The Brandenburg Gate is one of the best known landmarks of Berlin and Germany. It is located in East Berlin one block south of the Reichstag building and serves as a monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees. Originally built as a city gate, it was rebuilt by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace from 1788 to 1791, and consists of twelve Doric columns forming five passageways. The gate design is based on Propylaea, the entry gate to the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Only members of the royal family (and newly arrived ambassadors on their way to present their letters of credence only once) were allowed to use the central passageway, while ordinary citizens were allowed to use the outermost passageways only.
Atop the gate is the Quadriga which was built in 1793 by Johann Schadow. It consists of a bronze chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. After the defeat of the Prussian army in 1806, Napoleon used the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession of his troops and took the Quadriga as a military trophy to Paris. After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and the Prussian occupation of Paris in 1814, the Quadriga was returned to Berlin and the area surrounding the Brandenburg Gate was renamed the Pariser Platz. When the Nazis ascended to power they used the image of the Gate as their party symbol.
The gate was badly damaged during WWII and was fully restored in early 2000s when it was reopened on October 3, 2002 to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the German reunification. During the Cold War years, the Brandenburg Gate was a part of the Berlin Wall and was off-limits to East and West Berliners alike. The Berlin Wall was erected as an arc on its western side (thus cutting access to it from West Berlin) and a “baby wall” was erected on the eastern side of the Pariser Platz, thus, leaving the Brandenburg Gate stranded within the Berlin Wall. Following the democratic revolutions of 1989, the Brandenburg Gate crossing from East to West Berlin was reopened when Helmut Kohl, the West German Chancellor, walked through the Gate to be greeted by East German Prime Minister Modrow.
Nowadays, no traffic is allowed to pass through the Gate and the Pariser Platz area surrounding it has been converted into a pedestrian zone. Every year thousands of people gather nearby to watch New Year’s fireworks and other shows.