The Deutsche Bunderstag
Today, Saturday 25, was our earliest start as we had a booking for 9am to visit the Dome of the Deutsche Bundestag. The Bundestag is usually known as the Reichstag but it seems they are in the process of renaming it so it better reflects Germany today when it no longer has a King or Emperor. 10 out of 10 for a most professional visit. We got there early but were allowed to proceed immediately. Security was high. We needed to show our passports on entering, then a typical airport check before being loaded into the biggest lift we have ever experienced. 42 jolly and excited persons were crammed in and were taken up 4 floors to the bottom of the Dome.
The Dome is a fantastic experience, not to be missed in a visit to Berlin. We were there for nearly 2 hours; there is no time limit placed on your visit once you are in. A graded circular path enables you to move at your pace to the top with a very informative free audio guide telling us what we were looking at through the windows. It was a beautiful day and the views were stunning. We had been to many of the sites they identified, which made it even more interesting. In the foreground the many beautiful modern buildings related to the working of the government were pointed out.
We finally walked down again and spent another long period looking at the exhibition set up around the bottom of the tower. It tells the story in words and pictures of Germany’s rocky road to democracy.
Back the way we came in the big lift, and out to a café for a coffee to recover. By then we were quite cold so coffee was just what we needed. Before heading off on our next venture we walked again past the Sinti and Roma gypsy memorial, a statue still showing the bullet holes from WWII, the double brick line set in the road past Parliament and the Brandenburg Gate marking the position of the Berlin Wall, and a memorial set up by a controversial far-right anti communist (and possibly somewhat deranged) protester. Nevertheless, there is point to this personal memorial.
Thanks to the Collins’ we found Bonhoeffer’s memorial. It is in the German cemetery, which is adjacent to the French cemetery, and tricky to find. We found a notice board as we wandered which named Bonhoeffer, and the number of his tomb and a place on a map so then had no trouble finding it. It was very moving, being reminded that Bonhoeffer was 39 when he was executed – and 3 days before the battle for Berlin was declared over. His memorial is shared with others who died at a similar time in various prisons, and looks beautiful with a little pot of pansies on it at present, and a rhododendron each side.
Then lunch eating our sandwiches in the sun in a lovely park.
The French Cathedral
The Cathedral houses an exhibition in the tower which is dedicated to the many Huguenots (Calvinists) who escaped the persecution of the established church in France and came to Germany. The cathedral was built in the early 18th century at a time when the Huguenots made up 25% of the Berlin population. They had been welcomed by Elector Wilhelm (or was it Frederick?) II as a boost to the population and the industrial skills of the town. The exhibition traces the reasons they left France, their settling in Berlin, and the contribution they made to Berlin society. There is little English – just a couple of summary sheets, but if you had no knowledge of the Huguenots in Germany, the sheets are very useful. The church was closed in preparation for a concert performance that night.
The German Dome
The German Dome and the dome of the French Cathedral are very similar , and are just across the square – Gendarmenmarkt – from each other, looking like twins. The German Dome houses over six floors a very detailed history of Democracy in Germany. This followed on beautifully from our trip to the Deutsches Bundestag. We had to leave half way through, and will go back, but it is very well done, with an excellent audio guide, and worth a 2 hour visit. It assisted us to further understand the history of German politics.
Marienkirche Organ Recital
At the end of the day we sat entranced for 90 minutes while Martina Kurschner gave an organ recital. This is the same woman we heard a few days ago. She played different music, and provided different commentary on the organ and its properties. It was a great thing to do after being on our feet all day, with high quality performance. Watch out for her if you visit. The cheapest concert you will find in Berlin!
The Martin Luther statue that we found to the west of Marienkirche provided an excellent link to our venture to Wittenberg on the following day.