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Abandoned Iraqi Embassy (Photo by Adam Mandel-Senft)

Abandoned Iraqi Embassy (Photo by Adam Mandel-Senft)

A description of students’ exploration of Pankow’s abandoned Iraqi Embassy.

In the haunted lies the deepest vacuum of the mind, in the ghosts are the people we’ve known, in blank space is everything imaginable.

“Did you hear that?”

“It was just a car.”

“Do you think they saw us?”

“The lights are going in the other direction, they already passed by, just hop over.”

Berlin is a city that is known for vibrating with life at any time of the day or night. But as the city is growing, many places have been left behind to disintegrate on their own. Even these places, the abandoned buildings of Berlin, have their own sort of life as people sit on their roofs for drinks with friends or explore the dark with graffiti walls and rickety staircases. Unlike further into the city, the abandoned buildings in Pankow see very few visitors and still hold their frightening emptiness that makes exploring them so fun.

Our adventure into the abandoned Iraqi Embassy started in the middle of the night:

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Display case with a 16th century sundial. (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

Display case with a 16th century sundial. (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

The BA2 students of Bard College Berlin ventured on quite the field trip for their core class History and Philosophy of Science: Early Modern Science on March 8. Led by Professor Michael Weinman, we visited the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in Dresden – home of some of Europe’s first scientific and astronomical instruments.

Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in the Zwinger (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in the Zwinger (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

The Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments) in Dresden is a museum whose collections include a variety of historical clocks, scientific instruments for terrestrial and celestial measurements, as well as devices for calculating temperature, air pressure and mass. All of these instruments – in addition to their scientific value – are moreover considered to be veritable works of art. It is therefore not surprising that the Salon is a part of the larger “Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden” (“State Art Collections”) located in the Zwinger – a beautiful palace built in Rococo style that served as an exhibition gallery, festival arena and orangery for the Dresden Court.

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Marisa Shadburn

Museum of Military History , Dresden
(Photo by: Marisa Shadburn)

The trip to Dresden was organized as part of the class ‘Berlin: Experiment in Modernity’, taught by Florian Becker. On an extremely chilling winter evening we all left Berlin with Florian Becker and Zoltan Helmich (Residential Life Coordinator) and set on our adventure.

In Dresden we stayed at the Technical University’s “Gästehaus”. The Guesthouse was nothing less than a four star hotel and upon arrival we spent the evening eating and drinking in the guest-house’s restaurant. Our chaperons kept us entertained with their ingenious sense of humor. The next morning we all set forth to see the grand Christmas Stollen (an enormous cake which weighs 400 pounds), baked by various bakers. The Stollen was being prepared in the city center, where all the important buildings and churches are also to be found. We arrived at the center hoping to see the cake and the parade that was to follow. We were promised by Florian Becker that whoever catches a glimpse of the cake first would get a piece of it. That seemed like a difficult task given that we all were amid hundreds of people. And since we were all eager to try a piece of that famous gigantic cake, it was all a matter of strategy: I stood in a line that ultimately allowed me to weasel my way to a spot, which provided me with the angle that made me the first one to see the Stollen. As promised, as the first to catch a glimpse of the desert, I got a piece, rich in delicious raisins, which, after all, we all ended up enjoying (since a single piece weighed more than half a kilo––and that whole savory giant––for the price of only 5 Euro).

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Deutsches Historisches Museum

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Each semester, ECLA of Bard offers the course Berlin: Experiment in Modernity. Just like the ECLA BA students have a mandatory core course each semester, this Berlin–themed class is the core component for the exchange students enrolled in the Bard in Berlin program. However, all ECLA students have the possibility to take it. Furthermore, students not enrolled in the class can join the weekly museum visits, which form an essential part of the course. Students of ECLA of Bard thus have the possibility to visit some of Berlin’s museums and galleries for free and enjoy guided tours with ECLA professors.

Last week, I joined in a visit to the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) led by ECLA’s professor Aya Soika, who as an art historian and native Berliner seems to know everything about Berlin. The museum is really big. It captures the complete history of the territory of current Germany from the settlement of Germanic tribes until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the following reunification of Germany. Because of the size of the exhibition, it was quite useful that our guide, Aya Soika, showed us the highlights of the museum. For the future, visits of places like the Bertolt-Brecht-House, the Reichstag building, the Berlinische Galerie, or the Christian Boros Collection are planned.

