Berlin: Under the Dome of the Reichstag

I tend to be well-prepared (bordering on over-prepared) when taking a trip, but every now and then, I drop the proverbial traveling ball on something. When I visited Berlin in 2011 with my sister, it was the Reichstag: we strolled up, ready to go inside and climb up the gigantic glass dome, only to find out that reservations were required to enter. Later that night at our hotel, I checked online and was disappointed to find that all the reservation slots were filled during our remaining days in Berlin. So, while we could view the Reichstag from the outside, we wouldn’t be getting a glimpse within.

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Needless to say, when I realized I would be making a return trip to Berlin, the first thing I did – after booking plane tickets and a hotel, of course – was to reserve a slot to tour the Reichstag (which you can do here). I ambitiously selected an entry time of 8:30am to force myself to get up early and make the most of my short time in Berlin, meaning I arrived at the Reichstag bright and early, albeit a little bleary-eyed, to take my long-awaited tour.

The Reichstag is the meeting place for Germany’s Parliament. It was originally constructed in 1894, damaged by fire in 1933, and reconstructed and reopened in 1999. While the front facade of the building, with its grand columns and famous inscription (Dem Deutschen Volke, or “to the German people”), is the more imposing and historical portion of the building, it was the more recently constructed dome I really came to see.

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The Reichstag’s giant glass dome sits right above the main hall of Parliament; in fact, you can peek down into the hall from the rooftop terrace. The dome also happens to have excellent 360 degree panoramic views of Berlin. An audioguide is provided with every tour, and as you climb the ramps of the dome, the guide tells you what buildings you are looking at.

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My audioguide indicated that “the transparency of the dome’s glass symbolizes the transparency of the German democratic state.” While that seemed a bit grandiose, I couldn’t deny that the dome’s architecture and viewpoints were striking, regardless of any symbolism. It may have taken me four years, but I was glad to finally see this iconic building up close and personal.

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