From the dome, the Brandenburg gate, one of the most famous landmarks in all of Germany, was no more than a stone’s throw away from the Reichstag. After our drink stop, we were more than able to traverse the short distance to the gate without too much trouble. Besides, if there was any doubt, just follow the river of people.
Once we got there, it was almost a bit anti-climatic. It seemed that there was not that much to do. There weren’t even the sea of souvenier stalls that you find in Rome or Paris that I had half expected. (Now where am I going to get my tacky miniature Brandenburg gate souvenier?!) Ultimately, we walked up to it. We walked along it. We walked under it.
And then, having ticked all the boxes bar one, we joined the throngs of happy snappers, many with their selfie sticks taking photos with the gate. I should state here that I do not have a selfie stick and unlikely will ever own one. I find it hard enough taking selfies of any kind with the reverse angle of the camera. Then to do that with the camera at the end of an extended pole sticking three feet in front of me, all my photos would be just utter rubbish. In fact, I would be lucky to capture any part of myself in it much less the attraction.
That aside, there is also the challenge of waiting for the right moment when there is less than a hundred people in your shot. This is an exercise in patience and can sometimes be tricky in the most popular attractions. But sometimes when you are lucky, there is an “unofficial” queue that forms with slight gestures that you take as your cue to move forward and pose whilst everyone hangs back respectfully. My maths inclined husband suggests that this is an inverse function of how many selfie sticks there are. When everyone is just holding a camera, there is a good chance the “queue” exists and you just have to find it. However, when there are selfie sticks waving everywhere like rods in at a fishing competition, then it is good luck! Because you will have just enough time to your run into an empty space, flash your smile for a microsecond before someone will walk right in front of you all the whilst looking at himself on the camera stick and not where he is going.
So this was what it was like at the Brandenburg gate. Everyone wants to get that money shot which unfortunately meant we spent most of our time there just waiting for our split second chance. Which even more unfortunate was me wondering how many of us appreciate the history and significance of the gate. No doubt, the man will have very little idea and is more interested in getting the money shot. But consider this, in the early days, only royalty was allowed to walk through the central arch. Commoners, ala the “great unwashed” had to walk through the other arches. I am certain this is where Airlines got the idea from, separating the economy class check-in line from Business and First class. Then in 1806, Napoleon marched into Berlin and took more than a fleeting fancy on the statue at the top, the Quadriga.
He thought as conquerors are wont to do, “That would look simply splendid in my man cave” and so he ordered it removed and the whole thing fedexed to Paris until his defeat in 1814. And then throughout much of post war Germany, the gate was actually cordoned off by the Berlin Wall. So, quite remarkably, it has survived for as long as it has with its tumultuous history. And now it has become known as a symbol of peace and unity. For what it has gone through, I reckon quite rightly so, more than a lot of other monuments that I know.
After all that hanging around and also assisting fellow non-selfie stick visitors with their shots, he was ready for lunch. Once again, with no prior planning, we just chose the most German sounding bistro (Dressler) with the least number of languages on its menu (our number one rule when picking restaurants overseas) and walked straight in. It seemed relatively quiet with only a few tables filled. Then we realised why. They were still serving breakfast! But we were on the cusp of lunch and they kindly brought out the lunch menu. We picked from the formidable menu the local specialties as we always do and ended up with smoked pork, sausage, sauerkraut and he could not resist a dear steak done medium! Our light lunch turned into a good sized meal and with most things on Unter Den Linden, the wallet was much lighter as well!
And we would have launched straight into another long walk if we had not gotten distracted by the cutest shop we had seen in all of Berlin, the Ampelmann shop. This shop is all about Berlin’s pedestrian crossing symbol, Ampelmännchen. Believe it or not, the crossing man was designed in 1961 by traffic psychologist Karl Peglau who wished to reduce the incidences of road accidents. At that time, it was the first of its kind in the world.
He for some reason was completely taken in with this shop. Must be his weird taste which extends to his choice in cloths and I was relieved he didn’t walk away with an Ampelmann t-shirt. But we certainly could not leave without him getting something. So, he ended up with his little souvenir green Ampelmann (although you could get the red one too). Now, Pinkles has a friend for the rest of the trip!