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Brandenburg Gate (Berlin, Germany)

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(German, Brandenburger Tor), an 18th-century city gateway in the historic centre of the German capital, Berlin. Built between 1788 and 1791 the Brandenburg Gate was modelled after an ancient Greek ceremonial arch. The gate was sealed off in 1961 when the

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      03.07.2012 22:54
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      Berlin's famous landmark that symbolises both division and reunification

      Berlin's Brandenburg Gate ('Brandenburger Tor' in German) is not only one of the best known landmarks in Germany, it is symbolic more generally of the fall of the 'Iron Curtain' and those old enough will surely recall the momentous scenes as the Berlin Wall was breached and thousands of East Germans flooded through the gate and into the West. It was for these associations that I wanted to see the Brandenburg Gate for myself when I visited Berlin at the end of 2011; yes, it's a very impressive and historic monument and was long before it became part of the Berlin Wall, but its place in the events that led to the fall of Communism across eastern and central Europe gives it an indirect significance in the path my own life has taken in recent years. Understandably the Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin's most visited landmarks. It is close to many other visitor attractions and is easily accessible. That the eastern side of the gate is an open traffic free area means that the area has become a place for people to meet, where street performers carry out their business and where souvenir sellers hawk their wares. I would imagine that few visitors don't at least pass by the Brandenburg Gate; it's a stop on the 'hop on, hop off' bus tours of the city and it stands beside a busy traffic junction on one side, and at the end of one of the city's most famous streets. The structure dates from the late eighteenth century and was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm; it was to represent a celebration of peace. It was built on the site of an existing gate, not one of the original city gates which were built much earlier but one that was part of a customs wall that surrounded the city since the 1730s. The earlier gate was very simple with twin guard houses either side of the gate. Architect Carl Gotthard Langhans designed a gate with twelve columns in the Doric style - six on each side - which created five passages. Standing on the lintel above the columns is the Quadriga, the statue which depicts a grand Roman chariot steered by Victoria, goddess of victory, and drawn by four horses. If the design looks familiar it's probably because it's based on the archway entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. As you pass through the spaces between the columns you can see relief friezes on each sandstone wall; these depict scenes from ancient history and mythology. In 1806 after Napoleon's victory in the Battle of Jena Auersted, he had a victory parade through the Brandenburg Gate, then had the Quadriga taken to Paris; however, after Napoleon's defeat in 1814 and the Prussian occupation of the French capital, the Quadriga was returned to its original location and an Iron Cross was added to the statue. From this point until 1919, only members of the Royal Family were permitted to pass through the central archway. The gate suffered a lot of damage during the Second World War and after the end of the war there was a joint effort between the governments of East and West Berlin to restore the monument though the repairs were quite obvious. In 2000, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate was restored privately with the bill coming in at around 6 million Euro. When the Berlin Wall came into effect on 13th August the Brandenburg Gate become one of eight gateways within the walls. The following day the western side of the gate became the scene of a demonstration led by the Mayor of West Berlin, Willy Brandt. In response the East Germans closed the gate the same day, supposedly 'until further notice' but the gate remained firmly closed until the wall fell in 1989. On order to keep the citizens of East Berlin away from the gate, another, smaller wall was built at the end of the Pariser Platz. Those visiting the Brandenburg Gate today can enter the Room of Silence ('Raum der Stille) in the guardhouse on the northern side of the gate. I thought this is a great idea because among all the hustle and bustle and kitsch around the gate and on the Pariser Platz today, it's easy to lose touch with the significance, especially in recent history, of the monument. The room is a haven of tranquillity and a good place to contemplate what the monument stands for today. A branch of the Berlin Tourist Information Centre is housed in the south guardhouse of the Brandenburg Gate. Walking from our hotel this was the first TIC we'd come to so we took the opportunity to buy Berlin Welcome Cards and to pick up lots of literature about things we might want to visit. This TIC has an extensive range of souvenirs so if you're passing through on a whistle-stop tour this would be a good place to buy souvenirs. This TIC is open daily until 7.00pm. Just before the start of Unter den Linden on the eastern side is the Pariser Platz; it's not unlike Covent Garden with its 'living statues' and buskers but here you also get actors in Soviet style uniforms willing to pose for a photograph, for a price of course. Having admired the gate and dropped into the TIC and the Room of Silence we didn't feel much like hanging around. When you've seen one living statue you've seen them all and they tend to give me the creeps anyway. I was tempted by the museum dedicated to the Kennedys which is on the Pariser Platz but we hadn't long been in Berlin and were struck by hunger pangs. We never managed to get back to the Brandenburg Gate but the museum remains on my must see list for a future return to the city. Apart from the scenes when the wall fell, there are two episodes that have stuck in my memory about the Brandenburg Gate. One is Ronald Reagan's famous speech in which he urged Gorbachev to open the John F. Kennedy's visit to Berlin in which he gave his now infamous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. When Kennedy made that visit, the Soviets hung red flags from their side of the gate so that the American President and the attendant international press would not be able to see the eastern side. Following extensive damage during the Second World War, the Pariser Platz, long regarded as the finest street or square of Berlin, was essentially a wasteland. Following reunification the Pariser Platz was rebuilt. The French and American Embassies were re-opened and other handsome buildings were restored. The Adlon Hotel which was partially destroyed during the war was rebuilt and subsequently extended. It is now owned by the Kempinski chain and is one of the finest hotels in the city. Visiting the Brandenburg Gate is as essential to experiencing Berlin as stopping by Trafalgar Square is in London. The gate is undeniably impressive but I didn't get anything more from the experience than I might from seeing photographs of it. For me the most important thing was standing on the place where so much history has been made. How to get there: Nearest S-Bahn/U-Bahn station is Brandenburger Tor. (When the Wall was in place the U-Bahn line from West Berlin still passed under the wall close to the Brandenburg Gate but the stations in East Berlin were closed and became 'ghost stations'. Passengers could see these deserted platforms but the trains did not stop). This station was previously called Unter den Linden before the Wall. Buses 100 and 200 pass close by the Brandenburg Gate and it will be obvious where to alight.

