Monday, November 10, 2008

A Face Lift

Our city tour of Berlin started at the Reichstag Building - the most visited parliamentary building in the world. It was originally opened in 1894 to house the Parliament of the German Empire. In a little over a century the building has gone through as many changes as the country.
The burning of the building in 1933 was blamed on the Communists and the Nazi party was able to seize control and start suspending civil liberties.On April 30, 1945 more than 1500 Nazis made their last stand against Stalin and the Allied troops at the Reichstag Building. After the war, the capital was moved to Bonn and the building set in ruins just west of East Berlin.

Paul Baumgarten won an architectural contest to reconstruct the building and it was completed in 1964. Due to a 1971 Allies agreement Berlin could not serve as the capital of West Germany and so the building became largely ceremonial.

Germany was officially reunified at the Reichstag Building on October 3, 1990. After much heated debate it was decided the capital would return to Berlin and the building would be used once again.

Norman Foster reconstructed the building in 1992 under the theme of transparency. While the shell of the original building remains, the new building includes many glass walls, openness, and a new glass cupola. The idea was to create a building that was open and accessible to the people, so they could see their government at work.Today when you visit the Reichstag building you receive a 50+ page booklet explaining the Bundestag (Parliament) and how it works. Anyone is also allowed to sit in on legislative sessions and meet their representative. It is obvious they are trying to create transparency in the government.Our visit the Reichstag was to visit the rooftop and climb the cupola. The cupola, which rises 155 feet above the ground, provides a 360 degree view of Berlin.

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