Reichstag, Berlin, Germany.
The Reichstag isn’t just the building that houses the German parliament – Bundestag – and nor is it just a historical symbol. It’s also one of the most interesting tourist spots in Berlin (and there a plenty of them:). I’d heard so much about the Reichstag – but never seemed to find the time for an excursion thereof. But finally – I pulled it off, just the other day. And not just the common-or-garden tourist excursion, but one which covered normally off-limits areas too – including, literally, the corridors of (bundes) power!…
I’ll start from the outside and move my way towards the center, actually – towards the top of the building!. But first – what were we doing here? We were here on business – and that was our ‘in’ to the ‘corridors of power’ :)…
So what can I say? Well, the German state machinery is pretty close in actual fact to what I’d imagined: a symbiosis of power and modesty. I know: those two words are hardly typical bed partners, but here – they’re happily married, never to divorce!
All righty. Reichstag geography:
The German legislature arbeiten not only in the Reichstag building itself. Around the end of the 1990s/early-2000s a whole complex of governmental buildings was built around it – actually four modern complexes, in all of which the elected German peoples’ representatives do their work and legislating and running of the country. Here’s a map:
The design of each building is different; each one is sizable, looks stylish and modern, and breathes easily. Here’s one of the halls in one of them; we didn’t get round to seeing the others…
And now a bit about the working conditions of a Member of the Bundestag – or Bundestagsabgeordneter – here.
Each parliamentarian is assigned a small personal office made up of three rooms, plus several assistants. Here’s one such office:
Ok, they’re relatively small for members of parliament, but with 600+ of them, any bigger and there wouldn’t be room.
Btw, each Bundestagsabgeordneter costs the German state purse 723,000 Euros each year. Details (in German) – here.
Back to bricks and mortar…: under the complex of parliamentary buildings there are pedestrian tunnels and even a tunnel with a two-lane road running through it! We didn’t manage a drive down there, but we did manage a stroll around these underground corridors of power which connect all the buildings:
The original Reichstag building wasn’t only built to last, it’s also most pleasing to the eye:
Here are the views from the Reichstag – including that of its kindergarten:
The only boats I saw on the Spree were those of the police.
And on the inside – no less impressive. Somewhere here there are the offices of ‘Digital Agenda’ or maybe ‘Digital Committee’ or something like that. Yep – that’s what we were here for. There are such ‘cyber-departments’ in capital cities the world over now, where cybersecurity and the fight against hackers are now right at the top of the agenda.
Onwards we stroll… and stumble upon a modern-kunst installation… Metal boxes – on which there are the names of every parliamentarian there has ever been here up until… I can’t recall, but not all that long ago. What it stands for is left up to the visitors decide for themselves…
Here’s a famous name I recognize (er, and have met too:). Eek, someone bears a grudge – it’s been belted with a fist by the look of that dent:
Well, well. Indeed, no one’s forgotten here:
That label looks brand new compared to the ones around it, especially the one above. I wonder what happened to the previous one(s)?
More history: graffiti on the Reichstag’s wall’s – clearly in Russian, clearly put there by Soviet troops in 1945. It was restored in 2002. Whether to remove the scrawls or leave them there was put to a vote! The verdict – leave them. Germany and Germans: such a strong nation; they’re not afraid of their past. Respect.
And right in the center is the debating chamber. The day we were there it was a day-off for the politicians, so the tourists were free to look around and take pics…
We were told how the Mitglieder des Bundestages spent hours discussing… whether to install the glass screens you can see in a pic below – to the right and to the left. Much heated – and lengthy – debate also went into deciding on the… color of the chairs here. And there were other such tales of absurd trivialities being ‘seriously’ discussed here!
Here’s another interesting Bundestag anecdote:
The deputies of each of the parties all sit together, as per the norm the world over. You can see them divided up by color here. But what happens when a deputy decides to leave one of the main parties and continue their arbeit as an independent? Simple: she gets to sit all on her lonesome!:
One more anecdote:
They don’t use electronic voting systems here. It’s still manual – kinda. On the one hand this is good as it’s safe: it can’t be hacked. But on the other – well, those votes still need totting up. So the Germans came up with an original and effective solution: three doors through which the deputies walk out of the hall; the first – for those who vote ‘yes; the second – for those voting ‘no’; the third – for those abstaining. A bit like a flock of livestock – they simply count the number of ‘heads’ :).
Next up, the rooftop!…
An amazing construction. The architect was Norman Foster, aka Baron Foster of Thames Bank (UK).
The dome isn’t just impressive visually; it’s also very practical: it saves lots of electricity! There’s a mirrored cone in the middle which houses a ventilation system, while the mirrors themselves reflect the sun in such a way that they light up the debating chamber!
And there’s also a ‘blind’ – in case it’s too sunny…
Over and out from Berlin. All the pics from the Reichstag are here.