I love snow. So I was happy to wake up from a nap on Saturday to find it snowing outside! And snowing in a serious way, too. A perfect day for seeing one of the few baroque things left in Berlin, the Schloss Charlottenburg. This is an early eighteenth-century palace built for Sophie Charlotte, wife of Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg. The palace and gardens were damaged during the war, but they’ve been repaired and reconstructed enough that you get a good sense of what the interiors looked like and you can wander around in the gardens. (The extent of the damage the war wrought on art and architecture in Berlin is awful – I knew this before, of course, but I’ve been reminded of it over and over in a much more direct way since coming here. One can’t argue that the Allies should not have bombed the Germans in WWII for fear of damaging museums or baroque palaces – but I think a little regret at the destructive power of modern warfare is allowed.)
I don’t know what it is, but I feel like I get baroque palaces, and baroque art in general, better than I do more modern things. The aesthetic makes sense. I like it. I don’t claim to understand it the same way an eighteenth-century person would, because my view of the world is very different from theirs, what with a few hundred years of history intervening, but there’s a feeling of familiarity to it. As I said, the rooms in this palace have been restored, but some of the fireplaces and ceiling paintings are original, and the rooms have been furnished to look roughly as they would have in the early 1700s. With regard to ceiling paintings, in the rooms where the originals are gone, they’ve just replaced them with white spaces, which I found that I liked – these rooms are not really themselves without that ceiling art (you cannot have a proper baroque room without all the decoration!) and the absence reminds you that it is, in fact, a restoration.
My favorite room, though, was the porcelain one. It’s a corner chamber where the walls are lined with rows and rows of blue and white Chinese porcelain – rows of plates, of urns, of everything you can imagine. The total effect is somewhere between beautiful and complete and utter overkill, and I loved it.
Outside the palace there was a Christmas market. Lots and lots of stalls selling various trinkets and books and gifts – I was tempted to buy mittens to replace mine, which are, ah, let’s be generous and say grossly inadequate for temperatures under about 35F – and most importantly food, including latkes (the Germans call them Kartoffelpuffer) and Glühwein, or mulled wine, often with a shot of rum. I have become a fan of Glühwein.
And today I have to head back home. I’m tempted to see if I can catch Les Troyens at the Met on the 26th – five hours of French opera on the day after Christmas! There are still tickets available!