Explore Berlin and Brandenburg
Directly behind the Brandenburg Gate a line of cobbles marks the course of the Berlin Wall where for 28 years it separated the Gate from the other great emblem of national unity, the Reichstag – the seat of Germany’s parliament. The solid Neoclassical building was built for a sham parliament answerable only to the Kaiser, in 1918, but is more famous for being set alight in 1933, allowing the Nazis to impose martial law, suspend democracy and establish a totalitarian regime. In a show trial, an itinerant ex-communist Dutch bricklayer, Marius van der Lubbe, was successfully charged with arson and executed, but it’s more likely that the Nazis started the fire themselves.
Equally famously, the Reichstag became a symbol of the Allied victory at the end of World War II, when soldiers raised the Soviet flag on its roof – even though heavy fighting still raged below. Evidence of this fighting is still visible as scores of patched bullet holes around some windows. Then, in 1999, the reunified German parliament moved back in after extensive renovations and the addition of a flashy cupola by British architect Sir Norman Foster. A circular ramp spirals up the inside to a viewing deck with stunning 360-degree views of the city, which 15 million visitors have since enjoyed. Sadly, security concerns have now shut this to all but pre-booked groups and visitors with reservations for Käfer Dachgarten, its gourmet rooftop restaurant.