Saturday, August 30, 2014

Berlin; Around the Reichstag building

Hi guys! During my stay in Berlin I went for many walks (mostly with my classmates) and on one of the days we paid a visit to the Reichstag building, or the German parliament. Unlike most parliaments I have visited, this one is actually located in an architecturally and historically rich neighborhood. If you take a look at it on Google Maps, you'll see what I mean.

First off, to get there, we met at the Brandenburg Tor (Tor means door in German), one of the most known landmarks of Germany. The gate is at the east end of the Straße des 17. Juni and gives direct access to Pariser Platz, where are located the US, French, Canadian, and UK embassies.

Located a bit north west of the gate is the parliament of Germany. This building is obviously rich with history but the fun part is mostly the fact that it is open to the public for a visit of the glass dome. But first, you can't get in without making a reservation (so you have to get there at the time that is given to you), they search you and scan your personal belongings (just like in airports) and ask for a piece of ID. I obviously brought my Canadian passport because no one hates Canadians. No one. Joke, maybe some people do.

On the main entrance you can read "To the German people". Yes, despite what some people might think, Germany had (and still has) very people-oriented governments.

When you get in you are automatically directed to a huge elevator packed with other tourists that brings you directly to the glass dome floor.

You are given an audio guide and to make it work properly you have to start at the bottom right of the ramp and walk at a fairly slow pace. The audio guide automatically detects where you are on the ramp and tells you the story of the parliament, and will tell you to stop and look for something (a building, a park, a monument) and tell you its story. The tour is available in French, English and German.

Once you have completed the tour, you end up outside of the dome on the roof of the building. Even if you have been explained everything your eyes could see (if you're shortsighted please bring your glasses) you are free to walk around and keep looking. I unfortunately did not bring the right lens for that and I do not like the way my pictures have turned, but here are some I snapped of the building itself and some details.

Now, if you have taken a look at the parliament on Google Maps, you'll see it's located right in a huge green space. Known as the Großer Tiergarten (great animal garden) it's a 210 acres park that used to be a hunting park. Now the wildlife lives in peace and apparently you can see boars from times to times (I actually saw a fox). Right in the middle of the park is the Siegessaüle (Victory Column) built to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war. It used to be right across the Riechstag building but it was moved to its current location.

Located right in the middle of a roundabout, you can see the Brandenburg Tor on the east end of the boulevard.

We took a walk in the park but honestly, even with a good sense of orientation, you can easily get lost in there.

At the south east of the park is the new Sony Center, a very modern entertainment and commercial center that, honestly, took my breath away with its architectural style and design. Partly covered, you have the feeling of being outside while being sort of inside.

See how the tiles of the ground make it look like a pedestrian plaza?

Technically, you are still outside because you're just covered by this very stylish roof. I swear my brain is still confused from the way I felt but it was a good kind of confusion.

As we headed "outside" we saw this cute Lego giraffe. A lot of parents were taking pictures of their children with it.

If you go back towards the Branderburg Tor, you can easily find the Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe) also known as the Holocaust-Mahnmal (Holocaust Memorial). People walk or sit among the stelae on a very uneven and wavy surface.

Unfortunately this is not considered as a public place and people are actually not allowed the walk around or on the stelae. In my opinion, the way the memorial was made attracts people and make them want to interact with it. Unless very clear indications were put up all around the memorial, perhaps people would know it is not an actual public place.

An entrance on Cora-Berliner-Straße gives access to the museum located underground. It tells the story of the holocaust, displays letters written by people before their disappearance, tells the stories of families that tried to flee their misery, and so on and so forth. You do the tour on your own for free, but you can also get an audio guide for an extra 5€ or 10€. You can also make a donation as you leave.

And so that's it for today guys! I hope you enjoyed knowing what there is to see or do in the neighborhood of the German parliament. Until next time!

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