This summer we spent a few days away in Berlin. It’s a city I’ve wanted to visit for a while now; and one that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Our first day began with an early start leaving home at 4:30 to catch an early flight. After an early check-in to the hotel we kept things fairly low key with just a visit to the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) and The Reichstag Building. The Reichstag is one of the historic edifices of Berlin and now, once again, home to the German parliament.
The glass dome over the centre of the building was designed by British Architect Norman Foster. I particularly wanted to see this and had already booked online for a visit. The Dome is open to the public for tours (free of charge). However, booking is essential and must be done online in advance.
It’s a great way to begin a city break, the tour of the dome gives you a 360 degree view of the city and identifies many buildings and sights of interest. The guided audio tour is available in many languages and auto plays as you walk around the dome.
Once again I rarely go anywhere without my camera so here are some of my images from our visit. Our visit was timed for early evening where I hoped to have some evening sun, unfortunately it was slightly overcast, but you can’t have everything I suppose.
The Reichstag background
The Reichstag is a one of many historic edifice’s in Berlin, Germany. Originally it was constructed to house the Imperial Diet, of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged after being set on fire.
Following World War II, the building fell into disuse. The parliament of the German Democratic Republic (the Volkskammer) met in the Palast der Republik in East Berlin. And the parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (the Bundestag) met in the Bundeshaus in Bonn.
The ruined building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s. However, no attempt at full restoration was made until after the German reunification on 3 October 1990. It then went under major reconstruction led by the British architect Norman Foster. After its completion in 1999, it became, once again, the meeting place of the German parliament; the modern Bundestag.
The Reichstag Dome
The large glass dome at the top of the Reichstag gives a 360-degree view of the Berlin cityscape. The dome sits above the main hall (debating chamber) of the parliament, which can also be seen below from inside the dome. The Dome allows natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor.
A large sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and blocks direct sunlight. This would otherwise, not only cause a large solar gain, but dazzle those below. Construction work was finished in 1999 and the seat of parliament was transferred to the Bundestag in April 1999. The dome is open to visitors by prior registration.
The Reichstag reconstruction
During the reconstruction, the building was almost completely gutted. This involved taking out everything except the outer walls, including all changes made by Baumgarten in the 1960s. Respect for the historic aspects of the building was one of the conditions stipulated to the architects. Today, traces of historical events are still retained in a visible state. Among them were graffiti left by Soviet soldiers after the final battle for Berlin in April–May 1945. Written in Cyrillic script, they include such slogans as “Hitler kaputt” and names of individual soldiers. However, any graffiti with racist or sexist themes was removed, with the agreement of the Russian diplomats at the time.
The Reichstag Building reconstruction work was completed in 1999. Soon after the Bundestag began convening there officially beginning on 19 April of that year. The Reichstag is now the second most visited attraction in Germany. This is not least because of the huge glass dome that was erected on the roof. The Dome is a reflection back to the original 1894 cupola and now provides impressive views over the city, especially at night.