Literaly “under the basswoods”, this is one of the most elegant avenue in Berlin, that connects the Museum Island to Brandenburg Gate, in Mitte neighbourhood of Berlin. This is for sure the most famous area of the city, with many important buildings, like the Opera House and the “Kronprinzenpalais” (palace of the heirs to the throne). The boulevard is also studded with embassies and university buildings.
The Brandenburg Gate, a monumental gate built in the eighteenth century as a symbol of peace, is Berlin’s most famous landmark. During the Cold War, when the gate was located right near the border between East and West Berlin, it became a symbol of a divided city. Curiously, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it became instantly the symbol of a reunited Berlin, with people flocked to the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate.
The Brandenburg Gate is situated at the end of Unter den Linden, that cuts through the center of Berlin. The gate was originally part of a wall surrounding Berlin and was the main entrance to the city. It is the only gate that remains of this former city wall. Architect Carl Gotthard Langhans based his design on the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. The gate was named Friedenstor (Peace Gate) since it was meant to symbolize a period of peace after years of war during the reign of Frederick the Great. Quite prophetic, isn’t it?
The gate has five passages: the central and widest one was reserved for the royals; the adjacent passages were for use of the aristocracy while ordinary citizens were only allowed to use the outer two. The bronze quadriga of victory crowning the gate was created in 1793 by Johann Gottfried Schadow. The four-horse chariot is driven by the winged Goddess of Peace.
In 1806, when Berlin was occupied by French troops, Napoleon ordered the quadriga to be taken to Paris. After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the quadriga was triumphantly taken back to Berlin, and was turned into a symbol of victory: an iron cross and eagle were added to the laurel wreath. At the same time the square near the gate was renamed Pariser Platz and the statue on the quadriga was called Victoria, from the Roman Goddess of Victory.
Gendarmenmarkt is another famous square of Berlin: created at the end of the seventeenth century as a market place – the Linden Markt – it’s really characteristic for the presence of three landmark buildings: the Französischer Dom (French cathedral), Deutscher Dom (German cathedral) and the Konzerthaus (Concert hall). In the middle of the square is a statue of Friedrich Schiller, a famous German poet. The Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom are two seemingly identical churches, situated opposite each other on either side of the Konzerthaus.
The oldest of the two is the Französischer Dom, built between 1701 and 1705 by the Huguenots, a religious community persecuted in France that sought refuge in Protestant Berlin.
Right in front of Brandenburg Gate, You’ll find the so called Reichstag, an imposing neo-Renaissance parliamentary building. Constructed between 1884 and 1894, mainly funded with wartime reparation money from France, was initially a parliament with weak powers, infact most of the legislative power was in the hands of the chancellor and, until 1918, the emperor. The Reichstag played a significant part in Hitler’s ascend to power, after a fire broke out in the building, with Hitler, at that time chancellor, blaiming the Communists. The building was not repaired and was damaged even more at the end of the Second World War, when Soviet troops entered Berlin, and never used like before till the birth of the reunified Germany. The highlight of the new Reichstag is its striking glass dome, added to the project cause of the insistence of the German government. Nowadays it’s open to visitors, who can look onto the plenary hall below. You can walk onto the roof of the building for views over the area or, even better, ascend a helical ramp that brings you to a viewing deck with unique views over the city.
If You’re not tired yet, You could proceed walking along the Tiergarten, the most famous park in Berlin: it’s bisected by the wide 17th of June Street (Straße des 17. Juni), which culminates in theVictory Column (Siegessäule), a red granite column crowned with the statue of a golden-hued goddess. The monument was built in the late nineteenth century to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Prusso-Danish war of 1864.
to be continued..