I woke, and a very apologetic reception lady got me into the right room, sorted out my receipt and I relaxed! I had breakfast (bitter orangey yoghurt, muesli and then bread rolls with meat and cheese, and strong coffee) and headed off to the Free University of Berlin to register and pick up my pass. Very generously, our conference pass also got us free public transport and free entry to the state museums for the week. No papers were scheduled for the Monday, so Mark, Eleftheria, Matt, Hembo and I headed off into the city to Schloss Charlottenburg and the museum of prehistory.
We had a guided tour with a really good guide, she knew her stuff very well and was able to answer all kinds of questions, about provenance (a lot of the pieces were from 18th and 19th century ‘art markets’) and politics (a lot of the items on display were replicas of pieces taken by the Russians after the end of WWII). A bit of me wondered if it was OK to complain about the Russians ‘stealing’ things that had essentially been looted in the first place…
I saw some amazing prehistoric weapons and armour (I’ve yet to put all of the pictures I took on flickr, but they’ll go up soon if anyone is really as interested as me 😀 ). The really amazing bit was probably the Schliemann collection- the finds from the city that is supposed to be Troy. Especially as I’m working my way through the Iliad at the moment, seeing the drinking vessels, the helms and swords. Quite special.
We went to an Italian (!) place for lunch and then headed further into town as we had to get to the official reception at the Foreign Office.
We just about made it on time to this odd set of buildings. We went through (very tight) security in one modern building, walked through it and out into a courtyard and then over into this gigantic modern/ neoclassical concrete mongrel of a building which basically contained a huge vault of a space as an ante-room, all flat and marble and glossy, and then another huge shiny vault with side aisles, almost like and atheist’s cathedral. A very odd space.
Then the speeches started. Everyone said thank-you to everyone else, at least twice, and at some great length. I think the special award goes to Steve Stead for the brevity and directness of his speech! We then descended on an enormous buffet laid on for us and started on the wine and beer! I met up with the other Antiquisters and got to meet Chris P in a situation other than being lectured to! We hob-nobbed for a while and I caught up with some people from Southampton, and previous UK chapter conferences, which was really good.
Then Leif, like the Pied Piper (and having lived in Berlin for four years) took us all off on a merry dance. We went to Unter den Linten just as the sun was setting and I got some great photos (phone-camera notwithstanding) of the amazing light on the gold panels of the Cathedral. We tried to get into the Tajik tearooms (more of this later, oh yes!) but they were full. We ended up in a Bavarian restaurant/pub, outside in a square drinking wheat beer and eating Bavarian food (pig and dumplings and cabbage mainly!). At some point the Schnapps was called for… Once that had set in (!) some people felt we should call it a night and headed off for sleep, whilst the rest of us followed Leif off on a walking tour. He took us through the ‘trendy’ district and past the most notorious squat in Berlin, at which point Jens took up an alarming noticeable rant about how it might well be ‘the finest most famous anarchist squat in Berlin but how can they charge three euros to go inside’. I’m afraid discretion took the better part of valour for me and I headed off to the suburbs and my bed.