We spent 5 days in Berlin recently, which was definitely not enough time to properly appreciate such a magnificent capital of culture and history.
It was the first visit here for both of us -- though we had already visited Germany on multiple occasions, we somehow missed out on what is arguably the finest city that Deutschland has to offer.
This time around, however, we made a beeline there and capitalized on our narrow window of time in "The Grey City". We visited a number of significant historical landmarks in between our many runs to the almighty (Doner Kebap) stand.
The most memorable and educational experience we had while visiting Berlin's landmarks was our visit to the Reichstag Building -- here's the 411 on this historical site where one of the most pivotal events of the 20th century happened.
What is the Reichstag Building? -- The Reichstag was built in 1894 to house the German Parliament, which at that time was known as the "Imperial Diet". To me, Imperial Diet sounds like an exclusive devotion to Wonton Soup and Orange Chicken, but to each their own.
Nazi Launching Pad -- After the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and subsequent worldwide economic disaster, the Adolph Hitler fronted National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, known in English as the 'Nazi Party') took advantage of citizen's distrust in the Weimar Political Parties (of which there were 40) that represented the territory of what is now Germany. Until 1933, The Nazi's complete dominion was held in check by their only remaining competitors on the political front -- the Communist Party
Reichstag Fire -- On February 27, 1933, the building was badly damaged in a fire that started under suspicious circumstances. Hmmmm... Hitler (who by that time had been appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg) and the Nazi's used this 'terrorist act' as a spark plug to aggressively deploy their beguiling mix of intimidation and skilled diplomacy. They convinced parliament to suspend civil liberties and eliminate any political opposition to the NSDAP -- and promised not to threaten the president, the Reichstag, the states, or the churches if given full power via emergency decree. He's a totally believable dude though, right?
Hitler Becomes Dictator -- With his acquisition of total political power (despite the fact that Hindenburg remained president), Hitler and the Nazi Party banned members of the Communist Party from Parliament and began abolishing the power of the states ("but, but, you said you wouldn't do that!"). With the death of Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler merged the roles of party leader, head of state, and chief of government into "Führer" which he of course conferred upon himself. The immediate results of all this political tumult defined the legacy of the Third Reich, which I will spare you the gory details of.
In addition to all of this fantastic historical perspective that a visit to the Reichstag Building will net you, the view from the top of the dome is the best in the city! You can see for miles out over the many parks Berlin is famous for, which are dramatically juxtaposed against the city center and surrounding industrial areas. The architecture of the dome itself is also a celebrated feat of engineering, and for all of you daydreamers there's an open top to the structure so you can lie back on the rotunda shaped bench at the top floor and stare at the sky -- while you're doing that, try to wrap your head around how much the events that took place in this building shaped the world that we live in today.
Entrance to the Reichstag Building is free, but must be arranged online at least 2 hours in advance via this page.