I’ve been in Ottawa a couple of times over the last few years and seen Parliament Hill (the seat of Canadian politics), but only from the outside. I haven’t been on a guided tour or attended a debate, but a visit to the German parliament (the Deutscher Bundestag) last week will make a real tour a priority the next time I’m in the Canadian capital!
The Reichstag Building (where the Deutscher Bundestag meets) is a huge tourist attraction in Berlin. Not only is there the fascination of seeing where the republic is governed, there’s also a roof terrace with great views of the city… and the tours are entirely free!
There weren’t many options when we booked the tour, so we wound up with one at 8pm. Turns out evening is a great time to see the Reichstag. Our guide was able to take us into many areas that aren’t accessible during the work day and the nighttime views of Berlin were astonishing.
Our guide was exceptionally well-educated (with a PhD in Political Science!) and spoke perfect English. He gave us all kinds of tit-bits about the building and its history, outlined how the Bundestag functions, and fielded questions on everything from statuary to parliamentary procedure. I was particularly interested to learn that the seats in the parliamentary chamber are deliberately non-partisan; they’re covered in ‘Bundestag blue’, specifically selected because it isn’t affiliated with any German political party.
Touring the Reichstag awakened my interest in visiting government seats in other countries. We may not make it to the Hague on our upcoming trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, but we will be in Brussels, home to both the Palais de la Nation and the European Parliament.
And the next time I’m in Ottawa, I’ll see how Canada measures up!