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        12.09.2011 11:33
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        Must visit

        The Brandenburg Gate (or Brandenburg Tor as it is known in Germany) is without a doubt the landmark that is most associated with the city of Berlin and almost all of the souvenirs you find hereabouts will have a reference to the gate on them somewhere. Standing just west of the centre of the city at the egde of Pariser Platz, it is a symbol that has been with the city through it's turbulent history and it is probably one of the most photographed things in Berlin. It was built between 1788 and 1791 as the gated entrance to the tree lined avenue that lead to the palace of the Prussian monarchs. It has since become a sort of victory symbol, almost as if walking beneath it means you are walking to victory and so has been passed under by leaders, protesters and even (when we visited) sports stars - namely Formula One champion Sebastien Vettel. The gate suffered a lot during World War Two and was completely restored between 2000 and 2002. If you are visiting Berlin, you should absolutely head to the Brandenburg Gate. In fact it is stopping off point on many walks around the city, so it shouldn't be too hard to go and see it. You should make two trips to it as well if you have time - one during the day and one at night. During the day it is a bit of a tourist trap and you'll be surrounded by fellow tourists, all eager to get a good picture. Oddly enough, there are also lots of people dressed up in various costumes, from soldiers to huge black bears, with whom you can have your picture taken in front of the gate, should you so wish. Even with all of these people, it is not hard to get a good picture - made even better by a lovely blue sky in the background if you can manage it. When we went, we sat on one of the benches on the avenue running up to the gate, to admire the fabulous architecture and to imagine what has happened there and the famous people who have visited. The gate is oddly emotive for a inanimate object and you get a real feel for the grandeur of it by just sitting there. I say that you should make another visit at night, because it is an entirely different place then. The gate is lit up at night and looks very pretty. Some say it is a little tacky but I disagree because I think the lights make it look like the beacon that it is. I really enjoyed visiting the Brandenburg Gate and really believe that no trip to Berlin should be without a visit.

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        12.11.2008 16:31

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        A definite must-see if you are in Berlin.

        A must-see attraction when you visit Berlin. At the end of the Unter den Linden with the s-bahn/u-bahn station nearby, it's easy to find. It's an impressive site but very busy with tourists - good job it's a pedestrianised area! In essence it is just a former gate of the city but it is one of the main symbols of Berlin and one of Europe's major landmarks. When we went, we sat at a bench (they line each side of the road) and just took in the atmosphere. There were many street artists, musician and actors dressed up as american soldiers whom you could have your photo taken with. The other side of the gate is often used for public rallies and demonstrations. We saw 2 while we were there. Brandenburg Gate is in easy walking distance of the Holocaust Memorial for Jews and the Reichstag. There are several food 'booths' around this area which serve good currywurst!

