I had made free reservations to see the Bundestag (yes, you need reservations to go inside the cool glass dome). Because I had arrived a few hours later than originally planned, I wasn’t able to take the tour and only got to see the German federal government buildings from the outside. I know I missed something special, but I was not to disappointed, because as I continuously discovered, the Germans sure know how to impress! Outside the Hauptbahnhof (on the Washingtonplatz side) there was a huge area for events that had large photo displays with work from local artists set up like a maze. There were also two outdoor bars with flashing neon lighting (I like flashing neon lights, that’s why I mentioned this). I crossed the bridge near the plaza (Friedrich-List-Ufer I think it was) that had a man-made beach area under it on the other side. It was too packed for me to order anything, especially because everyone there seemed to be in groups.
I ended up strolling down the “pier” and ended up in an open area with two large walls on either side. To this day I don’t know what those two walls were for, but they seemed to funnel your attention, and large crowds perhaps, towards a really tall building. Not until I went closer did I realize that that building and the others that were emblazoned with light were the ones I had always read so much about. To my right was the Bundeskanzleramt (Germany’s head of state is a Chancellor or Bundeskanzler, his staff are housed in this building). To my left was the Paul-Löbe-Haus, a building associated with the Bundestag (German federal lower legislative chamber) that has extra office space for MPs. In the video, this is the building that is in the final freeze pane. Walking further, I was able to pass over the wonderfully manicured lawn with fountains in front of the majestic Reichstagsgebäude, the German Parliament building for the lower house, the Bundestag. My camera doesn’t take great night video or photos, so I didn’t take that many, but I think the ones I posted didn’t turn out too badly.
As I walked down Dorotheenstraße, I saw the amount of building space dedicated to parliamentary purposes was astounding, considering most office spaces I’d seen for the same before were relegated to one square or block. Now that I’m looking at the Google map, I can see what I was unable to at night: that the building is divided into sections and each section has its own courtyard. Turning onto Unter den Linder from Wilhelmstraße I was able to see what I considered the most beautiful sight of the night: the Brandenburg Gate. A restored former wall of old Berlin the old city. It reminded me of other triumphal arches around Europe I had seen, but the neoclassical design, sheer size (up and out), and brilliant lighting led me to believe that it must have been a modern creation. Further research proved otherwise: Wikipedia.
As I knew I had an early day ahead of me, and the fact that everything was so quiet in the darkness, I decided to head back to the hotel with no stories of sordid drinking and revelry or the like.
Tips for next time:
- Don’t rely on tour guide maps being available after dark.
- Plan out night spots (events or photo ops) so you don’t wander aimlessly in the dark without knowing where the nightclubs or fun spots are.
Below is a very short video of me snooping around the train station outside the Bundestag. Pretty audacious having it so close to government buildings. Also thought it would be cool to show a bit of the opulence dripping off the smoothly polished stone. Standing by my opinion that Berlin knows how to impress!
Also, I uploaded the Germany Facebook album just now. Get it here.