Brandenburg Gate

Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Napoléon and his armies marched through it; revolutionaries and Nazis gathered beneath it; the Berlin Wall ran right behind: It’s safe to say that Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, completed in 1791, has pretty much seen it all. Designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans, who drew inspiration from the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens, the gate is best approached via Unter den Linden, the tree-lined boulevard that runs between the gate and the former Royal Palace. You can combine a visit here with nearby sights such as the Reichstag, Tiergarten Park, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Since 2016, an impressive high-tech museum at the gate has offered a history of the city through the perspective of the iconic structure.

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Brandenburg Gate - The Gathering Place of Berlin

One of the first places you will likely visit on a trip to Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate - the last remaining gate of its kind from before the Cold War. It sat directly between East and West Berlin and was a symbol of the division between Berlin and Germany. This was also the location for Ronald Reagan’s historic speech to tear down the Berlin Wass: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” There used to be 14 of these gates throughout the city and one can only imagine how beautiful the city would have been with more of these around. We were in Berlin the week in November, 2015 that the Paris terrorist attacks took place. The Brandenburg Gate was where the city gathered to build candle vigils to those affected by the attacks and it was where news stations set up shop. This certainly is the place where Berliners and tourists alike come to gather as one during any time of celebration or mourning. Here is a photo of the Gate lit up in the colors of the French Flag. Quite the sight and quite the experience!

The Brandenburg Gate

You can’t be in Berlin without passing through or near the Brandenburg Gate. The gate is located in the western part of the city, at the junction of Unter den Linden and Ebertstraße, just next to the Pariser Platz. One block to the north stands the Reichstag building. So it is a good thing to combine all these monuments and visit them maybe on the same day (although reservations should be made to the Reichstag building). The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the tree-lined boulevard (named after linden trees) which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate "Room of Silence"

The original 1791 peaceful message of the Brandenburg Gate was distorted by the Nazis into a symbol of their own power and later by the Soviets as a symbol of the Berlin Wall East/West division. Today, sitting unobtrusively on the right side of the popular tourist attraction (as observed from the “front of the horse chariot side”) is the little known “Room of Silence” where visitors can reflect on the history of Berlin and the original peaceful meaning of the archway. Few tourists or Berliners are aware this room exists. It can be your “little best-kept secret”. Enter the door highlighted by the arrow in the photo. While a donation is appreciated, there is no pressure to pay anything. After walking through a small greeting area, you will enter the “Room of Silence”, just large enough for 15-20 chairs and a couple of kneeling cushions, all facing a gently glowing light. Simply enter the room as quietly as you can, and take a seat. Do not chat. Remember to silence your cell phone before entering. Stay as long as you like, contemplating the true peaceful meaning of the gate and its overwhelming history. The atmosphere is intentionally free of any religious icons and/or meanings but is “powerful”, never-the-less. Leave as quietly as possible so as not to disturb others. A visit to the “Room of Silence” can be a very moving experience. At a minimum you are almost certain to enjoy a few quiet moments away from the ever-present humming crowd just outside the door.

Delighting in Berlin's Most Recognizable Symbol

Berlin’s “gateway” to the city, at Pariser Platz and Unter den Linden boulevard, is so supremely iconic in all that it represents, you have to walk around, beneath, and through it to attempt to appreciate the depth and richness of Berlin’s history. Check out the famous 5-Star Hotel Adlon which overlooks the Brandenburg Gate, and stroll down the Unter den Linden toward Museum Island to experience this captivating area.

Exploring Berlin

We took a four-hour bus ride from the cruise port in Rostock/Warnemünde to Berlin to see the city. We saw where the Berlin Wall stood, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate. I love that I got to see all of this before we learned about the Cold War during history this year! Our tour guide also told us her personal experiences as a young girl growing up in divided Berlin. It was a fun but sobering experience, because I loved seeing the sights of a new foreign city but it also made me sad thinking about World War Two and the Cold War and the effects that those events had on the people of that beautiful city.

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