The Reichstag Building in Berlin

Reichstag Building

Everyone told me that Berlin would be cloudy and rainy but for the past week there’s been so much sun that I actually got a light sunburn! Until today… which is cloudy and rainy.

Not the best conditions to visit the Reichstag, which looks rather gloomy and foreboding in this (or perhaps any) weather. The Reichstag Building houses the German parliament (the Bundestag). Originally built in 1894, it was destroyed in the 1930’s and rebuilt with a glass dome (the one on top that you can barely see) in 1999.

This is the dome.

Reichstag Dome

Because it’s a government building, I had to make reservations to tour this dome. It doesn’t cost anything to get in but they limit the number of people in it at any given time. And because it’s enormously popular, it’s hard to get reservations. I probably lucked out today because of the rain.

The inside of the dome is an incredible feat of engineering and design by architect Norman Foster


It’s also an astonishing environmental model, especially for a public building. The 360 mirrors on that central column redirect sunlight down into the parliamentary chambers to reduce the building’s electricity burden and the column itself collects energy from the heat rising from the lower floors and uses it to heat the building.

Reichstag Building

Would that all governmental buildings in the states had such beautiful environmental sculpture in them.

The top of the dome is accessed with spiraling up and down ramps. The whole thing is just stunning

Reichstag Building

Of course the views out weren’t worth much today, because of the rain

Sad German flag in the rain

But I’ll come back. There’s a rooftop garden restaurant that serves breakfast and includes access to this dome so I’ll check that out on a sunny day.

I also had my first German lesson yesterday at Expath

Expath Berlin

The school is quite small but geared towards expats so there’s a looser vibe in classes and not as much regimented structure. There’s definitely a class curriculum but it seems they respond to students’ needs rather than always starting every student in the same place.

My teacher, Stephan, started by asking me what exactly I had in mind by taking German classes and only being in the country for 5 more weeks. I explained my thinking and he nodded and said that what I wanted was “Survival German.” So we started with numbers and a grocery flyer so I could start figuring out how the money works, how to pronounce all the numbers and what the names of various items are – blueberries, yogurt, etc.

Stephan was great, pronouncing and remembering the numbers was tough. Hard to get my mouth around them. Although I learned some interesting trivia such as: the word for “one” in European languages always has an “n” in it and the word for three always has an “r.” Also the number words are based on a 1-12 merchant duodecimal system so numbers 1-12 are unique.

These are the things that kept me entertained while trying to force my tongue to say “neunundzwanzig.”

Stephan’s English is perfect and I love having a bilingual teacher because I could ask questions and it wasn’t just 90 minutes of force-fed German. And as always when I’m in a new country and I don’t understand much, I give huge props to immigrants learning English because it is HARD to learn a new language.

Again, I don’t know how much I’ll absorb in 5 weeks but I’ve already started whispering words to myself in public to try out the pronunciations. Yes, I’m sure I sound crazy but perhaps one day I’ll be able to pronounce “zwanzig” or “streichholzschächtelchen.” 

More tomorrow. Let’s hope for sun

Street Art Berlin