Archive for the ‘dome’ Tag

Berlin – Reichstag   10 comments

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The Reichstag is one Berlins most famous and iconic buildings and has been the home of the German Parliament since 1999

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It’s free to enter and climb the dome if you book a ticket online so we did just that and took our cue on time in the late afternoon

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A glass lift whisks you to the roof of the main building on top of which is the glass dome designed by the famous architect Sir Norman Foster in his overhaul of the building after the fall of the wall. They provide you with a free audio commentary that helps understand the design and function and the views across the city

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The dome is there as a visual metaphor for the new open-ness and transparency of German politics. The main plenary chamber sits right beneath the dome. The views as you climb are excellent

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There is a spiralling ramp that ascends to the top allowing plenty of time to look at the views from all sides. I really liked the design and the idea behind it.

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The top is open with an oculus much like the one in the Pantheon in Rome. Rain water is dispersed by a clever system of ducts and sunlight is harnessed for energy by a rotating mechanism that tracks the movement of the sun

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Once back down from the dome the views from the roof terrace are equally fine

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The building was completed in 1894 and was the home of the German Parliament until 1933. Its had a role in most of Germany’s most famous and infamous moments. The German Republic was proclaimed from here in 1919. More infamously the Nazis seized power, using a mysterious fire in the building, on 27th February 1933, as a pretext. An anarchist was arrested for arson although that in itself was shrouded in mystery. The Nazis proclaimed that this was a part of a large-scale communist conspiracy and implemented the “Reichstag Fire Decree” that led to civil rights being quashed and widespread political persecution.

It was a pivotal moment in Hitler’s power grab and modern history. We all know what followed

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Victorious Red Army troops raised the Soviet flag over what was the bombed out building at the end of the war. The Berlin Wall ran right alongside the eastern facade and major pop concerts took place on the lawns in front. After the wall came down German reunification was enacted here in 1990 although the building was still largely a shell.

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In 1995 work began on a complete overhaul of the building, led by Sir Norman. Only the original 19th century shell and facade remained, while the inside was completely rebuilt and the landmark glass dome added

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We spent a happy half hour wandering about the roof and admiring the views of both the dome and city beyond

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The glass offices of Potsdamer Platz in the distance

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Brandenburg Gate

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The Fernsehturm tower behind a building that despite dominating the skyline, I never found out what it was

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We headed out toi take another look at the Main Facade. The inscription over the main entrance reads “Dem Deustchen Volke” – To the German People although this wasn’t added until 1916

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A hugely impressive building of huge historical significance. I’d happily see it again although I’d like to go on an organised tour that I think allows you to peek in to the Bundestag Plenery chamber if it’s not in session

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A nice evening stroll back to the apartment along the river Spree

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And a couple of shots of our local neighbourhood

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And the street where we lived (for a few days)

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A lot packed into our first day in the city

 

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Rome – St Peters Square & Basilica   15 comments

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Another hot and sunny day and another chance to hit the sights of Rome. We’d seen the Colloseum and Ancient Rome, walked through the heart of the historic city centre so time to see one of the other iconic sites. Plan was to get there early to try to beat the queues so we attempted to take the bus. There were supposed to be two buses running close to St Peters each running every seven minutes. After thirty minutes the first one turned up, absolutely packed. A couple of sardines got off claiming it was a bit too crowded than they were used to. Eventually a bus turned up we could fit on but by the time we got there so had everyone else. Ho hum!

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Everything about St Peters is on a scale hard to grasp. The piazza, the basilica, the queues! We were at the back of queue when the photo above was taken and the other end of the queue is at the left hand end of the columns on the far side. In reality it moved reasonably quickly and it took not much more than 40 minutes. We amused ourselves by laughing at everyone else as is our want. Makes us bad people I know, but its a survival instinct kind of thing.

