German politics: past and present

The only thing I planned way in advance was a visit to Reichstag. It’s free but requires reservation ahead of time (they turned away a lot of people at the gate). We had tickets for a guided tour of the building and an unguided ascend to the dome. 

The first thing you see on the ground floor are the original graffiti created during WWII:

The building was almost entirely destroyed during bombing, but whatever was left provided enough surface for the Red Army soldiers to leave their mark. Moreover, people responsible for the building reconstruction in the 1990s decided to keep and display these writings as a reminder of history.

I also found it interesting that Hitler never used this building. His headquarters were elsewhere. Hence, Germans consider Reichstag as an untainted home to democracy.

I’d heard that the guided tour is boring, but I didn’t find it so. A lot of thought went into designing the interior of the building, and I’m glad we had someone to explain it for us.

This art installation, for example, consisted of boxes for each democratically elected member of the parliament (through 1999).

Including Hitler.

The connection to the dark past was omnipresent but not always obvious (at least to me). For example, the picture below is by Katharina Sieverding and called “In Memory of the Members of Parliament in the Weimar Republic who were Persecuted, Outlawed or Murdered between 1933 and 1945”. It didn’t look like much to me until our guide’s explanation.

Then we got to listen about modern day politics happening in Bundestag, as well as the current drama about forming coalition. I think I’m a bit ashamed that I don’t really know much about it… I should care about Europe’s political stability, right?

It was actually more entertaining to listen how they count votes without electronic system. If there is no consensus on the number of votes for vs. against (I didn’t realize that numbers can be arbitrary), members of the parliament have to pick one of three doors depending on their vote.

A few more fun facts:

  • This purple color is trade marked. It is a neutral color that corresponds to no political party
  • They rearrange seating area after each election to accommodate the new structure (the number of Parliament members also varies somehow)
  • That single chair just to the side of Matt’s head is Angela Merkel’s

I hope Germany doesn’t need a repeat election. Their dedication to democracy is admirable and inspiring.


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