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Wall, Egyptians and a friend in Berlin

On November 1st I hopped on a Deutsche Bahn ICE train in Hamburg. A couple hours later stepped off in Berlin. It was drizzling out, but not enough to put me off the plans for the day, which included visiting the remains of the Berlin wall, the Egyptian Collection in the Neues Museum and a late lunch with my friend and Berlin local, Daniel Holbach.

The wall was first. The fall of the Berlin Wall happened in 1989 when I was just eight years old. At the time I was too young to understand what had occurred, but it and the cold war were recent enough that I learned a considerable amount about both at school in subsequent years. Seeing it in person brought up feelings, it was an important stop on my journey through Berlin. Still, I skipped the crowded visitor center and was satisfied with my self-guided walk around the grounds.

From the wall I walked south to the museum. Seeing The Egyptian collection in Berlin, now housed at the Neues Museum, has been on my list for years. It includes the famous Nefertiti Bust, which at over three thousand years old, has been remarkably preserved. I had seen photos of it and it was featured in documentaries, and it recently grabbed headlines through the controversial Nefertiti Hack. I’ll admit right away that the long-standing claims the Egyptian people have to the bust did cause mixed feelings when I went to see it, but my fascination with ancient Egypt won out, I really wanted to see it. It’s hard to tell from flattering photos and angles just how impressive the preservation really is, so seeing it in person was a wonderful experience. No photos were allowed in the exhibit area, but there are plenty of them already.

Stepping back to take in the whole collection is a bit overwhelming. They have a huge room dedicated to their collection of wall segments from ancient tombs and buildings, some are just etched but many of them have period paint still attached to them. I nearly skipped the basement level in the interest of time and energy, but I’m glad I didn’t, that’s where they had some of the more intricate sarcophagi and their collections of animal statues, charms and figures. I’ve seen the collections at the British Museum in London (technically a larger collection) and the Met in NYC, but the presentation at the Neues Museum really stood out for me.

I think part of what made it so impressive for me was the building itself. Built in the mid 19th century, even the rooms in this museum were worth taking pictures of. I’m sure when I took this picture it was all about the room, not the artifacts:

And while I remember that this room was the one housing papyrus, the only reason I remember that was because you can just barely make out the Nefertiti bust at the end of the room, incidentally included in my photo as I was admiring the room.

Once I had concluded my time in ancient Egypt, I did quickly make my way through the other collections in the museum. Of particular note was the Berlin Gold Hat. It’s a tall, conical hat that estimates of similar artifacts has tended to put at around 3000 years old, though unfortunately this artifact itself lacks verified provenance. It’s housed in its own dark room, surrounded by related artifacts. At almost two and a half feet high, it’s definitely something you should see if you visit the museum.

The afternoon was creeping on in as I hopped in a taxi to head south to my hotel. I was able to check in, drop off some of the contents of my increasingly heavy backpack and head out to meet up with my friend Daniel for lunch. We ended up at a Mexican place for a pair of the largest burritos I’ve ever seen. They were pretty good too.

I’ve probably known Daniel for a decade. He was a community manager and developer advocate in the Ubuntu community before there was a name for such roles. His guidance and gentle leadership helped me and so many others be successful members of the Ubuntu community and he’s one of the kindest people I know. He took a break at the end of last year when he left Canonical and I hadn’t really been in touch, so I was thrilled when he replied to my email inviting him to meet up in Berlin.

We had a great afternoon of catching up, wandering through a park, down streets, stopping for coffee. He also know where the event space was for the Meetup I was hosting that evening, so we walked over there as the afternoon wound down and I was able to get settled in before he departed. The Ubuntu community was a very special place for me at a formative time in my life, and I’m so pleased that I have these relationships with people around the world.

I spent that evening hosting the Meetup there in Berlin before walking back to my hotel. I’d say my only mild regret is that I didn’t wake up early enough the next morning to visit the Berlin Zoo before taking the train back to Hamburg. I was starting to get a bit travel weary and I did enjoy the relaxed morning and time it gave me to catch up on some email. I’ll be back some day!

More photos from my visit to Berlin here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157665780629679