Architecture, Community

Finding Heine and Treasures in Berlin


“We don’t catch hold of an idea, rather the idea catches hold of us and enslaves us and whips us in to the arena so that we, forced to be gladiators fight for it.”

– Heinrich Heine 1797 – 1858


So says the inscription on the statue of German Poet, Journalist and literary critic, Heinrich Heine, in Berlin, Germany. His words of wisdom have often intrigued me and it was for that very reason that I tracked down his statue, on a recent trip to Berlin.



Why bother to search for a statue, you might say? After all, the Heine statue is a little off the usual tourist path and one has to actively search for it, [and you already know that I was doing just that]. It is because I’ve been fascinated by the liberal, and at times prophetic words, of this free thinking writer and how his words written in the 19th century, became catastrophically true, in the twentieth century. But more about that a little later.


Heine’s statue sits in a small square, fringed with manicured hedges and shady trees, and is a suitable spot to rest and reflect, as Heine did, upon the world, (although I suspect, today’s visitors might update social media, rather than navel-gaze). Whilst mapping out my walking route around Berlin attractions, finding his statue was a short stop before my walking destination – the Pergamon, a Berlin absolute ‘must – see’.

Towards the entrance of the Pergamon

The Pergamon is situated amongst a complex of museums, housed in several palatial buildings on Museum Island. The classic architecture of the museum buildings harkens back to Ancient times and is an excellent visual attraction in itself.


The Neue Museum

Also in the Museum complex, the monumental Neues Museum, circa 1800’s, contains Ancient art and archeology, whilst Neoclassical art fills the neighbouring and awe-inspiring Altes Nationalgalerie.


Altes Nationalgalerie

But, I am here to see the Pergamon itself, and its jewels in the archaeological crown – one of which is the excavation finds of frieze panels of the Pergamon Altar, reclaimed in archaeological digs, from 1878 to 1886. Disappointingly, for me and future visitors, I find that the Pergamon Altar exhibit is closed for renovation, until 2019. Well, maybe next time.


What you won’t see till 2019. Wikipedia Photo

Nevertheless, I am aware that one ‘altar’ doth the Pergamon, not make. There are other ‘jewels’ to see. Some of the other monolithic exhibits, such as the Market Gate of Miletus, the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way from Babylon, are overwhelming and to say that is a complete understatement. Just look at them!!!


If you don’t ever get to visit the historic sites of the Middle East yourself, visiting the Pergamon will make you feel like you have!


The exhibits are unlike anything I have seen and are but a small window into the world of ancient civilizations. I am completely gobsmacked by the level of intricate detail and the skills necessary to produce such fine work.


The Museum complex now houses three of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s collections: the Antikensammlung, Vorderasiatisches Museum, and the Museum für Islamische Kunst.



To Plan a visit, go to the Museum website here, and please note there’s an option to purchase a combo ticket, for entry to all three museums, at a discounted price. A good tip to remember is to arrive at the Pergamon around opening time so as to avoid the lengthy queues commonly found, later in the day. I arrived just on opening time, and already the queue to enter took around 20 minutes.


If you decide the queues to the Pergamon are too long on your arrival, the surrounding gardens and Berlin’s Domkirke cathedral are in themselves, a delight to see. The square in front of the Cathedral church is filled with buskers, street artists, and unfortunately, a few less desirable folk angling for the tourist dollar, legally or illegally. Be careful with your money around them.

Berlin Domkirke
The Pergamon Museum complex is located on Bodestraße 1-3, Berlin and if you don’t want to walk there, from your accommodation, as I did, you can take a Bus, Tram, UBahn or Uber. Me? I enjoyed the a brisk, but lengthy early morning walk from my room at Comfort Hotel Auberge, which is located on Bayreuther Straße, a few steps from Wittenbergplatz station, but the walk back was a little too much, after being on my feet all day, so a bus near the Brandenberg gate took me right back to Kurfürstendamm, and then it was only a short stroll home past the farmer’s markets.


2016-07-16 22.38.00 Berlin
My room at Hotel Auberge
Hotel Auberge is family run boutique hotel with classic old world features. Think ornate plaster ceilings, chandeliers in every room, carpeted stairs with turned wooden banisters, and a spacious room overlooking a leafy courtyard. Breakfast is an ample and satisfying buffet and tea is served to your table.


