After a quiet morning of doing not much other than strolling around the city, I had a busy afternoon today. I headed up to Platz der Republik to see the Reichstag building – home to the Deutsche Bundestag (the German Parliament).
You can book tours of the Reichstag building online; this I did a few weeks ago and got security clearance a few days later.
After going through Airport-style security we were lead from the portacabins beneath the entrance up the big steps and in to the building. There, we were told the tour would start in 20 minutes time, and until then we could sit on the sofas in the entrance lobby.
Once our guide arrived the first place we were taken was in to the gallery above the room where Parliament sits. Just like in Westminster, members of the public can come along and sit in the gallery to watch proceedings.
The guide explained about the parties which make up the German Parliament at the moment, and pointed out the key seats in the room – where Frau Merkel sits, where the President of the Bundestag sits, etc. We were allowed to take photos – more than you’re allowed to do on a tour of the Palace of Westminster!
We then headed down stairs, and learned a bit about the history of the building. It dates back to the formation of a unified Germany in the late 1800s. For many years – until 1933 when the building was burned down, the Reichstag was the official seat of the German Parliament.
In the days of the divided Germany, the West German capital was in Bonn and the East German Parliament in Palast der Republik. It was not until after German reunification that the decision was made to move the Parliament of the Federal Republic back to Berlin, and in April 1999 Parliament sat once more in the Reichstag building.
We also looked at some fo the ‘soviet graffiti’. Left over from when the Soviets took over the building at the end of the Second World War, much of it still remains today. Soldiers scribbled on to the walls messages and the names of towns they were from. Not being a Russian-reader I couldn’t make out a word of it, but the guide translated some of it. Soliders from Leningrad, Stalingrad, Sochi and Moscow all have messages written up here.
Later, we went upstairs and had at where each party in Parliament has their own meeting/debating room. We went in to the room used by the largest opposition party, die Linke (the Left). The clever thing about these rooms is that when the size of the party changes following an election, the walls can be moved to make the room smaller or larger.
Then it was time for the guide to leave us – but not quite time for us to go yet. We were all able to go up in to the dome above the Parliament chamber and enjoy the 360° views of Berlin.
It was a very good tour and I would recommend it to anyone interested in German history and German politics.
More photos below.