Having come so near to the earlier post, its only fitting that I continue to linger a while longer. To what can possibly be called the Gate which threw up so many new windows to the world : The Brandenburg Gate.
Please allow me to explain.
Gates and arches often hold more history than mere architectural splendour. They catch a symbolic strain and colour the ground they stand on, in myriad ways. A visit to the Brandenburg gate is de rigueur when one visits Berlin. (Or so I am told and would automatically believe now, given what I have experienced). It has truckloads of history, poignant appeal and a remarkable pageantry in the present day to complete a colourful ensemble.
But, History first. Built in the late 17th century, the Brandenburg gate has stood as a gateway of sorts for victory and peace. To date, the Quadriga atop the gate, representing the Goddess of Victory (or peace) on a four horse chariot is a fetching sight and provokes free thought.
Years after it was built, Napoleon marched in, had his victory parade here and even took the Quadriga and the Goddess of Victory, all the way back to Paris! In a few years, when the wheels of fortune turned, Napoleon was defeated and the Goddess with her four horses reclaimed their place.
The Germans thought it fit to add, when they were reinstalling the Goddess of Victory atop her old perch, a new iron cross and the famed Prussian eagle to her lance. That one addition to the Goddess of Victory, kind of gave her a German stamp!
Of the six large columns that the Brandenburg gate has, passing through the inner most ones was reserved for the royal family. Common citizens could use the passages between the outer columns if they willed. The gate has seen sways in political powers after Napoleon too. Hitler rose. His Nazi party even adopted this as their symbol. The allies bombed.
People died. Victors were defeated. And the defeated arose again. The gate just stood on. That very thought made me feel vulnerable. Days later, when I was thinking of the place and researching all the tales that it probably held in it, the internet threw up some pictures and videos. Some pictures like the ones below from the annals of history make what it is today, a far cry by many miles. Yet, it is remarkable that it continues to stand the way it does.
The three pictures above are obviously not mine. I dont have rights over them. Showing them to here to make a point on how much the place has transformed.
Through later years, much of the cold war happened on either side. The Berlin wall ran very close to the gate and Ronald Reagan gave his famous speech of “Tear Down this wall” from somewhere close by.
Theres a plaque on a footpath nearby, that everybody tramples on in their aimless saunter or vigil filled gaze of the gate.
Enough of history. Lets cut to now. Every visiting leader and commoner comes to the gate to get a window into what was once, and what the ‘once’ is now!
The transformation is gargantuan at many levels. First off, there is no traffic. No cars. No bikes. Only people on foot, and a few horse carriages. The sombre spectre of war, persecution and division, replaced by joy and a certain bouncy vibrancy in the mood.
Just in case you wanted to see how the Soviet stamp on the passport was like,
there was a man and a post to this too!
Right underneath the Brandenburg Gate a variety of perpetually alive fancy dress kind of stuff is on. Soldiers in uniform carrying flags of different countries play to the gallery. It is a sight to see people have a good time in the name of a flag and under the covers of uniform. Uniform of the past, became sort of a fancy dress outfit for today. And that singular thought held both the astonishing silliness of war and the beguiling hope for the future.
It was sheer delight to watch the sense of humour. No one is “taking offense” that some sensibilities are affected etc! There are many ways to look at flags, nationalities, uniforms, symbols and the like. One way is to just look at them as artifacts and leave them at that.
There is so much happening at the Brandenburg Gate of such order that it completely eclipses the suffering, the separation and pain it has seen. People seem to be at ceaselessly working to turn all the sorrow that war and loss left behind in the quest for victory and supremacy. Commerce, pluck and pageantry hold centrestage.
The Goddess of Victory extends her steady gaze from atop. I wanted to stop and just look at her intensely too and hoped my intensity will catch her attention and that she will entertain me in person with a story or two from a time that only history books and the internet bring alive
And then I looked at the people having fun. The horses neighed. Flags unfurled. Artists performed. Giggles of joy all around. I turned away from the Goddess of Victory. Some other time, the history bit, my heart tells her. For now, I was going to soak into the simple joys that people were having here.