The Reichstag

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The Reichstag today once again is the home of the German Parliament – these days known as the Bundestag. Opened in 1894 It was originally the home of the Imperial Diet, of the German Empire and then, after the overthrow of the Kaiser in 1918, the parliament of the Weimar Republic. It was gutted in a fire in 1933 which was used as a pretext by the Nazis to ban and persecute communists and other left wing groups and consolidate their dictatorship.

After the Second World War it was in West Berlin and the building, which was badly damaged during the war, was disused and in a dilapidated state. Following the reunification after the Berlin Wall came down, it was decided to reinstitute Berlin as the national Capital and to move the Bundestag to the Reichstag. So the building needed to be repaired and renovated and this task was awarded to the British architect, Norman Foster. His design was very radical. The building was gutted and an entirely new, very modern, interior created within the neo-classical exterior walls. “Green” technology for lighting, heating and water supplies to minimise the building’s environmental impact.

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A major feature of the renovated building is the glass dome on the roof, and this has become a very popular visitor attraction. Entry is free, but places have to be reserved in advance via the web. It’s open from 8 a.m. until midnight and it provides great views over the city. It’s also possible to take a guided tour of the debating chamber.

We wanted to visit the Reichstag during our stay in Berlin. When I checked on the web I found the dome was closed that week for cleaning but it reopened on the Saturday, our final day in the city. I went on the web to sort out tickets, but the only slots available were during late evening. Undeterred I booked tickets for 8:45 p.m. and this actually worked out well for us. It made a great finish to our stay.

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We turned up just before our slot and then had to pass through a security check. We had to wait outside with a small group before being led inside and taken up a lift to the top floor to access the dome. Free audioguides are provided, and it was worth picking one up.

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We then proceeded to walk up the spiral ramp towards the top of the dome.

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In the centre there’s a large conical mirror – ‘light sculptor’ – which reflects daylight into the building to reduce the need for electric lighting. There’s a a large sun shield to reduce solar gain and glare which moves around, following the path of the sun.

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Reaching the top we could see the opening in the roof which allows rainwater to fall down into a collection funnel at the top of the light sculptor.

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The collected water is used in the building.

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By the time we reached the roof dusk was starting to descend. But we had a good view looking over the Spree, the Mitte district, the Tiergarten

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and towards the Brandenburg Gate.

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