Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is surely one of the world’s most-recognized landmarks, and symbolizes Berlin in the way the Eiffel Tower means Paris and the Parthenon means Athens. It’s been the ceremonial center for marches and demonstrations in Berlin for almost two centuries, but its greatest fame comes from its constant role as a backdrop to Cold War speeches and demonstrations.
Its history goes a lot further back than that; when Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm wanted to build up sleepy Berlin as a world-scale capital and show off his growing power, his architects turned a humble customs gate at the edge of town into this triumphal entryway.
The statue at the top, the Quadriga, nearly ended up on Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. When Napoleon briefly occupied the city in 1806, he had it crated up and shipped to Paris—but never got around to having it erected on his arch. When Prussian troops occupied Paris in 1814, they took it back.
The dramatic night-time picture above catches some of the historical feel. In daytime, it’s still impressive, but just not the same.