The Berlin Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor in German) is undoubtedly the symbol par excellence of the German capital.
The main monument of most postcards and souvenirs, the Brandenburg Gate has witnessed the most important historical events in the history of Berlin, thanks to its privileged position on Pariser Platz, in the heart of the city.
The gate is specifically located in the western area of the center, at the junction between Unter den Linden Avenue and Ebertstraße. It is also very close to another famous monument, the Reichstag.
This monumental gate of has seen such events as the Napoleon parade under its arches upon his invasion of the city. The statue that crowns the top of the gate – called a “quadriga” for its depiction of a chariot and horses - was carried to France as a trophy of the feat. Other important historical events witnessed by the gate were the partial destruction of Berlin by Allied bombings during the Second World War and the political division of the city during a considerable period of time during the 20th century – when the area around the gate became a sort of no man's land. In 1989, the Brandenburg Gate was chosen as the setting for the reunification ceremony after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and thus saw its original role as gate of the city finally restored.
Although very photogenic, especially to serve as a souvenir of Berlin, the purpose of the gate dates back to more than a century before there were any photographic cameras. The purpose of the gate has often been transformed, so let's see what it originally was and how it developed.
It all started in the 1730s, when the Berlin Customs Wall was built with 18 gates (see map), to facilitate the levying of taxes on the import and export of goods (called “tariffs”), which served as the primary income of many cities at the time. The wall itself was designed and built with no defensive intent in mind, and it was not part of the old Berlin Fortress, as this was a relative peaceful period during the times of the Prussian Kingdom.
The new gate was commissioned by Frederick William II of Prussia to represent peace, replacing the earlier simple guardhouses which flanked the original gate. Although the gate did have a practical function, it was also symbolic of the times in which it was built, this is why it was originally named the Peace Gate and also the reason why the goddess depicted in the statue on top of the gate – called a “quadriga” - is Eirene, the goddess of peace.
The Brandenburg Gate is directly inspired by the Acropolis of Athens: it is made of sandstone and its structure organized into three main parts. The central one has five entries separated by Doric columns. Of neoclassical style, its three central accesses were destined to the royalty, and the lateral ones to the rest of the population.
But those times of peace were short-lived... In 1806, Napoleon invaded Prussia and took the quadriga to Paris as a token of his conquest. A few years later, the Prussians got it back after winning the Franco-Prussian Wars, but when they returned to Berlin, they made a small change: the goddess of Peace was turned into the goddess of Victory, wearing a Prussian eagle and an iron cross.
In 1933, after winning the elections, Hitler's Nazi Party victoriously paraded under the Brandenburg Gate. However, with the end of World War II and the fall of Nazi Germany, the gate suffered serious damage, as the city did when occupied by Soviet and Allied forces. Indeed, one of the most famous images of the Second World War is that of the two Soviet soldiers carrying the flag of the USSR after the Battle of Berlin, with the Brandenburg Gate in the background.
Upon the construction of the so-called Berlin Wall – or should we say, walls -, which divided the city into different political regions, the Brandenburg Gate ended up being in the neutral zone in-between, and thus inaccessible. With the fall of the wall in 1989, the gate became a symbol of reunified Germany when it witnessed thousands of Berliners celebrating the momentous event.
A curiosity: when the Brandenburg Gate was restored to reopen to the public, the iron cross that carried the Victory of the chariot was removed, as it was considered a symbol of totalitarian power.

Check also:

Top 10 must-see places in Berlin

Visiting and eating in Mitte

5 reasons why you should visit Pariser Platz?

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