I love spending time in cities without chasing the tourist sites or allowing enough time to appreciate them properly. In our Berlin visit we saw the Wall but not blitzed the museums to exhaustion. Instead we travelled on the U-Bahn thanks to my daughter’s knowledge and German and saw the things we wanted to while keeping time for coffee and a seat. As a result we have lots of great experiences and energy to carry on.
We had an early afternoon flight home and so I had booked in for breakfast at the Bundestag for Monday morning. This is the parliament building in Germany and so security is tight – you can’t just turn up and you can expect airport standard security just to walk up to the building.
All the photographs don’t depict the scale of the building. It is huge and set in areas of green with ultra-modern departmental buildings all around. The Reichstag building was burned down in the 1930s and was not restored until fairly recently. Although the frontage and most of the outside is original (and bulletholes are still visible) the interior is supermodern. In many ways the Bundestag is a really good symbol of Berlin as a whole. There are three main reasons to visit.
First is the amazing architecture. The Dome on top of the building was a Norman Foster creation and it is gorgeous. It is light and airy and affords magnificent views over the City. A ramp leads a one-way route up and down the dome and an audio guide points out the history, the views and the symbolism – and this is all free.
The second reason is that the views are better than the TV Tower and the guide is excellent. While the TV Tower looks down on the City from the side, the Bundestag is right in the centre. The Wall ran alongside the back of the building. On a sunny morning you can look across the city and the flags from each of the embassies fly in the breeze like pushpins on an enormous map.
Finally, the restaurant is pretty good. As early birds we had table by the huge windows and could look on the views as we ate. The food was pretty good too. The Bavarian breakfast offers a wheat beer with your food. There is a breakfast equivalent of afternoon tea served on an elaborate cake stand. I opted for the Strammer Max which offered smoked ham, mountain cheese, gherkins and three fried eggs. The coffee which accompanied it was excellent and the food was simple, well cooked and tasty…. and enormous. And so was my wife’s omelette; I can’t imagine how many eggs were involved.
Berlin didn’t have a choice. So much of the City was destroyed in the war it needed to be rebuilt. Rather than rebuilding the old, it has taken the opportunity to embrace the new in the best Bauhaus tradition. It’s disjointed, double history has created a new City without a real centre. It has a fabulously fusion culture too -full of the arty, the edgy and the seriously cool if you want to try it. We barely scratched the surface but I loved it.