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EES members trip to Berlin

After our very successful Delta Workshop in Cairo in the spring of 2011, Joanne Rowland, Director of the EES Minufiyeh Survey, and I talked about the possibility of having a similar event in Berlin since both she and Eva Lange, Director of the Tell Basta Project, are based there. Out of those rather tentative discussions arose the idea of turning this into a long weekend trip for EES members. Jo enquired about the possibility of adding a special guided tour of the new Egyptian Galleries at the Neues Museum and we were delighted when the Director, Friederike Seyfried, generously offered to guide the tour herself. We then contacted The Traveller tour company who had organized our previous members’ trips to Egypt and they booked flights, coaches and a hotel for us.

So, on Thursday 17 November 2011, 23 EES members gathered at Heathrow for a BA flight and, after having been joined at Berlin's Tegel airport by a member from Switzerland, had an uneventful journey to the Seminiariscampus Hotel, very close to the Free University where Jo is based and where the Study Day was to be held. Berlin was very cold when we arrived but the weather warmed up a bit over the weekend and eventually the sun broke through the clouds. The Thursday evening and Friday morning were ‘free’ and most of the group visited some of Berlin's many museums. Jo, Jeff and I, however, had work to do to prepare for the Study Day and filled a trolley at a local supermarket with coffee, tea, biscuits, juice, mineral water and wine for the planned refreshment breaks. Fortunately the supermarket was very close to our hotel and we were able to wheel the trolley into the lift and up to our room, where it stayed overnight!

Jeff and Jo with the shopping in our hotel room!

The EES group outside the Neues Museum.

We then all met up outside for Neues Museum in the afternoon for a very thorough, informative but also entertaining, tour with Dr Seyfried, to whom we are all very grateful. She spent two hours with us, describing the galleries and the major pieces in the collection, and also the history of the museum and her plans for the future. It was fascinating to see ‘in the flesh’ so many major objects, especially those from Amarna, which are very familiar from publications. The famous head of Nefertiti (where photography is not allowed) is in a separate room in special well-lit display.

Dr Frederike Seyfried at the start of our special tour.

A sculptor's model head of Nefertiti, marked up for corrections.

Unfinished stela from Amarna.

Dr Seyfried describing the tomb chapel of Metjen.

On the Saturday morning, we all made our way to the TOPOI House of the Free University for a series of talks (from Manfred Bietak, Ulrich Hartung, Eva Lange, Manuela Lehmann, Joanne Rowland, Jeffrey Spencer, Patricia Spencer and Penny Wilson) on ‘Current Archaeology in the Nile Delta’, all of which seemed to be well received. Unfortunately one of the speakers, Robert Schiestl, was unable to give his paper as he was unwell so Jeff stepped in with a short extra talk on the EES Delta Survey. We were especially pleased to welcome as our guest Professor Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Cultural Counsellor at the Egyptian Embassy in Berlin.

Professor Dr Mamdouh Eldamaty with Professor Manfred Bietak.

The speakers at the Study Day. Standing (left to right): Patricia and Jeffrey Spencer, Ulrich Hartung, Eva Lange, Manuela Lehmann and Penny Wilson. Kneeling: Manfred Bietak and Joanne Rowland.

In addition to our group from London, the Study Day was attended by students and colleagues from Berlin, bringing our number up to around 70. We’re immensely grateful to students from the University who worked very hard all day, preparing the refreshment breaks, lunch and wine reception at the end when we were all able to relax!

Sunday morning was again ‘free’ and Jeff and I took the opportunity to visit the Pergamon Museum where most of the group had gone while we were shopping on Friday. The highlights of the Museum are, of course, the Pergamon Gate itself and the Gate of Ishtar, but it was good to see some ‘Amarna Letters’ there on display.

One of the Amarna Letters.

The whole trip went really well until we arrived back at the airport on the Sunday afternoon to find our flight had been cancelled because of fog (though there was none in Berlin!). After standing for three hours at the BA desk, we managed to get everyone rebooked onto other flights, with one group arriving at Heathrow (via Munich) just before midnight and everyone else booked on two direct BA flights on Monday. The airline representative booked 15 of us into a hotel not far from the airport, unfortunately in an area with very limited dining opportunities, so most of us ended up in a Burger King - a new experience for our Vice-President, Martin Davies!

Martin Davies, Janet May-Bowles and Maggie Nelson living it up in Burger King!

We rounded off a long day with some beer-drinking back at the hotel and all finally got home safely on Monday. I would, personally, like to thank all those members who went on the trip for being such good company, for always being punctual and for your patience and understanding when our flight was cancelled. Suggestions for the next EES members’ trip abroad will be warmly welcomed!

Patricia Spencer

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