The Berlin Museum of Medical History - 02 Anatomisches Theater und Virchows Arbeitstisch

Photo: Thomas Bruns, The Berlin Museum of Medical History

My cousins in Pakistan who are studying to be doctors often boast of their capacity to treat human beings’ greatest impediments in life—physical ailments. Such confidence comes from their commitment to contemporary medicine, which (unfortunately) is often mistakenly thought to be omnipotent for the rather remarkable strides it makes concerning patient health. Many debilitating diseases and disorders bearing grim prognoses are now losing their potent grip thanks to the advent of modern medical science and technology. However, with this contemporary ease of suffering and prolongation of life, an individual can lose perspective on what these ailments meant for people living a hundred or two hundred years ago.

On a recent visit to the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité (a requirement of the 2nd year core course, The History and Philosophy of Science: Early Modern Science), I had one such moment of historical reflection when, for the first time, I actually thanked our ancestors and all those who contributed to the field of medicine. The museum displays a variety of tools, instruments and equipment routinely used in the early 1800s, a time when surgery was just becoming a popular way of treating people with various ailments. Looking on in amazement, I pondered on the extremely large and (certainly) painful cutting instruments used for surgery.

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Weimar - Goethe's House Am Frauenplan

Weimar – Goethe’s House Am Frauenplan

The trip to Weimar was literally one of the ‘Aha’ moments in my life. This is how Weimar happened; a day before we actually had to leave, I spent the whole day reading Galileo for a class. With my head drowned in my books I wondered to myself if I would ever get to spend some time with myself. Often one is able to discover many things about oneself while travelling. After a whole day of classes I came back to my room, dreading more work for the weekend. Then I read an email offering a free ticket to Weimar with the group that was travelling the next day.

And so it happened. I took that ticket and in an hour I booked a room in a somewhat nice youth hostel in Weimar. Despite having found a bed right next to a woman who snored all night long and the fact that the sheets stank very badly, my Weimar trip is definitely one of my most memorable excursions.

Read more and see a photo gallery of the trip!
Martin Scorsese portrait

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Every year Professor Matthias Hurst takes the students of ECLA of Bard for a walk around Marlene Dietrich Platz (where Berlin’s international annual film festival takes place), stopping at the Museum of Film and Television, located in the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz. Beyond being of particular interest for students – like myself – taking film classes, the museum is a great place for anyone interested in cinema. One can find here various exhibits ranging from film scripts, props, and costumes, to personal letters of famous actors and writers, like Marlene Dietrich or Ernest Hemingway.

Besides the permanent exhibition which provides an overview of German Cinema, from German Expressionist films to contemporary films, the museum hosts various temporary exhibitions. This spring The Museum of Film and Television in Berlin hosts the first international exhibition on Martin Scorsese, between the 10th of January and the 12th of May. The exhibition focuses on Scorsese’s sources of inspiration, and specific methods and themes that reveal his unique style and the great impact of his work. Even if I have been a fan of Scorsese for quite some time, it was only through this exhibition that I gained a comprehensive view of Scorsese’s work as the work of an auteur.

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The Anti-War Museum around 1925

The Anti-War Museum around 1925

On April 16th Irit Dekel, instructor of the Past in the Present: Collective Memory, Politics and Culture class, led a trip to the Anti-Kriegs-Museum (Anti-War Museum) in Berlin. Opened by Ernst Friedrich in the 1920s in the working class district of Wedding, the museum was closed for many years before it was re-opened by Friedrich’s grandson, Tommy Spree, in 1982. Mr. Spree kindly agreed to give us a personal tour of the Anti-War Museum to talk about both its historical and present-day activities.

The SA take over the Anti-War Museum (1933)

The SA take over the Anti-War Museum (1933)

The Anti-War Museum is a contested space, and nowhere is this more evident than through the history of the building itself. It was taken over and destroyed by the Sturmabteilung (or SA, the Nazi storm troopers) in March 1933, and although Ernst Friedrich managed to move most of his archive to Belgium and establish another Anti-War Museum, the original museum on 29 Parochial Street was turned into a notorious torture chamber for the SA, and later for the Gestapo.

Although I can only speculate, I imagine Ernst Friedrich was a witty man. He was a renowned author of political pamphlets, and the fact that such an internationalist and erudite man opened an Anti-War Museum on Parochial Street is not without irony. And along with his courage, most clearly evident in joining the French resistance (although he was a pacifist and would not fight, he wanted to oppose fascism), he must have also possessed great élan, since he allowed soldiers to enter his museum for free, and announced this on the front window – a practice Tommy Spree continues to this day.

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