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        11.12.2007 21:31
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        one of Berlin's must-see sites

        "How small it is," was what I thought when I walked through it the first time. Like many other Germans I had waited for this opportunity for a long time, for nearly 30 years it had been behind The Wall when you were a Wessi (a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany) and beyond the so-called death zone running in front of The Wall if you were an Ossi (citizen of the German Democratic Republic). It isn't really small as far as city gates go, in fact it was the grandest of a series of city gates encircling the city at the end of the 18th century. The other gates haven't survived, the Brandenburger Tor (Tor=gate) has because it's at the end of the famous boulevard Unter den Linden (yes, there are linden trees on either side) leading directly to the residence of the Kings of Prussia. It's 26m (65ft) high, 65.50m (213ft) wide and 11m (36ft) thick. It's one of the structures that gave Berlin its byname Spreeathen (Athens on the River Spree), it was built from 1788 to 1791 by the architect Carl Gotthard Langhans in the neo-classical Greek revival style (like the Reichstag nearby), its design is based upon the Propylea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. It's made of sandstone, it has twelve Doric columns and a Quadriga (made by Johann Gottfried Schadow) on the top of the roof facing east where the castle was, four horses draw a carriage with the goddess of victory in it. The female figure was not always the goddess of victory, she started as the goddess of peace, but Napoleon took the Quadriga to Paris after his victory against the Prussians in 1806, after his defeat in 1814, however, the Quadriga came back to Berlin, her olive wreath was taken off and an iron cross was put on her head thus changing her into the goddess of (Prussian) victory. The Nazis used to march through the Gate in martial torch parades, it was damaged in WW2 but remained standing surrounded by ruins and waste land. It was restored after the war but, as I've already mentioned, closed when The Wall was built. All this sounds very impressive, doesn't it? Why wasn't I not as impressed by its size then as I thought I would be? The reason is twofold, I had seen so many pictures of the Gate, we had a series of stamps with the Gate on them for many years, but only the Gate was always shown, no buildings in its vicinity (after the war there were no buildings any more!), so that one couldn't see the Gate in its real proportions, it appeared more monumental than it actually is. The other reason is its symbolic character, there is no other sight in any other capital of the world which is so laden with history. The Brandenburg Gate wasn't only a symbol of the divided Germany, it was also a symbol of the division of the world into an Eastern and a Western bloc. Three American Presidents have visited it, President Kennedy came in 1963 and said the now world famous sentence, "Ich bin ein Berliner." (I am a Berliner) In 1987 President Reagan addressed the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, "Come here to this gate! Mr Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" President Clinton visited when the gate had been opened at last, he came in 1994 and spoke about peace in post-Cold War Europe. I think from all this it's understandable that the symbolic Brandenburg Gate is huge and dwarfs the real life one. When it was possible to walk through the Gate, there was nothing much to see in its immediate surroundings, it took many years to rebuild the destroyed buildings, the famous Hotel Adlon Kempinski***** (five stars), for example, founded in 1907, which is situated on the southern side of the street Unter den Linden immediately behind the Gate, was opened only in 1997(Queen Elizabeth stayed there). The area east of the Gate is called Pariser Platz, opposite of where the hotel is now a Polenmarkt (Polish Market) developed when the Poles got visa in 1989 and came to Berlin to sell their wares on improvised markets. Most of them didn't have concessions so what they did was illegal, the police tolerated the market, though, only occasionally bored policemen raided it, once I witnessed such an event. If you have a stall, you need a concession, by common understanding a stall has legs, from this follows that if you have a contraption without legs from which you sell your wares, you don't have a real stall and don't need a concession. The vendors had constructed rectangular boards with foldable legs which they unfolded and put on the ground if the coast was clear but which they held in front of their bodies (legs tucked underneath) on straps slung round their necks and shoulders whenever a policemen was in sight. Clever, eh? What did they sell? Mostly memorabilia of the former armies of the GDR and the Soviet Union, badges, insignia, flags, caps, belts, coats, wooden matrioshkas (dolls in dolls) with the faces of the last Soviet leaders and chips of The Wall. I've got one with a toy Trabi, the famous GDR car, glued on top of it, political kitsch at its best. I got it relatively soon after The Wall fell so the chip may be genuine, over the years so many chips were sold that it's rumoured they were produced in some third-world country. I visited Berlin every two years in the 1990s to see what was new in the capital, the Polenmarkt existed for quite some time, the vendors getting darker and darker. Caucasians replaced the Poles, with this I don't mean members of the white race but people from the Caucasus Mountains, from Georgia and Azerbaidshan, men with dark skin, thick black hair and moustaches to make Mexicans envious. What is odd is that the Americans use the term Caucasian to denote members of the white race, whereas the Russians call the people from the Caucasus Mountains 'Blacks'. I even saw Sri Lankans selling Soviet souvenirs - an example of globalisation? The term Polenmarkt never changed, though. I can't say when exactly the market disappeared, one year it wasn't there any more. The area east of the Brandenburg Gate was being rebuilt, the street Unter den Linden becoming posh again, the market was considered an eyesore, the same fate caught up with a mobile sausage stall on the Platz des 18. März (Place of March 18th [after the revolution on March 18th in 1848] on the western side of the Gate. This place has become the Trafalgar Square of Berlin so-to-speak, people meet there for manifestations or celebrations, when I visited last October Coca Cola was organising a huge musical event, half a million spectators were expected. I thought I knew everything about the Brandenburg Gate but I discovered something new during this last visit: in the northern gate house, (the gate houses are about half the height of the Gate and face east, the southern one houses a souvenir shop [see piccie at the top of the site]) is a Room of Silence inspired by the meditation room in the UN building in New York. It's backed by the East Berlin Peace Movement and open for everyone no matter which religion or cultural background, you step in, sit down, meditate or simply relax, the noise of the city is muffled and filtered. The visitors' book shows that people from all over the world approve of it. When will you come and see for yourself?

