The area surrounding Brandenburg Tor is busy and modern. There’s a large square, humming with people and cameras on every occasion that we visit, this is exacerbated by the tube line popping directly up into the centre and a hoard of tours using this as their starting point. You’re surrounded my neat, white and cream and glass fronted buildings, mostly official or governmental (except for the Starbucks) which give it a very safe feel- the buildings seem to me like tiles, so square and light, perhaps on a bathroom or kitchen wall. The gate itself has the same quiet neatness but with that ability to command every gaze, its history draped over it plain to see. It’s less imposing than I imagined; more stately, regal, sedate. Behind you is the chaos of a mid-august city, to your right the equally unimposing Reichstag, its dome just peeping above the other buildings, and in front between the columns you can glimpse the rich green of the Teirgarten, spliced in two by a grand road leading to the glorious gold of the Siegelsaule and beyond.
Before I begin my description of the Reichstag Dom I must inform you all that it may be skewed slightly by beer-induced hangover. Beware, bookings are often two days in advance, sometimes more, you have to pre-book on the internet (or queue just to book for 2+ hours, who would?) and your passport may be required. It’s pretty much like getting into the houses of parliament. Only this is much more modern, full of sleek sliding doors, tall glass walls, an ornate, pristine lift and understated modern art in the atrium. As I step from the lift, onto the roof of the older building, I collect an audio-guide and step out into the painfully early morning light, reflecting in all directions from Norman Foster’s work of brilliance. It’s a beautiful half-moon of silver and white light, intensely calm and cool. Inside it’s sleek and as I watch my reflection glide across the various glass surfaces it’s like being underwater, it certainly sounds like it inside the muffled, quiet dome. Everyone is carrying a certain expression of awe about them, inside the magnificent feat of engineering and design, and at the same time everyone looks at peace, the place radiates light (literally and metaphorically) – it’s supposed to represent the transparency of the ‘new’ German government. I reach the top slowly, almost regretful that the gentle spiral ascent is at an end and my friend and I slide into a rather uncomfortable lying position on the circular wooden bench in the centre and gaze at the open roof. It’s clearly this that has allowed for that cool feeling that evades the rest of the scorching city, and the sky is cloudless on cue. Watching the blankness of blue above my head I wish it was raining, so I could watch the drops fall seemingly right at my face and then hear them run, directed by the clever architecture, down the central column; I think it would be an amazingly beautiful noise. As I exit the Dom I see to one side there is a view downwards into the depths of the older Reichstag building, feet below in a courtyard a garden has been sculpted to spell the words: Der Bevolkerung.