Why visit the Reichstag

Reichstag

When talking about Berlin, the first thing that comes to mind is the majestic Reichstag. The history of the Reichstag is tightly connected and inseparable from the history of Berlin and all of Germany. In my schedule, however, the Reichstag was first on my list of sights to visit. In Germany, buildings like the Reichstag are given the epithet “geschichtstr√§chtig”. In German, the word means “steeped in history.”

History

The foundation stone was laid in 1884, but construction was interrupted for a period of ten years. The result is a majestic building in the Italian Renaissance style. And already in 1933 the building was burnt down because of an arson, thanks to which the Nazis were able to get rid of a political opponent. In 1945, Soviet troops occupied the Reichstag and raised the Victory Banner over it, which they placed over the main entrance of the Reichstag and attached it with straps to the equestrian sculpture of Wilhelm I.

Soldiers from the Soviet Army left a large number of inscriptions on the walls of the Reichstag, some of which are specially preserved to this day. Our guide told us that this was done for people to remember a senseless and ruthless war and not to repeat it. I also had a chance to talk to a representative of the Bundenstag, who said that these inscriptions are no less important for parliament: “People in parliament should always remember what the wrong political decisions can lead to. Interestingly, there are even these inscriptions near the office of current German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Totally about 700 inscriptions which soldiers left after the victory remained on walls of Reichstag. What I saw left a lasting impression and allowed me to literally touch history.

In 1995, the reconstruction of the Reichstag to the form you can see now began.

How to get there

The two most convenient ways to get to the Reichstag in my opinion are:

  • Subway (U-bahn). Take the U55 line to Brandenburger Tor station;
  • City train (S-bahn). Take the line S1, S2 or S25 to Brandenburger Tor station.

Things to do

Tours

There are 5 types of tours of the Reichstag, lasting about 90 minutes.

  • Sightseeing tour of the Reichstag . In this tour, you can learn about the functions, working methods, and composition of the parliament. Also, this tour tells about the architecture and history of the building. It is important to note that the minimum age to attend this tour is 15 years. This tour is held every day for an hour and a half. The earliest tour begins at 9:00, the latest at 20:00.
  • Tour of the Reichstag for families. This visit to the Reichstag is designed especially for children from 6 to 14 years. It tells about the tasks, working methods and composition of the Bundestag. You can visit the Reichstag with your family on Saturdays at 10:00, 12:30 and 14:30, and on Sundays and some public holidays at 10:00 and 12:30.
  • Creative and architectural tours of the Reichstag building . These tours are held on Saturdays, Sundays and some holidays at 11:30.
  • Creative and architectural tours of the Paul Loebe House or the Jacob Kaiser House . These tours take place on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm.
  • Excursions for groups of foreign tourists . These groups consist of a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 25 people. Tours can be conducted in Danish, English, Italian, French, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian. The time of these tours is from 9:00 to 20:00. Excursions are not available on holidays.
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All kinds of excursions are held on days free of plenary sessions. The number of people in an excursion group is no more than 25.

Plenary sessions

Anyone can also attend the plenary sessions. This procedure takes about an hour. This is a great opportunity to watch the debates of the Bundestag. Since the number of seats in the plenary hall is limited, I advise you to reserve your tickets several months in advance. Attendance at the plenary sessions is only possible during the weeks in which parliament is in session:

  • Wednesdays from 1:00 p.m. until approximately 4:00 p.m;
  • Thursdays from 9:00 a.m. until approximately 10:00 p.m;
  • Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to approximately 2:00 p.m.

Reichstag Dome

After each of the tours and plenary sessions, visitors are invited to go up under the Reichstag dome. From there you have a great view of the entire city. And you can also watch the work of the Bundestag from above. While climbing under the dome of the Reichstag you can use the audio guide, which, incidentally, is available in Russian. Audioguide will tell you about all the important and interesting places, which you can see when you climb on the bridge to the top of the dome. In the center of the dome is a mirror funnel, which shows all the ingenuity and ingenuity of the inhabitants of Germany. This funnel serves as an energy saving system for the Reichstag building.