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          25.05.2005 16:00
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          Brandenburg Gate

          Originally, The Brandenburg Gate was nothing more than a simple toll-gate which marked the western boundary of the city, but the story behind the structure that stands there today is anything but simple. It was constructed in a neo-classical style (the first in Berlin, apparently) between 1788 and 1791 and was modeled on the Propylaea - the entrance to the Acropolis, and stands an impressive 65m high, 213m wide and 36m deep, although I didn't actually measure it myself. Ironically, it was initially designed as an Arch of Peace. The statue on the roof of the Gate is called The Quadriga and depicts the goddess Viktoria and her four-horse chariot. It hasn't always been there though. In 1806, after defeating the Prussians at Jena, Napoleon 'wheeched' it off to Paris, although the Prussians brought it home a scant ten years later. The Brandenburg Gate plays a hugely symbolic role in the history of Germany. As I mentioned earlier, it was originally the western gate into the city (and out of, I suppose), and at one time only members of the royal family and their guests were allowed to use the central part of the gate. When the French displayed the Quadriga in the Louvre, it was piloted by the peace goddess Eirene, but on its triumphant return to Berlin, she was transformed into the goddess of victory, Viktoria and, as befits such a personage, was adorned with the laurel wreath, the Prussian eagle and the iron cross. After Hitler seized power, the Nazis wasted no time in utilizing the Gate as a symbol for fascist Germany and the 'new order'. In 1933, a fascist procession in all its pugnacious glory, jackboots a-stomping and torches a-blazing, marched through the Gate and down the Unter den Linden to herald in the 1000 year Reich. Any semblance to an Arch of Peace was well and truly 'up the lum'. Fast forward a mere 12 years, and the gate became the new frontier between East and West, a chink in the Iron Curtain. It was actually incorporated into the Berlin Wall, although the only traces of that concrete monstrosity are some markers in the surrounding cobbles which follow the line of the wall. These days, it's probably the best-known landmark in Berlin, if not Germany, and has gone some way to regaining its primary role as a symbol of peace with the re-unification of Germany. So what is there to do there? Apart from looking at it, walking through it and posing for photos, you mean? Well, nothing really. Wait, don't go, I'm not finished yet! The Brandenburg Gate, or to give it its proper name, Das Brandenburger Tor is one of those sights that you have to see when visiting Berlin. Can there be anyone who isn't familiar with it? From war newsreels to Cold War thrillers, and from music concerts to the jubilant scene when the people from the east walked through to seize freedom as the wall collapsed, the Tor has played a pivotal role in the shaping of modern day Europe. It's one of those places from which history literally weeps from the stonework - and that's not surprising as a close look reveals hundreds, if not thousands, of pock-marks; the result of the ferocious street fighting which took place around it at the end of WWII. (These have been repaired now, but the effects are visible enough and it's not hard to imagine the scale of the battle). Standing under the gate, the prospect is stunning. To the east lies the Pariser Platz which leads into the splendid boulevard of Unter den Linden, one of the classiest streets in the world. I'm sure it's changed a little since the days of communism - but even though capitalism is firmly entrenched there now, it still retains a quiet dignity and is not given over to endless Starbucks and McDs (they are represented here, but not at the usual rate of one every 50m). To the west lies the Strasse des 17 Juni which runs through the sprawling Tiergarten and is dominated midway by the Siegessäule, a huge triumphal column which originally stood near the Reichstag before Herr Hitler had it moved. This is Kodak-country. The photo opportunities are endless and every time you turn around another prospect opens up. Although it's extremely busy with tourists, the area around the Gate is spacious enough that it doesn't feel too crowded. And fair play to the Berlin authorities, instead of cashing in on the visiting hordes, there were only a few stall selling souvenirs, and the Pariser Platz is not given over to masses of street vendors. Granted, there were a few street entertainers, and a couple of mime artists (notice I differentiated between the mime artists and the entertainers - is there anything more boring, and slightly creepy?). When we were there, an added note of surrealism enhanced our visit. Enjoying a glass of Berliner Weisse (hey, I felt obliged) on the terrace at the Hotel Adlon, we became aware of a noisy, boisterous commotion coming from the direction of the Tiergarten. Knocking back the dregs of my beer, we went to investigate. Can you guess what it was? Can you? Making their way across the road and through the gate was a Brazillian Samba band. An everyday occurence perhaps? No. Brazil were playing Germany in a football match that evening and the Brazillian supporters were doing their utmost to emulate the antics of the Tartan Army... and almost succeeding, it has to be said. They made their way into Pariser Platz where they proceeded to dance and drum and do all the stuff those Sambafans do, putting on a show for the crowds. Before long, people from all over the world were dancing, clapping, shouting, whistling and generally 'giving it laldy'. This was NOT what we were expecting, but it made the visit all the more memorable. In conclusion, although there's not really a lot to do at the Gate per say, you can't go to Berlin and not walk through it and pose for a photo. Luckily, it's located in the heart of Mitte, where the majority of attractions are, so you don't have to make a special journey to see it. It's an impressive and iconic sight, but the ramifications of its history are what makes it special, and somewhere to have a quiet moment of reflection about events of the past, and hope for the future. ©proxam2005