On a 37° Celsius summer day like this one, the balcony seat was a perfect place to enjoy the sounds of the birds, and the city waking from its slumber before embarking on my walk.
The modern KaDeWe and Kurfürstendamm shopping precinct, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, the Europa-Center and the Zoological garden are an easy 10 minutes walk away.
Wittenbergplatz is a short stroll away

On my lengthy walk around Berlin, and the Pergamon, I was happy to find Heine, and pondered his thought-provoking words, especially his tragically prophetic line from the 1821 play, Almansor,

Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too.”

Berlin Wall
Fragment of the Berlin Wall on Freidrichstaße

Today, as I read a book called Stasiland by Australian author, Anna Funder, and learn of what it was like to live in the GDR, prior to the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, I remember the inscription on Heine’s statue and ponder more his words, in much the same way as Anna Funder did, in her book:

“Heine, the free thinking poet, would be turning in his grave to see the sort of enslaving and forcing and fighting that has gone on here, under his cold black nose and pigeon shit shoulders.” -Anna Funder in Stasiland.


Have we really learned any lessons?


If you enjoyed reading my Tuesday Travel adventures, and are looking for other Travel themed blogs, you may like to check out:

Mindful Traveller

Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

If you have a blog post on Travel and would like me to add it here, please leave a comment below with your link, so that others can find your post.

Amanda at Something to Ponder About


Proverbial Thursday – Silesian Weavers

I find there to be profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.

A bad worker blames his tools – Australian Proverb

silesisan weavers woodcut
Wood engraving, c. 1850.

The year 1844 saw the famous “Weaver’s Revolt,” an event that led to the revolution of 1848/49. The revolt of the Silesian weavers, a response to the injustices of the low paying putting-out system, was violently suppressed by the Prussian military, and the situation of the weavers remained unchanged. Heinrich Heine (1795 – 1856), a famous Prussian poet wrote the poem, reproduced below, titled, “The Silesian Weavers. ” Proving to be his most famous work, it is highlighted, along with his portentous quote/s, this week on Proverbial Thursday, due in part because of the proximity of May day celebrations:

Heinrich Heine:

“Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings”. 

and this:

“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged”.


“The weavers worked for incredibly low wages, and as the industrial revolution gathered pace were gradually made unemployed in ever-increasing numbers. Their landlords also took most of their wages, to the point where they were effectively being treated as slave labor. As a result they rebelled against the state in 1844. The uprising was crushed but marked one of the first times that organized workers really attempted to improve their lot in life by working together. As a result, it still has a huge symbolic significance amongst socialist movements worldwide. The weavers inspired Heine to write the following poem which tells how the workers were  exploited and oppressed by the rich. Heine suggests that a day of reckoning can not be long postponed, and that sooner or later the rich will be forced to make amends. ”

The Silesian Weavers (1844)


In light-less eyes there are not tears.
They sit at the loom and gnash the gears.
Germany, we weave the cloth of the dead
Threefold be the curse we weave ’round your head
We’re weaving, we’re weaving.

A curse to the god to whom we knelt.
Through the winter’s cold, such hunger felt.
In the past we hoped, we waited, we cried
You’ve mocked us and poxed us and cast us aside
We’re weaving, we’re weaving.


A curse on the king of the empire,
Who would not quell our misery’s fire.
He took every penny we had to give
Then shot us like dogs with no right to live
We’re weaving, we’re weaving.

A curse on the cold, ruthless fatherland,
Where outrage and shame fester by your hand,
Where blossoms are trampled under your boot,
Where rot and decay are allowed to take root.
We’re weaving, we’re weaving.

The shuttle is flying, the weaving looms roar.
Day and night we weave with you at our door.
Old Germany, we weave the cloth of the dead.
Threefold be the curse we weave ’round your head.
We’re weaving, we’re weaving.


In the poem monarchy, religion and nationalism are dismissed as being of little comfort when your family is starving and your rights are crushed underfoot. Heine was familiar with Karl Marx and it was Marx’s colleague and friend, Friedrich Engels, who first translated the poem into English.

As a result of this poem, and the riots resulting in revolution, the king of Prussia was forced to allow his people a constitution. This theme was also treated in a naturalistic play called “Die Weber” by Gerhart Hauptman, inspired by the accounts of Wilhelm Wolff. When first preformed in 1983 in Berlin, the German authority banned it.


What do you make of Heine’s quote?

Have we really learned any lessons from the worker’s sacrifice? Is the clock winding back?

trickle down

Something to Ponder About this upcoming May Day