I was pleasantly surprised that all activities are completely free. You can only get into the Reichstag building by attending one of the tours, the plenary session, or by climbing under the dome. In order not to spoil your holiday with an unexpected refusal to visit the building of the most popular parliament in the world, you need to take care in advance to sign up for one of the events offered in the Reichstag. You can do this on the official website of the Bundestag. What was a boon for me was that you can’t call them and make an appointment. Their specifics are that you have to write an email to the Reichstag email account with the date and time you want to visit, and after a while you get an email back saying that they will be waiting for you. Upon arriving at the Reichstag building, it was enough for me to give my name, which was already on the list to visit one of the tours, but I decided to reassure myself, so I printed out a reply email saying that my entry was successful.

Restaurant

Also on the roof of the Reichstag is a restaurant called Kafer. One of the downsides is that, like the Reichstag building itself, you have to wait in a huge line to get into the restaurant. Fortunately, neither the appearance of the restaurant, nor the prices, nor the panoramic view will not make you regret the time spent in line. By the way, I happened to hear a joke from locals that the Reichstag is the only place in Germany where you have to stand in a long line. For those who like to plan in advance and not to spend a lot of time in line, a table at this restaurant can be booked and you can go without queuing. You can do this on the official website. At the restaurant you may taste various dishes of German cuisine and a wide choice of German wines. The working time of the restaurant is from 9:00 till 24:00.

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Finally

Before leaving the building, it is worth stopping at the stands with literature, which briefly gives all the basic information about the Reichstag building and the Bundestag. All books on display are completely free of charge and are duplicated in several languages (among them Russian, English and Polish).

For some, the Reichstag is an opportunity to breathe in history, for others it is no more than a beautiful architectural structure, and everyone goes there for their own purposes, but one thing is clear: the Reichstag is a must-see.

The Reichstag in Berlin – the horror of fascism and the symbol of a united Germany

The Reichstag in Berlin… People around the world know about this building, but not everyone knows its history. What is the German Reichstag, how it was built, how it looks like now, what does it mean for Germany?

Reichstag Building

The word “Reichstag” in German means “state assembly”, and it was the state parliament of the German Empire called the “Reichstag” that functioned in this building from 1894 to 1933. Today such a body no longer exists, since 1999, the Reichstag is the seat of the new government of the Federal Republic of Germany – the Bundestag.

Interesting fact! The name of the building has always been written with a capital ‘uppercase’ letter, while the name of the parliament that works there – with a small one.

Now the Reichstag in the capital of Germany, Berlin, is one of the most important landmarks of the city. This building attracts many people because of its rich historical past, which is inseparably linked with the history of Germany and the events of World War II.

History of the Reichstag

Top view of the Reichstag

In 1871, several dozen independent states with a German population united to form the federal state of the German Empire. On this occasion, it was decided to build a majestic structure in which the parliament of the new state could meet. The most suitable place for such a building in Berlin was Kaiser Square by the river bank. But the square was private property owned by the diplomat Radzinsky, and he would not give permission for construction. It was not until three years after the diplomat died that permission was obtained from his son.

Construction of the Reichstag building in Berlin began in June 1884, and the symbolic “first stone” was laid by Kaiser Wilhelm I. Construction took 10 years and was completed during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Reichstag in the evening

All the technical achievements of that time were in the new building, which was designed by Paul Wallot: central heating with temperature sensors, electric fans, water supply, its own generator and telephones.

An interesting fact! 24,000,000 reichsmarks were spent on the construction work.

In 1916, when World War I was underway, a new inscription appeared on the front exterior wall of the building, considered a symbol of German unity. “To the German people” is what was written on the Reichstag in Berlin.

