Rehabilitating the Reichstag

The Reichstag building boasts historical architecture and a powerful message: Dem Deustchen Volke

The Reichstag building boasts historical architecture and a powerful message: Dem Deustchen Volke

by Alexa Blanchard

The International Media class from Point Park University continued its tour of Berlin, Germany, with an evening visit to a government building known as the Reichstag.

The Reichstag building, which has undergone decades of change and reform, initially began as the headquarters of the German empire’s parliament (also called diet or Reichstag) in 1894. According to, The Parliament was controlled by several different entities, beginning first with the German empire, followed by the Weimar Republic, and finally in the 1930s fell under Nazi control.

The Nazi Reichstag abandoned the building in 1933 after a devastating fire that destroyed most the building and was never repaired until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since architect Norman Foster led the reconstruction effort that was completed in 1999, the Reichstag building is used once again as a government entity by the Bundestag, the modern-day term for German parliament.

From the front, the Reichstag building is huge and intimidating with its historical architecture. The pillars and statues keeping watch over the city are reminiscent of the Parthenon of Greece. The building exudes an image of grace and authority over its subjects, powerful to behold. Above the pillars on the architrave is carved a short yet meaningful phrase: Dem Deutschen Volke, or, to the German people.

The dome at the Reichstag

The dome at the Reichstag

Attached to the back of the Reichstag building is a massive dome that attracts hundreds of tourists every day. Audio guides are available for use while visitors stroll along the terrace outside of the dome and take in the breathtaking Berlin skyline.

Once inside the dome, the audio guide will begin explaining the history of the building as visitors walk along a ramp that spirals along the edge of the wall to the top of the dome, culminating in a sky view that rests the weary traveler.

The audio guide not only explains the history of the Reichstag building and the dome but also stops the visitor on the ramp to point out several key points of Berlin, such as the television tower. Many of these buildings are historical elements that are related to the Reichstag building, but most are new buildings that had to be built or rebuilt following the devastation of World War II.

The bottom floor of the dome boasts a central element that holds the entire building together. A collection of black and white photographs with detailed captions in several languages are showcased around the middle point of the dome.

These photos outline the integral points of the Reichstag’s history, including the days when it was burned and unusable. Some of the most powerful images were taken during the final days of the Berlin Wall as students sat on top of the Wall in front of the Reichstag while the police force watched them from the ground.

The interior of the dome is perfect for audio walking tours.

The interior of the dome is perfect for audio walking tours.

Some of the images are also a bit startling and strange to think about from the perspective now. A photo from 1930 reads: “The NSDPA parliamentary group leaves the auditorium; only Joseph Goebbels remains as an observer.”

So, by this time the Nazi party had taken control. How eerie to still have NSDPA artifacts still on display in a government building. As with many painful things in Germany, the reason for the rebuilt Reichstag and the dome is most likely to serve as reminders to never forget, to never let things get as bad as they once were.

The roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building are open from 8 a.m. to midnight daily (last admission: at 10 p.m.)  Admission is free, but advance registration is

required. The online registration form can be found at It is closed from Dec. 24-31 and other dates for cleaning. It also closes at times for security reasons when the government is in session.

DAY 8 – Salzburg

Carson and I in the garden used in the film Sound of Music

Carson and I in the garden used in the film Sound of Music

DAY 8 – Salzburg

From what I had so far experienced only in movies, now that I have visited the beautiful old city of Salzburg, the world seems a little smaller.

Tourists, tourists and more tourists – I heard a great deal of different languages spoken around me today. The whole experience was like stepping into a movie – almost literally as we saw many scenes from the Sound of Music up close and personal! But after Dachau, the contrast of solemn and bright, lively landscapes were very intense.

Our tour guide was very informative about the area, especially with fun facts about the Sound of Music and Mozart’s life. I did not know that the von Trap family actually existed. It’s been so long, but that movie is such a classic that young people today still know the songs. And I saw proof as a group of tourists bounced on the steps used in the movie as they sang “doe, a deer, a female deer…”

I liked learning about the different types of architecture from different eras in history as well. I thought it was interesting to know that in order for people to pass through buildings in Salzburg, they had to make little tunnel-like passageways (which make for the best pictures, by the way). Among many things, this is what gives Salzburg its distinctive look.

The gardens were so flawless and they were perfectly framed below the fortress in the distance. It was interesting to know the meanings of the Greek statues but that they were actually fake. It was unfortunate that some people still had disrespect even among all the beauty to try to find money in the fountains.

When we came across the main area of Salzburg before the bridge, the view took my breath away. Suddenly, the rain didn’t matter anymore. We learned that the locks on the bridge were symbols of love for couples promising to stay together. It seemed to be such a romantic city.

So much has been kept in that city as it has been for a very long time. The signs for the chic and local shops in the bending narrow streets were in the same style as they were ages before, fancy, elaborate and featured pictures of what the store offered.

The cemeteries and the churches have also been preserved very well. I was surprised though that the one church that our tour guide said was rebuilt and renovated about three times had very strange purple club-like lighting.

We also passed Mozart’s home that he grew up in. I found myself wondering what he would have created if he had lived longer. He was such a genius and he is honored everywhere in this town.

The tent shops were expensive, but Connor, Zack and I found our way to a beer garden. This was the first time I had ever been in one. Everyone was so happy and the beer was flowing. I never saw such an efficient operation of paying for beer, picking out mugs, washing them and having someone fill them all in one room.

A great end to the day was the really unique restaurant we visited at the very end. I heard it was extremely old and it was obvious with the curling staircases, the skinny hallways and quaint rooms. I had a fantastic view from my window of the river.

Salzburg is a place where people walk their groomed and behaved dogs. Passerby drop Euros into street musicians’ cans. Tour guides speak in several languages about Mozart’s hometown. Salzburg is such a cultural place to be. And I hope to go back someday because there was so much I didn’t have time to see.