Germany, Berlin, Museum Island, Pergamon Museum Pergamonmuseum, a room devoted to hellenistic architecture, Western facade of the Zeus Sosipolis Magnesia on the Maeander temple Turkey dating from the beginning of the Second century BC
Ludovic Maisant / agefotostock
One of the biggest stars of the five museums on Museum Island, the Pergamon was the last to open, in 1930. Built to resemble a Babylonian temple, it houses a trove of ancient treasures from the Middle East, with highlights that include the enormous Pergamon Altar, dating from around 170 B.C.E. and featuring a dramatic frieze showing a battle between gods and giants; the two-story Market Gate of Miletus, built by the Romans in 120 C.E.; and the equally impressive Ishtar Gate, from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century B.C.E. Another poignant highlight, given the large influx of Syrian refugees into the city since 2015, is the 17th-century Aleppo Room, a reception chamber from a merchant’s house with exquisitely carved wall decorations.
An Ancient Shade of Blue
If you’ve ever seen a piece of jewelry set with lapis lazuli, then you know the shade—a deep, rich blue like a Van Gogh painting or expensive silk. Now imagine an entire city entrance that color, and you’ve got the Ishtar Gate, one of the gates of the ancient city of Babylon. But this is in Berlin. The structure was built around 575 B.C.E., during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II. The Ishtar Gate was the main entrance of Babylon’s eight city gates, and it stands almost 50 feet tall. After a period of German excavation in the early 20th century, a replica of the gate was built using original material brought back from modern-day Iraq. The Ishtar Gate is just one of the amazing pieces in the collections of the Pergamon Museum, Berlin’s most-visited museum. The other exhibits—divided into three categories: the Antiquities Collection, the Islamic Art Museum, and the Middle East Museum—are equally as mind-blowing. If you’ve got a hankering to see an enormous sculptural frieze depicting an epic battle between the Greek gods and the giants, then this is also the first stop you need to make on Museum Island. Walking through the gate, you can’t help but imagine all the people—not just museum visitors, but men and women through the millennia—who have done the same. Babylon is one of those ancient sites that you know once existed, but it has descended more into mythology that history. In the Pergamon Museum, though, you’ll find a real, tangible part of it.
The Pergamon Museum was really fun to see, because a lot of the displays included things that I have learned about in global history and art history classes! I saw the Ishtar Gate, the Stele of Hammurabi, and many others! We got audio guides to hear all about the exhibits, but we had a limited amount of time since we still had another four-hour drive back to the cruise terminal.
This must be one of the most obvious but not as popularly visited (such as the Louvre) museums in Europe. Warm and hospitable staff, free multi-lingual audio translation guides, not very tourist-busy (it was a Wednesday afternoon), and not exhaustingly large to enjoy the history it narrates.
The Pergamon Museum
Berlin‘s best museum is the Pergamon. After all, it’s not often that you get to climb an Ancient Greek altar surrounded by 4,000-year-old marble gods, only to ten minutes later wander through Babylon’s gates. There’s a great Islamic Art wing too. The Pergamon Museum is no secret though. To skip the long ticket line, just book ahead online.