Wernigerode – Magdeburg – Rosslau – Berlin

After all the snow yesterday, it was a real surprise to wake to blue skies, sun and only patches of the stuff on the hilltops around the town. I sat and watched the early morning shunting of locos and stock from my breakfast table, before packing my bags and heading for the station. I took one last look at the loco that would be powering this morning’s 09:40 departure, sister to the one I had travelled behind yesterday.

99 234 at Wernigerode

As I waited for my train on the main station immediately behind the HSB one, I was able to see this service set off up be Brocken. My own journey was far more mundane. This regional service was full of students on their way to college in the next town. Once they got off, it was very quiet all way to Magdeburg. Unfortunately it was also very slow. We hands been delayed by engineering works on the track, and I saw my Berlin train pull out of the next but one platform as we pulled in. A swift replan and I was able to continue my journey via Rosslau, arriving almost an hour later than planned but this was not a great problem.

I’m learning that connections are bonuses rather than a standard feature on this trip. The famously efficient Deutsche Bahn have a wonderful app that updates you every few minutes if you are going to miss your connection, which I suppose is a good thing. About half the trains I’ve caught so far have been more than 10 minutes late. Oddly the longest distance ones have been the most reliable.

Having arrived in Berlin, I checked in at my hotel then went exploring. After a look around Museum island I headed over to the Reichstag for my pre-booked visit to the German Parliament. On the way, a large barge headed down the river towards me.

Barge passing the Parliament buildings in Berlin

Last time I was here I’d tried to do the tour, but it fills up ages in advance. I can see why. Our tour guide explained the story of the building and the Parliament (in English) to our group of about 20. Over half the group were politics students from Ireland. The rest included a couple from Las Vegas, some Australians and even a couple from Spain. English language tours take place every couple of hours, every day. At the same time there were I think two German language tours also going on. It is apparently the most visited parliament in the world and I can absolutely believe it.

I’m not going to tell the story of the building here, there are way better sources of the information, but what I will say is that the renovation by Richard Rogers is astonishing. The building is simultaneously historic, commemorative and incredibly functional. Several walls are covered with the graffiti of Russian soldiers from the Cold War occupation. I’ve mixed in a couple of photos I took from the exhibition to show how it had looked under Soviet occupation, for comparison.

After the formal tour, we were allowed to explore the dome, high above the chamber. it was a real shame that by now it was dark, and had recently rained so the views of the city were very restricted, but the interior of the dome with it’s moving mirrors which channel light into the Parliament below, is fabulous. I will go back and do it again some time.

Having spent over two hours there, it was time to move on. In advance of tomorrow’s concert I’d arranged to meet a friend, and her friend, for dinner nearby. A fabulous couple of hours in a Bavarian restaurant, with good food, lovely staff and great company, followed by a late night look at Brandenburg Gate.

Another good day.