Berlin – thunderstorms, museum and old friends

First things first – the joke of the week here is: “It’s the start of summer on Saturday – the 1st of June” – Really??? Not when I look out the window…

They said on the news that this was the coldest and wettest May since weather records started more than 150 years ago – and I have to agree – not that my memory goes back that far – but it just does not stop raining – and it is cold to – barely 10-12degrees.. our local river that flows into the Elbe is almost at capacity – that brings back memories to the big floods from 2002 – dubbed then “floods of the century”.

It’s the kind of weather when one does not want to leave the house – but – I had to drive to Berlin to my first Museum appointment at the “Ethnologische Museum” Berlin Dahlem. The drive in the rain on the autobahn was rather uneventful – and arriving into Berlin just after the morning rush hour – and thanks to my phone GPS – I got there an hour before they even open. In NZ that would not be a problem at all – there are plenty of coffee places and also toilets around – not in Berlin.. so here I was – sorry for the bluntness – busting and nowhere to go..should have known:-) But hey – I survived it and once  I got inside that was soon forgotten.

I met Dr Schindlbeck – the curator of the Oceania section and he took me down into the vaults – why is it that at museums the storage area’s are always kind of underground I wonder?

He apologized that they “don’t have much to show” before hand – and he was wrong – they might not have much in numbers but in quality they make up for it. Storage facilities though are a different subject – at Te Papa they house all the mahi raranga taonga in specially built drawers and cupboards – not so in Berlin (and from what I hear any other museums in Germany). They are hastily placed on shelves and some where even folded – whariki, korowai and belts – all folded…breaks my heart.

Unlike at home I was allowed to take photos, handle the items (with gloves of course) and after that got to check the original files – though not much written on them. The items are more or less all from different collections – some had been “taken” by the Russians after the war and sent back during GDR times – and some record cards had written on them: “not to be found 1888” – so they had been lost for over a hundred years already – including some cards who said : “Human head” – no guessing what those where!

For the weavers – they had no less than 3 kahu kuri!! 3 Kahu Kiwi and 2 superb belts! A few kete and 2 piupiu – some where modern – Dr.Schindlbeck collected them himself but others looked modern but where collected 150 years ago – very, very interesting stuff.

Kete Kiwi at Ethnologisches Museum Berlin
Kete Kiwi at Ethnologisches Museum Berlin

The problem is that their records are lacking most useful information that one would need – mostly they classified kakahu as mats and so on – some items where supposedly collected on one of Cooks voyages – but can’t be proven – though Cook had 2 German botanists on the second voyage and they done some amazing drawings – of a Harakeke bush no less.

Generally that museum was very interesting – in our lunch break I had the chance to wander around other exhibitions – nicely done – so if any of you happen to be in Berlin any time and are stuck for something to do – I can highly recommend that one.

I don’t like big cities – I am still surprised I lasted that long in Auckland – and Berlin… well it’s huge – by any stretch of imagination – not just mine. I normally love driving but Berlin – I dreaded that one – but it turned out rather different because of – you guessed it – the weather. I have experienced my fair share of heavy and very heavy rain but that what came down on Friday afternoon in Berlin can only be described as buckets and buckets full of water dumped onto the landscape and mixed in some lightning and thunder for good measure.  Just as well it was rush hour and one could not drive fast – as in that kind of rain no fast driving would have been possible.

The house my friend lives in is close to the small river Panke – the suburb Pankow is named after that one I guess the song  Sonderzug nach Pankow – Udo Lindenberg is known to many Germans to (actually it is called “cult” because it was written before the wall came down).

Anyway – so that tiny river was almost twice its original width and the road above was flooded – nice one. So no going out for a drink that night – instead we decided to have a nice “night in” with a nice home cooked dinner and loads of catching up after 15 years of not seeing each other. More on the weather and the floods later in a separate post:-)


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