Symbol of a Country’s Division and Unification
In downtown Berlin today, it’s hard to tell just where the demolished Berlin Wall once stood. But the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) still stands. Conceived in 1791 as a triumphal arch to celebrate a Prussian victory and, ironically, as a “Gate of Peace,” it was incorporated into the wall when it was built in 1961 at the height of the Cold War.
The gate is an emotive icon of the country’s reunification, and it still elicits a frisson of excitement and unease. Tourist vendors around town continue to sell what they claim are chunks of the infamous wall. Once measuring 29 miles long and 13 feet high, with barbed-wire extensions that stretched across the countryside as a tangible Iron Curtain, large protected sections of die Mauer have been left standing in Berlin, designated as “historic landmarks.”
Before the wall came down, the Brandenburg Gate was within the eastern sector in a grim no-man’s- land. Walk through its majestic arch today and you are in the former East Berlin, for forty-one years the Communist capital of the German Democratic Republic. This area was formerly the proud showpiece of Hohenzollern Berlin, and is again drawing visitors as the site of the city’s most imposing monuments, which somehow escaped destruction.
East of the gate rolls Unter den Linden (Under the Linden Trees), once the main east-west axis and one of the city’s grandest boulevards. Revitalized, it is again the site of many embassies (relocated from Bonn) and renewed pulse point of the restored capital.
The quietly plush and superbly located Adlon Hotel was destroyed by the Soviets in 1945 and rebuilt in 1997. Its marble lobby, with the original grand staircase intact, shines with prewar glory and hums with top-flight service.
The setting of the 1932 classic Grand Hotel was modeled after the Adlon Hotel; in a scene from that film, the divine Garbo first uttered “I vant to be alone.” The Presidential Suite promises a view of the awe-inspiring Brandenburg Gate.