A friend once told me, many years ago, a city’s monuments are the visible expression of the soul of its people. And perhaps no monument speaks for its city more eloquently than Brandenburg Gate, Berlin.
Built to commemorate peace in the end of the 18th century. With Eirene, the goddess of peace, atop the six pillared structure.The gate became a symbol of victory and triumph first for Napoleon and then the Germans in the early 19th century. Eirene got replaced by Victory with her wreath of oak leaves, a Prussian eagle and the Iron Cross on her lance.
But Peace and Victory seemed very far away during and in the aftermath of the Second World War. The Gate survived but badly damaged. Broken as the city it was a part of . The visual symbol of the state of the soul of the people as the city got brutally divided between East and West. Communism and Capitalism.
Next came the concrete wall right across it. The Gate now isolated. Inaccessible to Berliners and just about everyone else. Even the checkpoint originally positioned there was permanently closed in 1961.
But it survived and waited for seasons to change again. Standing triumphal once again in 1989. East and West Berliners many related by blood, survivors of many years of a brutally enforced separation reached across. The Brandenburg Gate was the first place where The Wall was broken down. Concrete shard by shard.
The Gate a symbol of the people’s soul again. The people who said ‘One City’.
Today Brandenburg Gate is a pedestrian only area. Perhaps the most popular landmark in a city of landmarks.
And as we stood before it mesmerized during the Festival of Lights, it lit up in one breath-taking transformation after another.