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Asisi Panorama: Die Mauer/The Wall

Hello! Checkout the official post with pictures on my blog or read the text below.

Museum Review: Die Mauer/The Wall -Asisi Panorama  ASISI PANORAMA BERLIN Address Checkpoint Charlie.

Friedrichstraße 205, 10117 Berlin.

Tel.: +49 (30) 695 80 86-1 E-Mail: Public transit: U-Bahn:  U6 Kochstraße / Checkpoint Charlie U2, U6 Stadtmitte Bus: M48 Stadtmitte / Leipziger Straße M29 Kochstraße / Checkpoint Charlie Ticket Prices Adults 10 Euro Reduced fare 8 Euro Chrildren (6-16 Years old) 4 Euro Family Pass (2 Adults and upto 4 Children) 27 Euro 25% off with Berlin Welcome Card or Free with the All inclusive Card Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm Suggested Time: 20 minutes-1 hour. Average 45 minutes

This attraction has a little bit of history for me even though I’d never been. I defiantly told myself I would never go because it was too ‘touristy’ but after deciding to take on this museum challenge, I almost gleefully thought, here’s my perfect excuse to finally go. First of all, I’d like to clarify that this ‘museum’ is not listed on the Berlin Museum Portal because it is technically not a museum, and is therefore listed on the Visit Berlin website as an attraction. Nonetheless, it is an oft visited attraction by tourists and one I am always asked about, so I am reviewing it in the Museum Challenge. As a bike tour guide with Fat Tire Bike Tours for 3 years I would be stationed behind this gigantic circular steel structure looking at it like an eye sore that stood out from the other mishmash of buildings that surround Checkpoint Charlie. Saying this place is an eyesore in ‘eyesore’ Berlin, is saying a lot because what makes Berlin, Berlin is this mishmash of architectural styles all bundled together. Besides the fact that Hitler thought this from the start of his reign and wanted to tear it all down and homogenize it all into Welthauptsatdt Germania, the current reason is that about 90% of the inner city of Berlin was bombed in the war and whatever was not destroyed was then raised by the GDR to make way for their wall in an attempt to cage their people in to prevent emigration. Checkpoint Charlie is, in my opinion, the most touristy and tourist trap locations in all of Berlin. And for this reason, I don’t like it and I’m a tour guide-I bring people to tourist traps for a living! I remember when I lived in NYC and I worked in Times Square I would murmur profanities under my breath as I squeezed past oblivious tourists on my way to work everyday and here in Berlin, even more than the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie brings up those same emotions. Probably because again, it is a tight space to maneuver through. I think this is interesting because during the GDR (East German communist government) time, the entire area was bulldozed of buildings and all that stood there was a checkpoint (obviously) and wide open space for tanks to come through and guards to be on the look out. More about the history of Checkpoint Charlie in another post. The Panorama museum, was not what I expected. I actually had no idea what I expected, but I half expected it to be like a ‘fun house’ like the London dungeon or something?! I went on May 15, 11 days after museums started opening up again after the quarantine. I was meeting a friend for ‘pick-up lunch’ at my favourite Berlin restaurant Liu Chengdu (If you love spicy sichuan noodles, you HAVE to go!), and on my way there I rode my bike through Checkpoint Charlie and could not believe how dead it was. This was actually one of the ‘aha’ moments when I decided now would be the perfect time to visit all the museums in Berlin since there wouldn’t be any tourists and I have an over abundance of time to do all the things I’ve ever waned to do! Like a barren wasteland, Check Point Charlie stands empty of Tourists during the Corona Pandemic Never have I ever been able to pose for a picture with no one there...and sadly, I couldn’t this time either, as there was no one there to take my picture! Okay, I managed to do it myself :) So after my spicy noodle lunch I headed back to Checkpoint Charlie and got my ticket for Die Mauer: Asisi Panorama. I was the only one there. It was a surreal experience. I mean, I’m used to nauseating amounts of people surrounding Checkpoint Charlie and long lines in front of the museum. I bought my €10 ticket and was asked for my postal code. Since my postal code was in Berlin I was told that if I keep my ticket I can come back and get 2 for 1 entrance next time. I walked into a corridor that surrounds the actual circular exhibition which is also set up as an exhibition with photo’s and stories of tourists and West Germans who visited the East and of people who lived in the East and what is was like to live on the other side of the wall. I found this exhibit quite interesting and spent most of my time reading all the quotes and stories. I was actually