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Two years later, the establishment of the Weimar Republic was announced, whose government settled in the Reichstag.

At the last days of February 1933, there was a fire in the Reichstag. It was not known exactly who had set fire to the building, but national-socialists brought charges against communists – so Hitler and his comrades-in-arms dealt with their political opponents.

Fire in Reichstag

Interesting fact! The fire, elimination of the Communists and Hitler’s rise to power took place shortly before the parliamentary elections – they were scheduled for 5 March.

The dome was slightly repaired, while the plenary hall and the adjoining rooms, which had suffered the most, were left untouched. The main part of the rooms was not affected by the fire at all, and from 1935 the Reichstag administration worked there and a variety of propaganda exhibitions were organised.

The Reichstag premises were used for various purposes since 1939: it housed a bomb shelter (all the windows were bricked up), served as a hospital, the Charité hospital was in the basement, AEG produced light bulbs and the corner towers were converted into anti-aircraft guns.

Reichstag during war

The Soviets declared the Reichstag the main symbol of Nazi Germany, and at the very end of the war very fierce battles took place around it. The Soviet soldiers equated the destruction of the Reichstag with the victory over fascism. The first red flag was hoisted over this construction in the evening of April 30, 1945, and at night two more flags were hoisted. The fourth flag, which appeared on the morning of May 1, is known as the Victory Banner.

As evidence of their triumph, the soldiers of the Soviet Army left numerous inscriptions on the walls of the Reichstag. These were names and ranks of soldiers, the names of their hometowns, as well as inscriptions of a very obscene nature.

After the war, the half-destroyed Reichstag ended up in West Berlin, and it remained almost completely forgotten until 1954. The only reason it was noticed was because the remains of the dome were in danger of collapsing. In order to avoid tragedy, the Reichstag dome in Berlin was simply blown up.

Reichstag before unification

It was immediately decided to carry out repairs, but no consensus was reached as to what use the building could be put to. As a result, restoration work didn’t begin until nearly 20 years later. In the process, most of the decorative elements were removed from the walls, the plenary hall was completely restored, and it was ultimately decided not to reconstruct the dome.

In 1971, the victorious states adopted the Quadripartite Agreement concerning West Berlin. According to it, the work of the Bundestag was forbidden in the Reichstag. Faction meetings and events were periodically organized there with the participation of delegates from Bonn.

In the summer of 1991, seven months after the reunification of Germany, the Bundestag occupied the Reichstag building for its work. It was necessary to carry out another reconstruction of the historic building.

Interesting fact! To choose an architect to lead the reconstruction, Berlin announced a competition. There were 80 applications. The winner was the Englishman Norman Foster – a lord by birth, educated as an architect.

View of the Reichstag

According to the original renovation project, the roof of the Reichstag was to remain flat, without a dome. But in that case the building would not have looked majestic, so the Bundestag council decided that a grand glass dome should be present.

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Norman Foster was able to develop such a project, which allowed to combine harmoniously in the Reichstag its historical important details and the modern openness of the rooms.

Interesting fact! The reconstruction cost 600,000,000 marks.

The Reichstag was inaugurated in 1999.

How the Bundestag looks like today

Reichstag inside

If you look at photos of the Reichstag in Berlin today, you can note that the exterior of the facade is maintained in the style of ancient Rome: at the entrance, powerful columns with a portico, bas-reliefs. On the towers are installed 16 allegorical statues depicting different aspects of life in Germany.

Now the Reichstag building in Berlin is divided into levels:

  • The basement is the technical level, where the technical equipment is located;
  • The first level is occupied by the parliamentary secretariat;
  • The first floor is occupied by the parliamentary secretariat; the second floor has a large conference room;
  • The third floor is for visitors;
  • the fourth floor is the presidium;
  • The fifth floor is a caucus floor;
  • roof-terrace and a huge transparent dome.

For easy orientation, artist Per Arnoldi’s idea was implemented: each floor has doors painted in a certain color.

