Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Excursion - Bogensee and Wandlitz

Day trip north of Berlin to Wandlitz, and surrounding environs, on the mission to find an old East German Gaurd tower, Goebbels‘ Villa, East German FDJ international elite socialistic school, and maybe pop in to Honecker‘s old house in The „Waldsiedlung“.

First up, a visit to an old East German guard tower in Weißennsee Berlin. Type BT 4 1970, which stands in the former complex where the Stasi were trainied to guard the East German party leadership and foreign dignitaries. This was effectively the training grounds for the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment (the elite Stasi regiment), and armory. The government Motorcycle Escort was housed in the cellar of the building adjacent of the tower. It is a listed site today, and the surrounding area is full of amazing street art.

The adventure continued to the Goebbels' villa 'Bogensee', just on the outskirts of Wandlitz. The villa is still in fairly good condition. It had been a present from the City of Berlin to the propaganda minister in 1936, during the Olympics. This is where Goebbels conducted the affairs of state, or more accurately his affairs with actresses like Lida Baarová. During the war his family moved out there and a bunker was built.

Next door is the impressive, absolutely monstrous international youth school. Here the international socialist youth elite were indoctorinated with the teachings of Marx and Lenin, with the intention of spreading this political ideology throughout the world. The sprawling scale of this complex was a surprise. The Berlin senate has tried to sell the 16 hectare location, which includes the Goebbels Villa, but because of its past history no takers as of yet!

Our last mission was to the old „Waldsiedlung“ where the leadership of East Germany lived......together. The complex was guarded by the Stasi, and to gain entry you needed a special, high security, pass. The houses were nice, but not very luxurious. For the leaders of a country, quite modest in fact. These houses have now been subdivided into apartments for short term let.

All in all an fantastic research day in Berlin and Brandenburg! Hard to pick a highlight but if pushed it would be the East German international youth school.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

detective work in Rummelsburg

Last Saturday I was wandering around Rummelsburg, a locality in the borough of Lichtenberg, and I came across some intriguing notes covering the side of an old building. The area has many former factories which have been restored or converted to housing, artist studios and even a (great) club. This building was empty though and I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the historic detective work which was underway. 

I sent along the photos to Jamie, our resident archaeologist, and this is what he had to say.

It seems like an investigation as prelude to the restoration of the building. It's protected as a Denkmal, which means when it is restored it needs to maintain its historical appearance. The types of mortar and paint used in the restoration are required to conform to the original mortar and paint. This looks like an investigation to establish which paint and mortar are the earliest ones used. They have exposed different paint layers that have built up over time in order to see which one was the first. Alternatively they might be aiming to restore the structure to the appearance it had at a particular point in time (eg 1920s).   
Once restored, it might look like a similar building just down the road: http://www.perlon-labor.de/en/

From this photo I was able to do some research about the former factory, and it seems it was producing chemicals used in the dying of fabrics. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Pergamon Preview with Jamie

In just a couple of short weeks Insider is premiering a brand new public tour. The guides have been busy doing research in Berlin and Turkey, and have already hosted a student group on a Pergamon Museum tour. Enjoy a sneak peak of what Jamie's Pergamon tour looks like. Jamie, a professional archaeologist and part-time lecturer at Berlin’s Humboldt University, has been excavating the city’s past for more than a decade and is thrilled to introduce Insider guests to this exceptional collection of artifacts and architectural structures.

Pergamon ruins, photographed during Insider guides' research trip to Turkey
Introducing the history of the collections in the museums of Museum Island

A basalt basin for cultic purification from Assyrian Assur, and an explanation of why the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may not have been in Babylon!

Interpreting the building inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II next to the Ishtar Gate.
Explaining the purposes of the Market Gate of Miletus

Columns from Baalbek and the question of why the temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus was the biggest in the Roman world
 Contrasting iconography in the Orpheus Mosaic.

Describing the journey made by the pink granite columns of Baalbek from Aswan to Lebanon and finally to Berlin.
Showing images of the bombastic Roman temple precinct at Baalbek

Revealing the synthesis of craftsman's skills required in the making of the mihrab from the Bey Hakim Mosque, Konya, Turkey

Last stop, next to an astrolabe, a product of the Islamic Golden Age
Have we perked your interest? Reserve a ticket to experience this tour for yourself! 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A story about stories, with Taylor

We are taking a break from news of our new tour with this interview from Taylor, a guide who has been with the Insider team for many years now.  There is some real insight here into why Taylor is such a well loved guide. I will give you a hint, it has to do with passion. Enjoy!

I grew up in country NSW, actually closer to Melbourne than Sydney, and while I have been to Sydney many times, Melbourne is my much preferred city.

I feel that if a city has great weather and great beaches (as Sydney does) than it doesn't really need to push too hard for anything else. People will be happy enough with the beaches and weather. Melbourne (by Australian standards) has neither great weather nor great beaches and I think because of that has pushed for everything else. It has great theatre, live music and sport venues and is an amazing (almost European) cosmopolitan city.

But after living two years in Melbourne after high school I decided to move to Perth to pursue a degree in Theatre and Film, with the intention always being to move back to Melbourne after my three year degree was completed. As it turns out I spent ten years in Perth, with its smaller theatre scene it was a great place to get a lot of experience, but the opportunities for paid work were quite limited.

So it was at thirty years of age I decided it was time for another change and decided to move to London, but decided to do some travelling around Europe first before i got settled. My first night in Berlin I knew I wanted to live there and at the end of my travels, picked up my stuff from London and moved to the Hauptstadt instead.

a historic postcard of the Volksbühne

In a lot of ways I see the Berlin theatre scene to be a little similar (although much larger) to the Perth scene. There is so much going on and so many ways one can get experience, however with the plethora of incredibly talented artistic people drawn to the city, it can be quite difficult to find paid work. My favourite venue for theatre in Berlin is definitely the Volksbuehne at Rosa Luxemburg Platz. Its just an amazing venue steeped in 20th century history as it was completed shortly before the outbreak of WWI and like most of Berlin, heavily damaged in WWII.

