Hey lets walk to that statue in the middle of the park. It can’t be more than a ten minute walk…
Oh how wrong we were! Turns out its really really far away, it’s just freaking enormous so it looks close. It probably took us about an hour or so, but the walk through the park was nice. One of the first things we saw was the Soviet war memorial, built by Russian soldiers almost immediately after the occupation of Berlin after the war. They put it up so quickly that it actually came to sit in the British sector of Berlin, and once the wall went up it was inaccessible to the very Russians it was built for. It is flanked by the first two Russian tanks to make it to Berlin in the war.
We wandered off the path and carried on through the trees, finding a really cool bell tower called the Carillon. Apparently it is actually a giant musical instrument and theres a guy who plays it every sunday afternoon!
Carrying on through the Tiergarten, we admired the many statues dotted around throughout, and eventually arrived at the Victory column. Its a biggun’ thats for sure. Once we worked out that there were tunnels under the road to allow you to get to the column, we finally got close enough to see that there were people at the top! OMG you can go up it! And up it we went! A bloody long way up it was too, the whole thing is 67 metres tall, much of it climbed by way of a tiny spiral staircase. The views from the top were incredible, you had a 360° view of the Tiergarten and Berlin.
Once we were back down we ambled off in the general direction of Potsdamer Platz, which again was further than we thought (I have blisters at this point and am seriously regretting my choice in footwear), and had some tea in the Sony centre and rested for a time. Its a very cool place and with the christmas decorations up it was feeling ery festive. Theres even a Legoland here, as evidenced by the plastic brick giraffe standing on the street. We made our way to yet more christmas markets, eating yet more bratwurst, hit up a mall, and gradually worked our way back up to the Friedrichstraße area.
Once there, we got lost trying to find Museum Island, and ended up circling it and coming at it from the back. It was worth the effort though, by the time we got there it was dark, but everything was lit up, and as we walked over the bridge towards the Dom, we saw people cycling past, couples walking hand in hand, plenty of selfies being taken, and all serenaded by one man and his guitar singing christmas songs in German. It was really quite lovely. I would just like to say how much I love the Dom. I am a huge fan of churches and buildings of that ilk, and the Dom is a magnificent building, especially illuminated at night. I spent quite a while there taking pictures, until I got the feeling that Zoe was no longer enjoying watching me while she sat there cold, so we moved on to another christmas market!
By this point we were mostly trying to just kill time until our tour of the Reichstag at 10 that evening, so we chilled out in the christmas market, had some teas, ate some bratwurst (this time with chips!) and generally just milled about. We worked our way up towards the Brandenburg gate, stopping along the way at another christmas market, but this one was huge and you had to pay to get in, so you know it was quality. They even had security on the gates. We ate some more bratwurst, had a look around then went out the back way to find possibly the oddest pantomime I have ever seen. Now I don’t speak German so I had no idea what the hell was going on but there was a tall bald man dressed in silver leggings, furry boots and a silver crop top, riding a unicycle whilst juggling elves danced around with him. Then, while the bald man changed costume the elves did a very daring juggling routine, at the end of which the bald man came back out dressed as some sort of snow king and they all sang. I assume this is a regular thing in Germany?
So eventually its time to go to the Reichstag, and were pretty excited because it looks really cool. We go through the security, and get led as one big group up to the doors, go inside, and catch a lift up to the dome. Before you go into the dome you get an audio guide that walks you through and as you go around it points out buildings in the skyline and tells you about them. It is such a cool experience and its a great piece of architecture.
Theres a massive mirrored construction in the middle which is used to reflect sunlight down into the chambers below to save on electricity, and the whole thing is set up as a huge heat sink, so that all the heat trapped in the dome is sent down into the Reichstag to help keep it warm. There is even a huge sun shade that tracks the sun throughout the day to stop it getting too bright or too hot inside. I went out onto the roof top afterwards to look at the views, which are pretty great. One thing you can see from here is the actually parliamentary chambers, which sit underneath the dome. The whole point of this is it gives the political system transparency, because anyone can come and watch politicians debate, and there can be no dishonesty. I’d like to believe that this works as well in practise as it does in theory, and Germany is doing pretty well right now so they can’t be doing all that wrong. Maybe we should adopt something similar in the British system. (Hah! A chance would be a fine thing!)