Berlin: It is to Berlin what the Arc de Triomphe is to Paris or the Trafalgar Square is to London. So news that growing cracks have been seen in the pillars of the Brandenburg Gate has caused alarm.
The classical columns, which are synonymous with the ecstatic scenes of reunion after the Berlin wall was dismantled in 1989, are thought to have cracked under the strain of nearby construction work and because of shoddy restoration work carried out on it six years ago.
The cracks, which are up to 30 cm deep, are being opened even wider so that they can be sealed properly from within.
City heritage experts said the cracks should have been unthinkable following the lengthy €4-million sandblasting and restoration project, which was financed through sponsorship and advertising.
But as experts looked for reasons, some blame was being directed at a project to extend the underground transportation system. The U55 — known as the “chancellor train” because it will eventually connect the chancellery with the rest of the city — has necessitated deep tunnelling directly beneath the Brandenburg Gate. Work has been in progress for years.
Trucks that frequently unload equipment for regular events held at the Pariser Platz next to the gate, as well as high-decibel concerts, could also have contributed to the cracks, the Foundation responsible for the Gate said.
“It is not going to fall down,” Torsten Wohlert, of Berlin Senate’s Culture Ministry, said. “The cracks are only external.”
But tourists have pointed out how the cracks have grown, particularly along the adjacent Chapel of Silence and the gatehouse on one side of the portal.
The Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of the country’s muddled history. When it was completed in 1791 it was intended as a symbol of peace, marking an end to the warring antics of Prussian leader Frederick the Great.
It has since served as a gateway for some of the major entrances and exits in German military history. Napoleon’s army marched through it to take Berlin in 1806; in 1933, stormtroopers made a torch-lit procession through it to celebrate Hitler’s coming to power. In 1961 it was in no man’s land behind the Berlin wall and sealed off for 28 years. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008