Completed in 1894, it housed the government for decades. In 1933, a famous fire destroyed part of the building shortly after Hitler became Chancellor. He blamed others for the fire and closed the building, insisting this entitled him to grab more power for himself. Perhaps he actually engineered the fire? No one knows . . .
When Berlin was liberated in 1945, Russian troops rushed into the Reichstag, as it symbolized Germany. The building, damaged from WWII, wasn’t repaired by the Soviet occupiers. It wasn’t until after the fall of the Wall and the Communists left the city that the new, unified German government moved into the Reichstag and the interior of the building was modernized.
My favorite room is the library, with its striking red sofas and walls full of books. The abstract artwork depicts the history of Germany. Can you find the yellow star worn by Jews during the Nazi era here?
The view from the deck outside the library is of the River Spree. The seven white crosses are a memorial to unlucky Germans who thought that the river marked the line of the Berlin Wall here. East German soldiers knew the river here was actually in East Germany. So they shot those misguided seven. Notice there is a blank cross, too. We saw several unfinished types of these memorials in Berlin. Apparently so many people died trying to cross from East to West that names of the missing are still being added.
Next we took a stairway to the Archive of German Members of Parliament. Every member of parliament who has ever worked here (up to 1999, when this was designed) has a memorial on the walls. Hitler had several members arrested (those who didn’t support him), and they didn’t survive. Their names are here, too.
On to the parliament meeting room. The floor of the parliament boasts about 600 blue chairs and a huge Bundestag eagle presides over the room. If you look up, you’re looking up into the glass dome (more on that later).
I didn’t know that we would be able to enter the parliament area, so I was thrilled to be here where the German government meets. We were there on a Sunday, but if you’re there on a weekday you may be able to see parliament in action.
Our guide Roland lived in Berlin during the 28 years of the Berlin Wall, and he’s lived here in the 28 years since the Wall fell. As you can imagine, his commentary and answers to our questions were riveting.
The best comes last – the glass dome! Visible from far away in the city, the dome is a marvel of architecture and efficiency. Inside, as you wind up the circular structure, the views of Berlin are stunning. The lower end opens into parliament (no secrets allowed!) and the top end is open to the sky.
The audio guide is free and is really fun because it operates with GPS. So as you wind up and down the ramps, you hear about what you are looking at. You look down at the iconic Brandenburg gate from here!
IF YOU GO:
Be sure to reserve your tour at least a month in advance. You can apply on the website for the date and time you want to go. Then wait to get an email approving your application. Security is tight, as you can imagine. No photos are allowed in the building where you check in (ask me how I know!), but once you’re inside the Reichstag, you can take all the pictures you want.
The tour is free, and the audio guide is included.
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to midnight
For more information, this publication by the German government gives lots of details about the Reichstag.