We visited this museum as we had purchased the Berlin Card which got us discounted entry, and it was adjacent to Checkpoint Charlie where I wanted to go anyway.
I must say that this museum is interesting, however found it to be thought provoking, confusing, crowded and almost ADD in nature all at the same time. There are a number of different concepts and ideas presented that on the surface don't have a clear connection, so it has great potential to confuse the visitor as to the point that is trying to be made. It is almost as if the curator has started with a passionate view on a topic, then attempted to balance out that view or ideal by adding a huge amount of tenuously related, hearts and minds type stuff.
There are times when I thought that there was a point trying to be made, however it was almost as if it were afraid to be made, for fear of offending someone.
There are some excellent pieces of information, however the message gets lost as you wander around with the variety of exhibits.
The rooms are overly crowded with way too many items on display in each room. This leads to people standing on top of the exhibits in order to read the information, which blocks th view of the person standing behind, who in turn is blocking the exhibit they are standing next to for the person behind them.
I have to admit there are some exceptional stories, and was moved by some, but what the curator is trying to achieve is lost on me. Some stories you can follow sequentially around a room or two, others it would appear that whole chunks of the story are missing. Or perhaps I just missed where those pieces of the story were.
The museum itself is a rabbit warren, and shows quite easily that it has been expanded from the original 3 room size. To me at least, it feels like someone's private collection rather than a museum, as a guide from the original collector who could explain the relevance of each item on display and how it relates back to the theme of the museum would be most helpful. I am capable of making connections in logic and cognition that many of my peers are not and there were times when I had difficulty in connecting pieces to what the museum is trying to convey.
It has expanded beyond being a museum about The Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and escaping the East for the West, so if this is all that you are coming to see then I would suggest perhaps this might be a little overwhelming.
It is so much more. It is a political statment in itself, with references to Ronald Reagan, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. It also covers religion, with references to Buddhism, Christianity and how these effect our world.
Overall, this museum can be a little overwhelming with all of the messages and nuances that it is trying to get across in such a crowded space. I enjoyed most of my visit, however there are limited places to sit down to rest your legs and back, and again, it is crowded.
Information to note
There is a place downstairs from the entry to store your bags, backpacks, etc. You need a 2 euro coin to use this facility, but this is refunded when you collect your items.
There are toilets, and a 0.50 euro cents donation is requested but not formally accepted the day I was there. There was a plate on a table by the door on which to place your money. The toilets are clean, which is a plus, but toilet facilities are not abundant.
The museum is not airconditioned. There were a number of electric pedestal fans running the day I was there, but the day itself was not hot. I would imagine that this place does get quite hot on a warm day.
There are very limited places to stop and sit. In fact other than the theater, and of course the ladies toilet, I saw none.
There is a sign asking visitors not to take photographs, which I respected. I did see a number of tourists disregard this and snap away, however they appeared to be local tourists rather than international tourists like myself. There are no staff seated in the exhibition rooms to stop this, in fact after we entered, I did not see another person who appeared to be staff.
Prepare to lose your way. There is no set format to follow to guide you through, and there are no information boards guiding you through once inside, and no staff to ask for assistance. Take a ball of yarn, breadcrumbs, or whatever floats your boat, to get back to the start. You can retrace your steps back to the entry, or there is a separate exit through the gift shop.
It can be confusing as to the point that is trying to be made, but do your best. It is worth the visit. The letter from the East German soldier asking Westerners to see beyond the uniform is worth reading alone.
It WILL take hours if you want to see it all, and read all of the exhibits, not to mention the time it takes to orient yourself to exiting!
If you have a Berlin Card, then entry is less than 10 Euro, so if you are in Berlin for a few days this card is worth the investment.
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