Reichstag dome

Even in the photo you can see that the Reichstag building in Berlin now looks surprisingly light, and at all its scale! The effect of lightness is formed by the modern materials used in construction: decorative concrete, natural white and beige stones with a silver hue, seemingly weightless structures made of steel, a lot of glazed areas.

As already noted, the main decoration of the Reichstag became a grand dome, which has a height of 23.5 meters and a diameter of 40 meters. It is made of metal, very strong glass, as well as special mirrors, transmitting light. The transparency of the glass varies depending on the ambient light and is regulated automatically by a computer program. The central part of the dome is occupied by a glass funnel – it is not just a futuristic decorative element, but also an important part of the energy-saving system of the building.

Reichstag dome

Around the dome is a spacious terrace where everyone can get a close look at the spherical grandiose structure. In essence, the terrace is a vantage point from which you can see the auditorium and the magnificent panorama of Berlin. In good weather, you get very nice pictures from the Reichstag terrace in Berlin.

There are 2 pedestrian spiral ramps to the dome and terrace as well as 2 large elevators.

Tip! There is a Kafer restaurant next to the dome that is open from 9:00 to 16:30 and from 18:00 to 0:00. It is best to reserve a table in advance!

Wall of memory in the Reichstag

In the Reichstag, there are several “Walls of Memory” – so called the fragments of surfaces on which the inscriptions of Soviet soldiers were preserved from the Second World War. The Bundestag discussed the possibility of removing the inscriptions during the reconstruction, but the majority voted against such a step.

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Nevertheless, the “restoration of Soviet graffiti” finally took place: inscriptions with obscene and racist content were removed, leaving 159 graffiti. Traces of burning, “autographs” of bullets, soldiers’ names and military ranks remained on the Walls of Memory.

To protect all the inscriptions from the weather and vandals, the wall surfaces were coated with a special vitreous solution.

Photos of murals on the walls of the Reichstag in Berlin are on the Internet and in many print media. Tourists visiting the Reichstag can see them “live”. But keep in mind that almost all paintings are located inside the building, which can only be accessed with a guide.

How to get into the Reichstag

View of Reichstag, Germany

Interesting fact! The German Bundestag is the most visited parliament on earth. According to statistics, from 2002 to 2016, 35,300,000 visitors have been there.

The Reichstag stands practically in the center of Berlin, the address is: Platz der Republik 1, 10557 Berlin, Germany.

How to get to the Reichstag in Berlin for a tourist?” – This question is of interest to many people. The following programs are now available for tourists:

  • A lecture (45 minutes) in the gallery with a view of the plenary room and then a visit to the dome;
  • Visiting the dome and a guided tour of the Reichstag (90 minutes);
  • Visit to the dome and observation deck (with audio guide).

You can attend any of these programs for free, but only by appointment – you must sign up approximately 1 to 3 months before your planned visit. Registration for the Reichstag in Berlin can be made at a special tourist office near the landmark as well as on the official Bundestag website https://www.bundestag.de/en. It is better to open an entry page at https://visite.bundestag.de/BAPWeb/pages/createBookingRequest/viewBasicInformation.jsf?lang=en.

Reichstag hall

When making an appointment for a tour of the Reichstag in Berlin, it is very important to enter all data correctly, because at the entrance they carefully check both passports and invitations. The invitation is sent to the post a couple of days after the online application, and it must be printed out.

Tip! When processing the application form it is necessary to specify the language of the tour. Excursions in Russian are conducted, but not often, and if there is no group, the tour can be canceled. Therefore, it is best to choose English, especially since you can use a free audio guide in Russian.

Reichstag in Berlin is open to visitors every day from 8:00 to 24:00, the last entrance can be at 21:45. Come 15 minutes before the appointed time in an invitation to have time to go through the whole procedure.

Guided tour of the Reichstag.

Author: Irina Kovaleva

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