Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin, Germany

Built by Kaiser Wilhelm I in the late 19th century as a gesture to parliamentarians, Berlin’s famed Reichstag came into its own during the Weimar era—Germany’s first attempt at democracy. The parliament building burned under mysterious circumstances in 1933, leading to the suspension of civil rights and Hitler’s ensuing dictatorship. Seized and shot to pieces by Soviet troops in 1945, then abandoned during the city’s division, the traumatized building reentered public life when the German government returned to Berlin following reunification. Today the Reichstag stands proud, topped by a glass dome designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster as a symbol of political transparency. Going inside the dome is very popular; you can look down on plenary sessions as well as admire sweeping city views.

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The Reichstag - The best way to get an overview of Berlin

The Reichstag Building is where Parliament gathers and is also one of the best places to see all of Berlin from high above. The building itself reminds me of a glass version of The Guggenheim Museum in NYC, but instead of looking at art and sculpture, visitors to The Reichstag get an amazing 360 degree overview of the city of Berlin. Access to Reichstag is free, but you must register for a tour time in advance. There are two ways to go about this: 1) Register for a time online several days in advance (time slots book up online quickly). If choosing this option make sure you receive your reservation request email and then click on the confirmation link and enter in all your information. Receiving just the reservation request email is not enough. You need to remember to click on it and enter in your confirmation details. 2) Your other options is to stand in the reservation line across the street from the building and reserve a spot for that day or that week. Many more reservations are available at the ticket booth than online, but the line can be long. I strongly recommend going to the ticket line early in the morning when there are very few people there. Once in the building you are given an automated headset in your chosen language that guides you up the building and gives you information about all that you see.

Signs of War

In some of the older buildings that survived the bombings of Berlin, look for the memories of war. Small bullet holes from WWII are still visible on Reichstag’s facade.

Walking the Reichstag

Home to Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag was opened in 1894, suffered damage and destruction for decades and was rebuilt in the 1990′s. Go early (it opens at 8:00 daily) to avoid the worst lines. Once inside, you’ll walk a spiraled ramp hugging the perimeter of a glass dome (representing transparency in government) to be treated to an unparalleled 360-degree view of Berlin at the top. Now here’s your mission, if you choose to accept it. GOLF BALLS! Oh, how I yearned to have a handful of golf balls to toss down the ramp to see if they’d roll all the way to the bottom. I asked one of the INFORMATION guys if anyone had ever attempted. “Never,” he replied stoically, revealing all the gaity and sense of humor for which Germans are famous.

Back in Berlin

I went back for a week in Berlin just 3 days after graduating from College. I went on an evening walk after buying some music. A nice Russian women took this picture. Traveling alone means you don’t get a lot of pictures of yourself to prove you were actually there. I needed at least one.

Encountering the Reichstag

The old and new architecture of Berlin doesn’t blend so much as careen together with a crash. The Reichstag is a perfect example. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But there is nothing gentle about it. Neo-classical buildings sport jagged stainless-steel-and-glass angles hanging off the top like free climbers. Dramatic and edgy. Berlin East/West is just 22 years young since the fall of the wall. The city has exploded in an architectural melee.

360 degree views from the Bundestag

Every city has its own unique skyline and one of the best spots to see Berlin‘s is at the top of the dome of the Bundestag. Getting into the Parliament building requires a little advanced planning but it’s easy enough and worth the effort. I love architecture and the dome of the Bundestag is just beautiful. It offers 360 degree views of the city and it particularly enjoyed going there just around sunset.

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