on a timeline and had an appointment so I only had 45 minutes to visit the museum. After about 20 minutes I got anxious with the amount of time I was spending reading stories and decided it was time to go in the actual exhibit. I walked through a door into a large room, almost like an Imax movie theatre. There was a floor to ceiling 15x60 meter 270 degree wrap around large projection of the Berlin Wall with loud speakers projecting speeches from past important political news broadcasts such as Kennedy’s famous 1963 speech from the Schöneberg Rathaus ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ where he proudly declared himself a Jelly Donut! The corridor exhibition hall recounting stories and showing personal pictures of people visited and lived through the Berlin Wall. Or Walter Ulbricht’s June 15, 1961 speech where he proclaimed ”Nobody has any intentions of building a wall” almost 2 months to the day before he actually did build that wall on Aug 13, 1961.  There are 8 speeches in all that loop over and over while the lighting system in the room loops from daylight to nightfall.   There is a 4 meter high platform where you climb the stairs and look out over the wall from a 1:1 perspective viewing it from Kreuzberg in the direction Mitte near Moritzplatz and Orianienplatz in the 1980’s. A view from the interior standing on the platform-as the only peers on in the exhibition. I found this quite interesting on the platform, almost as if I was standing on one of the original viewing platforms built in the west for people to get a glimpse into the East. I also enjoyed it because I was alone, which in one aspect was quite eerie with the constantly changing lighting and the loud speakers and my face covered with a surgical mask but also quite enjoyable as I’m sure if I had been there with a room packed full of people I would have stayed 5 minutes tops. But as it were, I was alone and so I reflected on the wall, on the current state of the world in quarantine and on the changing times. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out buildings and orient myself to a city I love to get lost in. At first I thought the picture would change and so I waited, and I waited and finally I heard Kennedy’s speech ring out again and I realized that the whole thing was on loop and the picture never changes except for the lighting. It is a beautiful picture, Yadegar Asisi, the artist did a fabulous job of recreating a city that he lived and breathed everyday, but I was expecting more variation. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend this museum to anyone who has any past knowledge of the Berlin wall. Even the exhibit in the corridor although interesting, didn’t explain much and many of the pictures merely had a repeating footer that said ‘Film documentary “close to the boarder-a private view of the wall” excerpt, 50 hours of film material produced by various amateurs was mixed together to create a fascinating documentary on living with the reality of the Berlin Wall.’ For this reason I was a little disappointed. For a museum that has been here for 8 years in the heart of tourist central, they could have a rotating exhibition, or a little more detailed information. But what isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right? They are smack dab in tourist central with busloads of 6 hour visitors comprised of tourists bussed in from the cruise ships up north for a day trip and families trying to pack it all in with attention waning children. There are always people waiting to go in (excluding quarantine of course), the ticket price is €10 and most people will stay 20 minutes probably, so they’ve figured out their niche and it works for them. And for some people this is probably a great exhibition and all that is needed for the tourist checkbox. In my opinion, if you are short on time, know absolutely nothing about the Berlin Wall history and just want an overview, are a visual person who likes ‘big effects’ or you have children and need to pick sights that don’t take too long to go through yet have that ‘wow’ factor, than this is the museum for you! If you are interested in diving deep into history and like reading and detailed history exhibits, or are on a tight budget, this is probably not the museum for you. For those people I would recommend (from what I’ve seen-and will update more as I go through more museums) the outdoor FREE exhibit surrounding the Panorama museum and more specifically the BlackBox Kalter Krieg exhibit across the street (which is temporarily closed due to Corona). A billboard outside showing exactly what you will see inside, literally. Behind it a look at the imposing circular metal structure that houses the exhibit. Furthermore, I highly recommend as a ‘must-see’ when visiting Berlin the official Berlin Wall memorial museum and outdoor exhibit on Bernauerstrasse. I will review that in the future and will attach links.

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