The Reichstag Dome

Berlin Travel Blog

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The Reichstag, with its dome, when the crowds had dispersed somewhat: the picture was taken from the Platz der Republik, a vast stretch of greensward that is part of the Tiergarten
After the exertions of yesterday and a very late night, something a little less frenetic seemed in order. Jenny had an afternoon meeting at work, so we were able to have a leisurely breakfast, and didn't catch our train until 12.30. As Jenny didn't have that much time we kept to the centre of Berlin by wandering around Museum Island, the complex of museums to the north of the Lustgarten, without actually going in any - that is a rainy day activity! It was here that I first noticed the massive water pipes that pop up all over Berlin - normally they are underground, but are often carried over roads and inconveniently-placed railway tunnels and are frequently painted in bright pink or blue.
A view from the roof of the Reichstag, looking south: on the left is the Brandenburg Gate, and beyond that the cranes constructing the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe; the balloon is tethered and takes tourists up for an aerial view of the city
We finished up having coffee and pizza in Coffee Connection on Anna-Louisa-Karsch-Strasse, a pleasant and relaxing venue by the river with a good view of the Berliner Dom.

After lunch we crossed Karl Leibknecht Strasse and the greensward surrounding Herren Marx and Engels towards the picturesque network of lanes bordering the Spree that constitutes the Nikolaiviertel, or Nikolai Quarter. Here there are plentiful small shops and old buildings that give one a sense of a quiet and peaceful Berlin very different to that encountered in the rest of the city. The large and famous Nikolaikirche is where the organist Johannes Cruger, in about 1647, wrote the chorale melody that later became one of the most famous of all hymn tunes, Nun Danket Alle Gott (Now thank we all our God).
The dome itself, showing the inverted cone of central reflectors, the intertwined spiral walkways and, on the right, the screen that follows the sun, which is to the right of the picutre: the sun that you can see is a reflection

Then it was time for Jenny to go to her meeting, and I decided to make a beeline for the Reichstag, with its celebrated new dome which was designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 1999. Getting there was easy, as the Reichstag is only a stone's throw north of the Brandenburg Gate. However, getting inside was more difficult; I was horrified not just at the coachloads of people queuing up but also at the slowness of the queue. Tourists! Grrrrrr ... Nevertheless, I joined it after a protracted dither, but then unjoined it after fifteen minutes of immobility and considered my options. Eventually I decided that within an hour or so the coach parties should have stopped arriving and the queue should have cleared, and so after a further minor dither I decided to stay in the area and simply explore some of the Tiergarten.
Cafe Adler at Checkpoint Charlie, which is a real tourist honeypot
My conclusion: if you like trees, then the Tiergarten is for you.

After an  hour I returned, the queue was a little shorter, and I even saw some people shuffle forward a few steps, so things were definitely happening. Consequently I joined the queue for the second time, and after forty minutes gained the entrance doors. Getting through these turned out to be an unpleasant experience. Of course, security is tight, but the procedure was to herd about fifty people, as many as they could, into a glass vestibule with the inner doors locked. Then the outer doors are locked behind, and thus the fifty are captive behind glass and can be scrutinised by the security staff. Once they are satisfied with the look of everyone the inner doors are opened and one's bag and person can be screened. For someone (like me) with a tendency to panic in crowds, being locked in the vestibule was deeply disagreeable, although it was probably for less than a minute.

I was then able to wander over the roof and so enjoy the views in all directions, bathed in the golden light of an October afternoon. The free information booklet "Insights - Outlook" has a splendid 360-degree panorama photographed from the roof, with all the principal sights identified, so make sure that you collect one of these on the way in. The entrance to the dome itself is from the roof, and you then proceed up one of two interlinked spiral ramps (the other is for descending) to the top, where there is an observation platform. The centre of the dome is an inverted cone of glass that reflects light down a light-well into the debating chamber below, and to protect debaters from being grilled a screen inside the dome tracks the sun to filter out its direct rays. It is highly impressive and fun, but one wonders how well it will stand up to the ravages of time and pigeons.

Here's a link so that you can see how the light illuminates the chamber below: Bundestag Website

Then it was time to leave and meet Jenny, after which we headed for Cafe Adler, an old and famous establishment near Checkpoint Charlie: from here, West Berliners could eat, drink, smoke, and watch the activity at the border crossing. It has friendly staff, is a little gloomy, and specialises in traditional stomach-lining German comfort food, which suited me down to the ground; check the board as well as the printed menu. Then with a well-lined stomach it was back to the flat for a wash-and-brush-up before an evening session at the nearby Tomasa Bar, which we left at half-past midnight after drinking a litre of Cabernet Sauvignon.
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The Reichstag, with its dome, when…
The Reichstag, with its dome, whe…
A view from the roof of the Reichs…
A view from the roof of the Reich…
The dome itself, showing the inver…
The dome itself, showing the inve…
Cafe Adler at Checkpoint Charlie, …
Cafe Adler at Checkpoint Charlie,…
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photo by: CFD