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            11.10.2001 23:27
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            Who does not know it, the famous Brandenburger Tor. The symbol of Berlin, the symbol of a once divided and now reunited (or reuniting) Germany and Europe. I - as a native german and former Berlin inhabitant - want to give you a short impression about what this gate means to me and some facts about it as well. The Brandenburger Tor is situated in the city center of Berlin, in the hotspot of the city. Following the avenue "Unter den Linden" (wich means: walking beneath lime-trees) from the old GDR-capital-citycenter (East Berlin) you see the gate with the quadriga on its top. 4 horses carry the godness of peace, Eirene, into the city. It's not a symbol of triumph in the war, but a symbol of end of the war. So, also the orignal name of the gate was "peace gate". In the ground of the gate you find the different gods and also Mars, the god of war, makes its contribution to peace, puting his sword down. Originaly (i. e. 200 years ago) the gate had a white color, now its grey. Going through the gate you see the great avenue "Straße des 17. Juni", named by the 17th of july in 1953, the day of the first people's uprising in East Germany against the communistic dictature wich was slayed down by sowjet tanks. (for more details look on http://www.volksaufstand1953.de). This evenue leads to the old West Berlin city center around the Ku'damm. Within the gate you find the "Room of Silence". This great idea was inovated in Berlin and is now set up in many cities in Germany and across Europe (in Sarajevo for example). It's a room where people of all nations, cultures, sexes, beliefings, colours, ... can get together to have some common seconds in silence. It was concipated on the example of the Meditation Room in the United Nations Building in NY. But here, on the old borderline of the 40 years lasting cold war, it has a very special energy. Go there, feel it. It's worth it! Inside you w ill just find a painting, a wall decoration and the praying of the United Nations: "Dear God, our earth is just a small planet in a big universe. It's on us to make it to a planet without war, without hunger, without pain, without fear, without useless discrimination by race, colour or beliefing. Please give us the courage and power to start this work today, so that our childs may use the name "human being" with proud." (http://www.disos.de/raum-der-stille/) And that's it what in my opinion the Brandenburger Tor stands for. It's situated in very own location in the world and it could be a symbol to the whole world. It was misused many times in german history by the forces of evil. So in the Third Reich by the nazis or in the times of cold war. But now it's up to us to make it again to a symbol of good. Please not: The gate is renovated right now and so you will not have a good look on it. Its covered to keep the surounding clear from the dust of working inside the gate. The coverage is printed with a picture of the gate on both sides, so you will get a impression how it looks normaly, but you will not see the real gate.

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            (German, Brandenburger Tor), an 18th-century city gateway in the historic centre of the German capital, Berlin. Built between 1788 and 1791 the Brandenburg Gate was modelled after an ancient Greek ceremonial arch.