Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Berlin: Tiergarten and Reichstag

Actual date of this event: 30 October to 4 November

Tiergarten is the largest park in Berlin at 580 acres and the second largest in Germany after Englischer Garten in Munich. It lies in West Berlin and was founded as a hunting area for the king (way back in the day). During the Second World War, many statues were badly damaged and then all but a few of the 200,000 trees were cut down due to a shortage of coal needed to heat homes. Park restoration began in 1955 by adding new trees, shrubs, and pathways. Since we visited Berlin in mid-fall, many trees had been stripped of their leaves already, but we saw a few vibrant colors!

The long road that runs east to west through the park is interrupted by Grosser Stern, a large roundabout. In the center is the Victory Column, a monument to commemorate the Prussian victory over Denmark, Austria and France (in three different wars). Getting an up close and personal look at the Victory Column was one of our main reasons for our walk thru Tiergarten.

It is possible to visit the top of the monument, but for a fee. We saw a line and had other things to see and do, so we kept moving.

We also visited the Soviet War Memorial which is located along the main road between the Victory Column and Brandenburg Gate. The memorial was built by the Soviets in 1945 and is one of three in Berlin. It continued to stand after the war as Tiergarten was destroyed, and the Allies even supported the memorial even though it was located in the British Sector of West Berlin. We found a few tombs, and behind the columns we read about the construction of the memorial.

Luke and I kept walking toward Brandenburg Gate... well, Luke walked, and I kicked leaves. They were too tempting!
As I have said in a previous post, right next to Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag, the parliament building. (Thanks, Kristen, for giving me information on this otherwise we would not have visited!) Visitors need to book a time slot to visit the dome of the Reichstag, but the tour is free, so yippee!!
The dome is all glass, and there is a spiral walkway that leads all the way to the top. If you look closely in this next picture, you can see people moving along. (I just noticed that myself, hehe) Thanks, Luke, for capturing the flag moving, but I like it better to see the people moving :-)
After arriving to a temporary building... and showing a copy of our booking confirmation... and getting our IDs checked... and going through security... and then, with a small group, being escorted to the building... and then waiting for one door to close until the next would open... and then waiting for the elevator... and then going up the elevator... we finally arrived to the dome! Serious security up in there!!! Anyway, we were given a free audio guide so we would know what we were looking at. It was dark by the time we got to the very top, so we had zero clue what we were looking at most of the time. I knew this when I made the booking, but we couldn't find a better time to visit other than the evening... we needed to save our daytime for learning and reading. Anyway, we still got a few good views.
 {this picture was taken at the very beginning, the small gold tower on the left is the Victory Column}
{a picture toward Potsdamer Platz, the blue is the Sony Center}
{Brandenburg Gate, the building with the flag is the United States Embassy}
The dome is super duper cool! A large cone-like thing is covered in mirrors. Once we got to the top of the dome, we were essentially standing on the base of the cone.

 Along the way, I took pictures of myself in the mirrors. Luke rolled his eyes at this.
 {the pink dot is me!}
{hi, me!}
When reached very top of the spiral walkway, we learned that the dome is open! When it rains, the rain goes through. When it snows, the snow goes through. And since the dome is open on the top, they do not control the climate inside, so during our visit, we were pretty cold.
Underneath the dome is where parliament meets. The chairs are bright blue and when spiraling up the dome, you can see down into the room. At certain times, visitors can see a meeting, but our visit was not one of those times. Glass covers the room, so no rain or snow can get inside. The mirrors on the cone give parliament natural light.
Last neat thing about the dome is it has a "sun-visor" that moves around the circle blocking direct sunlight from entering the room below.
That about finishes up all of what we did in Tiergarten heading toward Brandenburg Gate. There are other things in Tiergarten like ponds and creeks, cafes, other memorials, and a palace, but I'd say kicking the leaves was my favorite!

Other posts on Berlin: Intro, Post 2Wall MemorialEast Side GalleryPost 5Ritter Sport ChocolatePost 7Post 8Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Tiergarten's pathways add up to about 14 miles (22.5 km) in length.
The spiral walkway in the Reichstag dome is 230 meters (about 0.15 miles) long.

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