BERLIN: Government Quarter

Time to read:

3 minutes

Germany’s executive and legislative branches are in Berlin (the country’s “supreme court” is in Karlsruhe, in southwestern Germany). The chancellor’s office, the parliament building and the president’s residence are within a few minutes’ walk of each other. I strolled through the government quarter on a Saturday, my first day off since classes began.

On the way to parliament: The first cross marks the date the Wall went up. The second cross remembers Günter Litfin, the first person killed by East German border guards while trying to cross. The Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam says at least 140 people died while trying to cross the Wall during its 26 years.

Germany’s parliament building, the Bundestag. It burned in 1933, when it was the Reichstag. Hitler blamed the Communists and used the fire as an excuse to decree martial law, one of the first tangible steps to dictatorship. Today the building has been rebuilt, and a transparent cupola has been added at the top.

The see-through sides of the cupola represent the idea that government should be transparent. I registered online 6 weeks in advance to get up here, avoiding long lines of sightseers waiting to get in.

A walkway winds up and around inside the cupola. From the top, you can look down and see the Bundestag at work.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home and offices. The walkway crosses the Spree river and probably ends in staff offices, where “West Wing”-type activities go on.

Berlin was bombed flat during WWII. But when the Germans rebuilt, they left room all along prime waterfront for residents to enjoy the riverside.

I love this soaring roof, which makes the House of World Cultures (HKW in German) instantly recognizable. I overheard a tour guide saying to snickers and nods that HKW got a lot of American money and it paid for the roof.

My list includes a trip up and down the Spree on one of these ships passing HKW. But it was 60 degrees out with 20 mph winds when I took this photo. The folks outside on that closer ship are hardy souls!

This is the riverside path between HKW and Bellevue Palace, where the president lives. The smell of the leaves reminded me of rural Connecticut, where I grew up.

The chancellor leads the day-to-day executive business of the republic. The German president, at the moment Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is more a symbol, although he signs every law. This is Bellevue Palace, where he lives and works.

This is the Victory Column in the center of the Tiergarten, Berlin’s “Central Park” (only bigger than New York’s). The column commemorates the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War of 1864. The column stands between Bellevue and the cafe where I had lunch. It’s 285 steps to the top, and I may spiral up before I leave.

This is where I wanted to have lunch — outside on the deck of the Cafe am Neuen See, overlooking the lake. But it was blustery, and I joined the huddled masses inside.


2 responses to “BERLIN: Government Quarter”

  1. thirsty4travel Avatar

    I am loving your posts, Clint! The photos of the buildings, especially the cupola and the Victory Tower, make me want to visit Berlin. The wall photos are very cool, how they interwove photography with the wall’s remains. AND they memorialized each East Germans killed trying to cross with a cross. I know you are enjoying your adventure, and I look forward to more stories when you return! Joan

    1. Clint Swift Avatar

      Nice to think you’re along, Joan. See ya soon.

Leave a Reply

Create a website or blog at