The Brandenburg Gate: A historical “entrance” to Berlin

Berlin’s most iconic landmark and a must-see for all visitors is the Brandenburg Gate. During the Cold War, it was a symbol of Berlin and German division; currently, it is a national symbol of peace and unification. The enormous sandstone gate in the center of the city is probably the most photographed site in the city. The Brandenburg Gate was formerly a symbol of division; after the Berlin Wall was built, it was placed in a restricted area that could not be visited by either East or West Germans. The gate became a symbol of German unity after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I explain why this is so. But first, a little history.

The Brandenburg Gate was actually one of 18 city gates in Berlin. It is the only one that still stands today. And because it pointed in the direction of Brandenburg or the street that led through, it became the Brandenburg Gate called. King Friedrich Wilhelm II wanted a gate for the magnificent boulevard Unter the linden. This is an extensive street with trees and imposing houses. So he gave the order to build a gate out of sandstone. This should be at the end of the street. It was built from 1788 to 1791. It is 62.5 meters wide, 20.3 meters high, and 11 meters deep. The architect oriented while doing so at the Athenian Acropolis. Do you know the Brandenburg Gate? It has two high rows of columns supported by a roof. The columns do not stand alone but are connected with walls. That was structurally necessary. Otherwise, the heavy roof would have collapsed. It’s one of the first classical buildings in Prussia.

Two years after the gate was completed, the quadriga was put on the gate, i.e., a chariot drawn by four horses. In the car stands the goddess of victory, Victoria. The quadriga is 6 meters high. The team was meant to symbolize the peace that was coming to the city. She held a staff with an iron cross and a laurel wreath in her hand and with a Prussian eagle. By the way, this sculpture was not always on the Brandenburg Gate. In 1806, Napoleon snatched up the quadriga and took it along to Paris. Eight years later, she returned to Berlin. During the Second World War, the gate was severely damaged, which became the Quadriga removed and replaced by a copy in the years after that. From the original, only one horse’s head survived from the original, which is in the museum.

So now we come to the critical part: The Nazi paramilitary led a walk under the Brandenburg Gate to honor Hitler’s ascent to government more than a century after Napoleon seized Berlin. Just three months later (and not too far from the Brandenburg Gate), Nazi officials organized the historical “books burning” in the former Opernplatz (Opera Square). “Where they have burned books, they would end in murdering humanity,” the renowned German poet Heinrich Heine prophesied a century before these sad events. Now, as you know, Berlin became two parts shared.

There was the eastern part, which belonged to the GDR after the war, and the western part, which belonged to the Federal Republic of Germany. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 built. Right through the city. And the Brandenburg Gate was right on this border and ended up in a restricted area. Nobody could get any closer approach. If you’re out and about in Berlin today and to the Brandenburger goal, then look at the ground. There you will see a line of cobblestone that runs behind the gate.

The wall was there. You can look at old photos on the internet – for us today, that’s hard to believe what the Brandenburg Gate looked like back then. The GDR leadership had the eagle and the cross removed at that time. After reunification, both were added back, and the gate was renovated. On December 22, 1989, 100,000 people celebrated the gate’s opening. That is why it is considered a symbol of German unity. For example, they also climbed up to the quadriga and stole the bridle. Since the structure had hardly been cared for since the Wall was built, it had to be restored.

The Brandenburg Gate was ultimately repaired in 2002, and the scars of World War II and the Cold War are no longer visible to the state’s many tourists. The Brandenburg Gate was constructed by King Frederick William III of Prussia to signify peace; now, 200 years later, it stands as a symbol of bringing down boundaries and connecting individuals worldwide.

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Today it costs 200,000 euros a year to close the Brandenburg Gate like this received as is. Today the gate no longer stands there as alone as it did in the days of the Wall. A lot of buildings have been built around it, there are banks, embassies, the University of the Arts, cafes and of course, the famous Hotel Adlon is nearby. On the other side is the Reichstag building, so this political heart of Germany. By the way: Take a look at the back of the German euro coins. Look at the small coins for 10, 20, and 50 cents for the pictured Brandenburg Gate.

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The Brandenburg Gate, of course, is open all year and can be visited at any time. However, your visit here could be part of a genuinely unforgettable occasion! Why not take advantage of the fantastic atmosphere at the famed New Year’s Eve party to ring in the New Year Berlin-style, with live music on the party mile and a spectacular fireworks display? Alternatively, join the hundreds of thousands of football fans cheering on their teams on the big screens at the FIFA World Cup or UEFA EURO tournaments in the summer.

The Brandenburg Gate, however, is a magnet for inhabitants and visitors on any given day of the year, serving as a symbol of German unity as well as the Berlin lifestyle!

Written By:
Bhawna Tomar
Academic Associate
German Language Expert
Centre For Languages and Communication
Faculty of Mass Communication & Media Technology
SGT University