see the amazing artifacts from Babylon, Assyria, Asher, Mesopotamia, and Medo-Persia. Truly, I felt as if I was walking through the Old Testament. On the other side of the Gate was the original entryway to a Roman market, with artifacts dating back to the time of Emperor Justinian who ruled several hundred years after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Even so, it was like stepping into New Testament times walking around in this “market square.”

What an amazing feeling…

Ishtar Gate Bull
Ishtar Gate Bull

Figures of a passage way Ancient Near East Text

Unicorns? Hmm...
Unicorns? Hmm…
This guy was translating the cuneiform from the tablets onto his iPad - which I guess is also a tablet.
This guy was translating the cuneiform from the tablets onto his iPad – which I guess is also a tablet.

Symmetrical Designs

Roman Market Entryway
Roman Market Entryway

There was also an exquisite exhibit on Islamic Art that did not cease to amaze. The detail, color, and quality of the rugs, paintings, dishware, clothing, architecture, and more was simply astonishing. Wandering the exhibit also helped me realize how much modern society has to thank the ancient Middle East for, because in many ways they were far more advanced than their European counterparts.

Muslim Ivory Carving Details of a Muslim art work Near Eastern Islamic Rugs

Mughal ladies on a lake terrace during a nocturnal firework display India, early 18th century
Mughal ladies on a lake terrace during a nocturnal firework display
India, early 18th century
The Aleppo Room
The Aleppo Room

One quirky example of something unexpected was the combination of blue and white in dishware. The Middle Eastern merchants were seeking to compete in the trade markets with the Chinese, who had created an excellent method of developing porcelain. Middle Eastern merchants decided to take the white porcelain and add designs in the deep, rich blue of cobalt to raise the value of their items. The Chinese were so taken by the simple and elegant beauty of the combination, they ended up copying it, developing what we know today as “china.” The Europeans, in turn, fell in love with the works from the Chinese and would trade and eventually learn how to manufacture their own fine china for a variety of things, not the least of which would be British tea sets.

Near Eastern Porcelain
Near Eastern Porcelain

Don’t you love history?

I’m so thankful to everyone who told me umpteenth times that I had to visit the Pergamon – it truly was not an experience to be missed. In fact, I’m thankful for museums in general because they truly are important institutions that help expose us to the new and the old, the familiar and the foreign, the past and perhaps even insights for the future. I wouldn’t be a true Washingtonian without recognizing this most important fact: Museums are the gates of history.

If you have never been to a museum, or at least haven’t been a while, make a point of checking one out sometime. Especially here in Berlin there seems to be a museum on just about anything, so search for something you’d be interested in and immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll be glad you did.

As for me, I hope to have the chance to visit some of the other museums on Museum Island at some point and will certainly make plans to return after 2019 to have the full Pergamon experience.

Do you have a favorite museum? Let me know about your experience.

Until next time!

-Wandering Minstrelette

Advertisements

Where Experiments Meet Reality

In Brazil there is a special word that is apparently often used. “Imprensado” means to be pressed (in between) and is given to those awkward days that fall between holidays and weekends. Today was one of those days.

Remember how I mentioned that Brazilians know how to have a good time? Well, since it was Corpus Christi yesterday and tomorrow is Saturday then many figure, “What’s the point?!” and took today off too.

I love Brazil.

Having yet another day off allowed for a makeup lesson with my Paulo - my harmony teacherharmony teacher, Paulo, who had to cancel earlier this week due to illness. It seems like its been so long since I’ve taken classes in theory and harmony… Paulo reviewed things for me and then started a discussion of Brazilian harmony that will extend to the following lesson. Combining this with the flute and voice lessons, I’ll be a mini-expert on Brazilian music by the time I leave here!

The free day also allowed me to see my Tio (uncle) Gilberto. The last time I saw him was in 2003, when I came to visit Rio for a few days before moving on to visit other family. I took the ferry from Niteroi to Rio and met Tio by a restaurant along the water. How nice it was to catch up (despite my still fairly-broken Portuguese)! We ate lunch together and went to visit Pavilhão Mourisco in Fiocruz.

The view while taking the ferry across Guanabara Bay from Niteroi to Rio.
The view while taking the ferry across Guanabara Bay from Niteroi to Rio.

 

My uncle and his wife
My uncle and his wife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Moorish-style building was built in 1905 by Portuguese architect Luis Moraes Junior. According to my uncle, all the parts were shipped from Europe basically already made and then were put together once they arrived into this majestic building. We have found the predecessors of IKEA!

Pavilhão Mourisco - the top floor was being renovated.
Pavilhão Mourisco – the top floor was being renovated.

The building was used as the headquarters of Oswald Cruz, a forward thinking scientist and doctor of the early 1900s. It was his vision and desire to bring better medicine and health awareness among the people in Rio de Janeiro and encouraged research and education in these areas. Sadly, he was seen as a madman by many of the people of his time, but his works are greatly recognized today as some of the most important advancements made in Brazilian public health.

Bust of Oswald Cruz in front of Pavilhão Mourisco.
Bust of Oswald Cruz in front of Pavilhão Mourisco.

The building has become a museum in memory of the great strides of Oswald Cruz and a foundation, known as the Fiocruz Foundation, was created in his honor. Today, the Foundation employs over 7,000 people who continue to research and experiment on better ways to treat public diseases, particularly those that affect the poor.

Follow the links below to learn more about the museum and Oswald Cruz:
http://www.museudavida.fiocruz.br/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=60&sid=214https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmarino/541484816/

My Tio Gilberto is a part of this exciting and adventurous work. The project he is currently working on involves discovering how certain enzymes in plants produce substances that we use as medication for specific illnesses and then encourage the enzymes to create more of these substances in order to produce more medication, all with the help of mathematics and computers! Seems to me like computational biology and bio-technology at its best.

Another project that the Fiocruz Foundation is working on involves  decreasing the population of dengue carrying mosquitoes in a unique way. Male mosquitoes will be captured and injected with a certain natural element (an enzyme or something) that changes its capability to produce. When it mates with a female mosquito, the female will only produce male offspring. (With mosquitoes laying 100,000 or so eggs at a time – that’s a lot of dudes…) Since only female mosquitoes bite, as they need nutrients from blood during gestation, a increase in male mosquitoes means an overall decrease in the specific mosquito population and therefore less dengue fever. Quite a bit different from the “Take this pill and see me in a week” approach, huh? I wondered if there was discussion as to what this could do to this species of mosquitoes’ population decades into the future. What do you say, those bio-ethicists of you out there?

Overall, I have to say I was hugely impressed by the work that is being done by this foundation. Its things like this I wish Brazil would show more pride and support for. People like my uncle are working on projects that could potentially change the world – for the better. Someday, I hope that all of Brazil, and other countries like it, will recognize its potential for greatest and strive to achieve it. That would be a wonderful world to live in.

-Wandering Minstrelette