Berlin: Edifices

The Reichstag Building is the seat of the German Parliament—or it was. (They still meet there, but now the governing body is called the Bundestag; I'm not clear on the distinction. Maybe "Reichstag" just had bad associations with the Third Reich. Ah! Just looked it up; "bunde" means federal and "reich" means imperial.) Anyway, I didn't know many things about Berlin before we want, but I DID know this building. It's famous because of the big fire that almost destroyed it just after Hitler's rise to power. The Nazi Government used the fire as a justification for tightening up government control, suspending the parliament, and and putting new, restrictive security measures in place, saying all this was necessary for the public safety. But in fact, most people think the Nazis themselves SET the fire, so they could blame it on Jews and Anarchists and use it as an excuse for curtailing civil liberties. 

And of course, the building was heavily, heavily damaged from bombing during World War II, and I'd seen pictures of that too.

I also knew the Reichstag Building because it was redesigned, recently, by the architect Norman Foster, and we watched a documentary on him awhile ago when we were learning about architecture. He restored the dome (you can see the old one in this picture below, all mangled from bombing during the war) into a modern steel-and-glass structure, with a ramp circling around the inside so you can walk up and look out at the city. It's an interesting juxtaposition of old and new. It's another place about which, during the documentary, I thought, "Wow, that would be cool to see in person, but I probably never will."
Photo from here. There are a bunch of photos of Berlin with the past and present blended. It's really interesting.
You can see the new dome just peeking out behind those front columns.

And here's a better view from behind. You can see the ramp angling up the inside. Our group of workshop instructors (and hangers-on such as myself) got to go up in the dome and then have breakfast at the restaurant on the roof. It's open to the public but there's lots of security to go through—you have to make an appointment in advance, and show your passport, and there are armed guards all around.
Once inside, you can look down at the central column—it carries in fresh air from the outside, and keeps the dome from getting too hot. It also catches rain when it falls through the opening in the dome, and funnels it into the cooling system. Or something like that. Good job, Norman Foster.
The oculus is open to the sky
The column is covered with mirrors that change angle with the angle of the sun—another cooling measure to deflect some of the heat and light that would otherwise make the space uncomfortable.
You can go out on the roof and look out at the city, and the four towers at the corners of the building. We could see the huge Tiergarten just across the street, and the Brandenburg Gate is nearby as well. 
After we left the building we watched an organ grinder play in the square. No monkey, though. :(
Changing gears (or are we?), here is the New Synagogue, the main Jewish synagogue in Berlin. I hadn't heard of it specifically before, but it was one of the many places burned and looted during the November Pogram called "Kristellnacht." It's a cool story, because a police officer from the local precinct, not Jewish himself, actually stepped in to protect it from further damage from the Nazi mobs. He got out his gun and stood in front of the mob, saying the building was a historical landmark and must not be ruined. That probably saved it from being burned down completely.

I found it chilling to think about this place being rushed into and desecrated by angry mobs—it reminded me too much of my own ancestors in Nauvoo. What was even more disturbing was the current police presence in this section of town. The synagogue itself was flanked by several armed policeman every time we walked by it, and there were also officers pacing back and forth in the inner courtyard. Then there were policemen patrolling in front of several other buildings nearby. I suppose they are under continual threat from terrorists and others. It's unbelievable to me that there is still such danger, worldwide, to the Jews. Another case of that evil in human nature that lies uncomfortably close to the surface.
The brickwork on the front of the building was beautiful,
as was the wrought-iron on the doors. So much intricate detail!
After we went inside, I just kept thinking, "This poor building!" On top of everything else, it was badly damaged by bombing during the war. They had collected fragments of the old pulpit and reconstructed them as best they could. You can see the original pulpit in the large photograph in the background.
The restoration of the interior was interesting. They chose to leave the damaged parts undecorated, so you can see the line of demarcation between old and new. It definitely ensures that you cannot forget what the building has endured in its lifetime. I thought to myself, walking through the museum inside, "The Jews have a sort of obsession with remembering." And with their history, you can understand why. It made me think of the constant directives in the Book of Mormon to REMEMBER, and that made me think that we Latter-day Saints, as a people, could probably learn from the Jews' example.
Inner courtyard. This side of the building was mostly destroyed, and has only been sparingly restored.
Beautiful light coming in through the leaded glass doors. The simplicity of this place was a nice contrast to the more ornate Berlin Cathedral we saw later. I like both styles, and think both can teach different lessons about the worship of God.
Now we come to the Berlin Cathedral, another famous landmark. This was close to our hotel, so we got to see it at several times of day. It was damaged in the war, of course. It has been restored and is still being restored, along with every other historic landmark in Berlin, apparently.
We saw cranes working on various parts, and we saw this statue on a truck—I don't know if she was coming back or going away. Maybe they were cleaning her?
We climbed up the stairs inside so we could walk out around the dome. Great views of the city. I love all the church spires.
Beautiful pipe organ and loft
Inside the dome
We got a tiny Berlin Cathedral at the gift shop, to bring home to Daisy (to go with Tiny Big Ben). And we also took a picture of the tiny and big cathedrals next to each other, of course. Note my disembodied arm there on the lower right.


  1. The Norman Foster re-modelling of the Reichstag is really controversial in architecture and design circles: people either detest it and think it's absolutely sacreligious or they love it and feel that it will go down as one of humanity's crowning achievements. I'm in the latter camp, easily. If they had tried to redo the dome in the same 19th century neoclassicism of the rest of the building then that would've been completely disingenuous. Anyway, that's my opinion on the matter.

    Refugia Stein @ Container Domes

    1. Interesting; I didn't know there was that much controversy about it! I really like it too. It's meaningful without being trite. Such a cool place to visit, anyway! :)


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