The cupola on top of the basilica. You can see the people admiring the view

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Entry is free so the queue is for security. Once through you can admire the impressive facade. The statues on the top represent Christ the Redeemer, John the Baptist and the 11 Apostles. The central balcony is where the pope delivers his Easter and Christmas blessing

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Our first call was to head straight up to the dome. To my surprise there was no real queue although we did save a few quid by walking up the first part rather than taking the lift, 551 steps to start with

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You come first to a walkway around the Dome, designed by Michelangelo. It’s a repeating them in this post that photos simply cannot do justice to the immense size and beauty of the Basilica. Looking down from this perch the people in the main part of the church seemed incredibly small. I just couldn’t get a picture through the protective railings

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From there is another 320 steps to the tiny cupola on top of the dome, 120m above St Peters Square. The views as you can imagine were equally immense.

South to Giancolo Hill

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West over the Vatican Gardens

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South and East over St Peters Square with its distinct keyhole shape. Interesting fact, the Via Della Conciliazione that leads away from the square and the columns that line it taper away from the square. It’s supposed to draw you towards the Basilica and into welcoming “arms” of the square with the church behind

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The Pantheon in the city centre

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Il Vittoriano

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Castel Sant Angelo

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The Olympic stadium, home of Roma and Lazio for all you footy fans out there

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And a close up view of the square

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The gardens in particular looked gorgeous. You can visit them but only on a private tour booked well in advance. One for next time

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In truth it was really hot and crowded and the views back across the city were a little hazy as the sun was in the wrong place. It would be much better to climb the dome late afternoon when the sun would illuminate the city to much better effect. Tour groups were nuisance up here as they tend to climb and descend the stairs as one mass group creating queues and stuffy frustration. I don’t think TJF enjoyed it all that much.

One last panorama across the city

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Time to head down and enjoy this colossal structure from the inside

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Again the photos cannot even come close to capturing the astonishing scale and beauty of the place

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Looking upwards into the Dome

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The central nave

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The Dome

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The bronze statue of St Peter. Tradition is to touch his right foot and its visibly worn from centuries of these caresses

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The Cattedra di San Pietro by Bernini

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And a view back down the Central Nave

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The Baldachin, again by Bernini, made from bronze taken from the Pantheon

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The artwork on the subsidiary domes was astonishingly detailed

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And matched the art and sculptures on the walls and pillars and archways

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Where the scale truly hit me was the four piers that support the dome. The were absolutely huge, as they must be to support the soaring height and weight of the dome itself. The base of each one has a stone saint after which each pier is named and associated with the Basilicas four major relics. The Lance of St Longinus (used to pierce Christ’s side), the cloth with which St Veronica wiped Jesus’ face, a fragment of the cross collected by St Helena and the head of St Andrew. Each pier was not only massive but exquisitely detailed and decorated

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We noticed a crowd near the entrance which it turned out was admiring another of Michelangelo’s’ famous artworks, the stunning and hauntingly beautiful Pieta (the only work he ever signed)

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We ambled around for well over an hour eventually you get a neck-ache from looking up. What a truly extraordinary building. Rome has some pretty amazing churches but nothing can possibly compare to this marvel. We stepped out through the facade back into dazzling sunlight

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The view across the square from the steps is a memorable one.

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Again my thoughts were of how relatively empty the square looked, its sheer size swallowing up the crowds

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A last look back at this visual feast for the eyes before we headed off for a proper feast for the body

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We headed away from St Peters for some lunch (never eat near a major tourist attraction, disappointment awaits). We headed down a hot and sunny street to a sandwich shop my guidebook recommended. It was shut for the holidays. Hot and hungry we just dived into the nearest restaurant. Serendipity indeed. It was a real find called Bianco’s Vespette and Forchette (Vespa and Forks), quirky name and quirky restaurant (mopeds by the tables, purple bread that sort of thing) but the food was superb and the staff welcoming and friendly.

We had a wonderful, long lazy lunch before heading back to the apartment. Another attempt at a bus journey, another 30 minute wait for a bus that never turned up so we used the Metro. Rome has some of the most extraordinary sites and buildings in the world, great food and many more positives beside. A great public transport system isn’t one of them! 🙂

 

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