Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Dome & big brother

I've been watching the weather & accompanying fire situation at home via the Rural Fire Service webiste and the RFS facebook site.  Awful situation, and a bit more concerning for us since my dad is sitting on the house/dog/cats, and in the owrls case scenario would have no idea where things he should take are apart from the file of insurance papers I marked for him.  All we can do is keep our fingers crossed.

I’d booked a tour of the Bundestag (the German Parliament Building) for today so Tony & I set off and left Lauren asleep.  Airport-style security greeted us at the entrance and Tony’s knee set off the scanner.  Our tour group (for an English language tour) consisted of another Aussie couple, a Mexican couple living in Spain, a couple of Yanks, an Irish barrister and a few assorted poms.

The Reichstag was originally built in 1894, was the scene of the proclamation for the first German Republic, burnt down in 1933 (which allowed him with the stupid moustache to blame the communists and seize power – though it never did see a sitting of the German Parliament when he was in charge), it had the shitter shot out of it as the Russians entered Berlin (and left a whole pile of graffiti which is still visible today) was badly repaired under the DDR regime, was the scene of the re-unification of Germany in 1990, was wrapped by Christo in white fabric/plastic in 1995 and finally got its current facelift/renovation completed in 2005.

It’s a stunning building but the crowning glory (literally) is the massive glass dome on the roof.  Originally built with a squared dome (lost in the 1933 fire) the current dome looks a bit out of place till you understand the symbolism .. the ramp inside the dome allows the public to look right down and into the actual parliamentary chamber as if to say to the pollies … “we are above you and we are watching you, so you better behave because you are answerable to us.”

We got to stand outside the German Chancellor’s (Angela Merkel) Office, go into the caucus room of one of the government parties (they have a coalition) and then into the gallery of the parliamentary chamber.  Hanging over the chamber is a huge silver cone … it’s a cool (and somewhat symbolic) part of the heating/cooling system … all the ‘hot air’ in the chamber is funnelled up the cone, goes through a heat exchange process and is then used as part of the heating system for the building … pretty good idea eh?

A quick trip through the Tiergarten to see the memorial to the Sinta & Roma (aka Gypsy) victims of WW2, and the Homosexual Victims Memorial before meeting Lauren back at Brandenburg Tor. 

Next stop was the Stasi Documentation centre which showed how the Stasi (East German Secret Police) worked, how they kept tabs on the population.  They had 39 million file cards, and if all the documents were laid end to end they would stretch for 111km. 

After this we had possibly the worst hamburgers ever, then headed for the DDR Museum.  It’s a fully interactive, hands on museum where all items are in drawers, cupboards etc and you are required to open things and handle stuff.  The only place I’ve ever been that is anything similar is the Presidential Palace in Ho Chi Minh City which was straight out of Austin Powers, the DDR museum was straight out of some really really bad sit-com.

Dinner at a really good Vietnamese at Hackescher Markt then home for some more wine & cheese.  Another good day.

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