When it comes to my own work however, i prefer venues that are much more intimate. In my play "Altbau" we used an apartment. With eight actors playing in four different rooms of the apartment to four small groups of audience simultaneously. Each scene is only thematically connected to the scenes in the other rooms, so they can be viewed in any order. Each scene is also specifically written for the room in which it is performed. The small performance spaces and limited audience numbers made it an incredibly confronting work, with audience members able to see, hear and even smell the actors performing less that a meter away in some cases. It was a very new style of work for me and has sparked my interest to create more site-specific theatre in the future.

Guiding for me will always be closely linked to my theatre background. I like to run a tour that is not just full of facts and dates, but full of stories. I see my tours as a one man show, I guess. I regularly get asked if I get bored of saying the same thing every day, and while that is not the case because tours will change and expand over time and I also do many different tours, the main reason I dont get bored is because every group, every audience is different in their reactions, their questions and reflections are why I still enjoy my job so much.

So there you have it, come join a tour with Taylor and know that it is not only one of kind but you the guest are indeed affecting the show!


Monday, 23 January 2017

Insider's Museum Island Tour: The Renowned Pergamon and New Museum

Insider is excited to announce a new tour, and more so a new direction for 2017! We will be going inside for the first time, hosting a daily public tour of the renowned Pergamon and New Musuems on Berlin's infamous Museum Island.

On this tour you will explore the wonders of ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome. Hosted by one of Insider's expert guides, you will not only be able to admire the impressive artefacts and architectural structures, you will also be taking a journey through history and gaining a critical understanding of the collection's relationship to Berlin, past and present.

The Ishtar Gate

The ferocious bombing campaign of WWII and the final Battle of Berlin left the centre of the city, including Museum Island, in almost complete ruin. Following the war the area was allocated to East Berlin, which resulted in a stagnant rebuilding process. Only in 1999 was Museum Island awarded UNESCO status, securing its cultural heritage as an architectural and social result of the Ages of Enlightenment & Empire. A tour with Insider takes you through these different eras to the present state of continual renovation: literally a tour of history in the making.

By engaging with the whole of Museum Island, its renowned Prussian architecture, the collection of ancient structures and artefacts, and the contemporary approach to restoration, you will be able to experience the Pergamon and the New Museum in a unique light.

The Pergamon Alter

How did the Bauhaus aesthetic inadvertently preserve Prussian-era Egyptian fresco facsimiles? Who found the bust of Nefertiti lying face down in the dirt in 1912 and how did she end up in Berlin? Where can one walk down a contemporary staircase based on Classical proportions which is scarred with WWII bullet holes? Join Insider for an unforgettable tour of Berlin's two finest museums and immerse yourself in history.

VIP entry, no queuing! Price €59 per person. Duration is 3 hours visiting both museums. Plus the price includes a Museum Island day pass. This is valid for all the museums on the island for the rest of that day.

Tours run daily from Apr. 1st to Sept. 30th at 10:00am
Pre-booking is required. Just visit our website and you will receive a 10% discount! http://www.insidertour.com/tours.php/cat/27/id/50/title/Pergamon_&_New_Museum_Tour

Our meeting place, just outside the New Museum

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Insider goes to Küstrin/Kostrzyn and the Seelower Heights

a postcard from Küstrin, prior to WWII

    T-34/85 Tank
    Insider guides are constantly doing research. The thrust of this day trip was to uncover more about the German army's defence, Henrici's three line strategy with the focus on the 9th Paratrooper division, and their strategy as they retreated towards the Gusow palace. Insider guides also studied the Soviet assault on Küstrin/Kostrzyn, the construction/defence of bridgeheads and the detail the Soviet attack from Zhukov command post.

    Discussing the difference between traction profiles on mass-produced T-34s compared to the Tiger or Panther

    Katyusha rockets, otherwise known as Stalin's organ
An array of military hardware
Unknown soldier
Seelower Heights Soviet memorial statue
Setting the scene...
The battle begins, Heinrici's defence plan
The encircling of Berlin, and the Western Allied forces position
On the Polish side of the Oder discussing the Soviet preparations for the assault on the Küstrin/Kostrzyn fortress
Entering what once was the bustling old town of Küstrin/Kostrzyn
Discussing the total destruction of the old city
Walking down the main street of the old city towards the site of the former city palace. Between the street signs are the ruins of schools, homes, churches, shops, the whole town...
Discussing the construction of bridgeheads
As the German forces abonded the Küstrin/Kostrzyn fortress the bridges were destroyed in their wake
The wall of the Küstrin/Kostrzyn fortress
War damage on the Rotwein church
The ruined Rotwein church
At Zhukov's and Chuikov's command post, overlooking the battlefield
Gusow palace, amazing untouched villa, used by both German and Soviet forces. Now includes a small restaurant serving great food including fine schnitzels
It also hosts a most eclectic museum of curiosities
Those BRIXMAS boys got around the DDR
SS uniform next to a pink cocktail dress
Werbig by fading light – a tactically important rail crossing, this was the site of some of the heaviest fighting for the Seelower Heights
The Battle for the Seelower Heights was the biggest military barrage in world history. Approx 1.2 million shells were dropped on the first day, April 16th 1945. The Soviets managed to get the 1st Belorussian Front, approx. 768.000 troops and 3.000 tanks across the Oder in 14 days. The Soviets suffered about 30.000 deaths in the 4 day battle. German casualties are estimated at 12.000. After this battle the road to Berlin was open.