The Belly of the Beast: The Reichstag

by Heidi Obermeyer

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Ahhh, government. We can’t live with it, we can’t live without it. I think it was the great Ron Swanson who articulated it best:

Sadly, this isn’t a perfect world, but it is a world filled with [sometimes] imperfect democracies. Imperfect democracies like Germany, where a beautiful old building called the Reichstag houses the German Parliament and facilitates lawmaking in all of its bureaucratic glory. It really is an amazing place. I and some colleagues got to sit in a tour meant for new interns of the Bundestag (parliament), so we got to hear a little bit more than the usual fluff about the history of the building and got to go inside the parliamentary chamber, which was pretty neat. Our tour guide was an extremely sassy German woman who made even an empty building (parliament wasn’t in session) come alive with tales of its tumultuous past. I particularly appreciated that she referred to Angela Merkel as “Angie”- I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s bffs with the Chancellor!

The Reichstag is the building in which there was an enormous and dramatic fire at the beginning of Hitler’s reign, a fire that was blamed on the communists and gave the Nazis some pretty solid propaganda material to fuel the strategic prejudices that eventually led them to start a little old conflict called the Second World War. After WII and once the wall went up, the building lay dormant, because every time the West Germans would try and hold parliamentary sessions the sassy East Germans would fly very loud planes over the building, which everyone knows is extremely distracting when you’re trying to, you know, make up laws and stuff. So West German parliament was moved to a quieter location and the East Germans went back to their two favorite activities, surveillance of their own people and wishing that they lived in the West.

So as Germany’s story continues (and Berlin is finally war-free after 50-some years) the Reichstag gets renovated, renewed, and outfitted with the beautiful glass dome that it still sports today, representing a reunited Germany and housing one spiffy democratic government. The dome is free to visit and provides some gorgeous views over all of Berlin (including the Brandenburg Gate and the River Spree) as well as all the other architecture wunderkinds in the area. Next time I get a visitor, I want to go check it out at night- who doesn’t love an evening of gazing at the city lights from above?

This weekend I’m heading back to my Southern roots- not for a chicken’n’cheddar biscuit in NC (although I did find myself hankering after one the other day!) but for weißwurst, bretzln, and leberkäse in Bavaria with my relatives down there. I’m so excited to ride the train again, get in some reading (with another book about Berlin), and be back in Bayern for a long weekend. I hope yours is relaxing and exciting and wonderful too- and have a happy Valentine’s day! 🙂

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