The Brandenburg Gate stands proud and tall in the Pariser Platz in Berlin, Germany. In my travels around Europe I didn’t find any city, or any structure, quite so intimidating as the Brandenburg Gate in Germany. Berlin alone holds a certain amount of intimidation in the stark and structured buildings. I remember so many buildings being simple and grey and square; without a breath of indecision about them, they screamed power. It was hard to walk around the city and not feel the history absorbing me with every city block we took.
While walking the streets in Berlin it is hard to imagine a history pre-World War 2. However, the Brandenburg Gate opened in 1791; not as a political symbol, but rather to mark the end of a boulevard while at the same time representing peace. Yet, ironically the gate would endure a history entrenched with war and politics.
Standing in the courtyard and looking at the gate was a humbling experience, knowing the years of political strife the gate has seen, despite its original representation of peace. During WW2 the Nazi party hung their flags over the gate and used it as a symbol for the party, even marching through it when Hitler came into power. Post WW2 and after the Berlin Wall was built in the 60’s, the gate was closed to further isolate West Berlin from East Berlin. It remained closed for close to 30 years.
I appreciate the history of the Brandenburg Gate and find the strength of the structure to be very intriguing. Berlin is a beautiful city with such a complex history entrenched with political strife. To go to Berlin and stand in front of a gate that has seen some of the country’s most prominent moments and join its history, is a special experience.
Although the Brandenburg Gate does not have the same romanticism as other popular monuments in Europe, it still deserves a thumbs up and your attention.
Bridge of Sighs
Ah, the Bride of Sighs, found in Venice, Italy, and finished in the early years of the 17th century. The Bridge was designed by Antonio Contino whose uncle, Antonio da Ponte, designed Venice’s other very famous bride, the Rialto Bridge.
There are a few stories suggesting how the Bridge of Sighs received its name. One story comes from the placement of the bridge with the Doge’s palace on one side and a prison on the other. Criminals would be sentenced in the Doge’s Palace and take the walk across the bridge to spend out their days in the dark and gloomy prison. It is said that as the prisoners walked across the bridge, they would sigh as they glimpsed, for the last time, the beauty and freedom of Venice.
Poet Lord Byron gave the bridge a different existence surrounded by love and romance. His romantic writings lead to the belief that if couples kissed under the bridge at sunset, as the bells of St. Mark’s Palace rang, they would experience eternal love. The “sighs” referring to the couple’s overwhelming love for each other.
Regardless of which version of the story you chose, the Bridge of Sighs remains quite the popular tourist destination in Venice. It strikes me as quite odd that in a city of canals, beautiful bridges, gondolas and grand plazas, something like the Bridge of Sighs can be as popular as it is. Tucked away down a narrow canal, around the corner from the stunning and wide-open St. Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs is undeniably underwhelming. It seems to more likely that the Bridge of Sighs got its name from the disappointed sighs of tourists as they walk by. Thumbs Down.
I hadn’t heard of Ephesus before I got off a cruise ship in Kusadasi. It’s a wonder how I had never known of such an old and impressive city, tucked away in the Izmir province of Turkey. Whether you yourself have heard of it or not, Ephesus may just become your new obsession.
The city was founded in the 10th century BC and was famed for being home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Although the temple is long gone, another famed monument in the city is the Library of Celsus, incredibly re-erected by archaeologists in an almost baffling impressive glory.
Ephesus is one of the most mind-boggling amazing places I have ever visited. There was something about the city that seemed to throw me back in time in a way that other historical monuments couldn’t. Maybe it was knowing that we walked the same streets as Mark Antony and Cleopatra. Maybe it was the ties that Ephesus has to the Virgin Mary and John the Apostle. Maybe it was seeing the Terrace Houses where the rich lived, paintings still in incredible preservation on the stone walls.
Ephesus has my well deserved two-thumbs-up as a place you must visit! The connection the city has to architecture and to history is so utterly impressive that no words could possible live up to the glory of actually visiting the city. You must see this archeological dream. See the excavations that are still ongoing and realize what a significant place in history this city has.
One of the most famous and mysterious rock formations in the world, Stonehenge had always been at the top of my bucket list. Rather randomly perched next to a busy main road, Stonehenge is an unusual circular rock formation, believed to be constructed somewhere between 3000 and 2000 BC.
There are many theories concerning the purpose of Stonehenge; a Druid temple, coronation place, place of worship or healing temple. Most widely accepted today, it is believed Stonehenge was a temple aligned with the movements of the sun. It is also known that Stonehenge was used as a burial and cremation centre.
However, I would say one of the most bizarre parts of Stonehenge is the fact that it stands in a flat, green field with absolutely no mountains and no cliffs; nothing that could have supplied the massive stones easily. According to archaeologists, the large stones came from Marlborough Downs, some 32km away. Considering I struggle to bring my grocery bags in from the car after a big shop, I don’t want to know how they brought these 25 ton stones 32 kilometers. The smaller stones used in the monument are believed to have come from even further.
Today, when visiting Stonehenge you are kept back by a rope fence, so don’t go there expecting to run your hands along this piece of history. You can walk around the monument and take in each angle, although I cannot imagine spending more than a few minutes at the site. There was no shocking and overwhelming feeling of, “I’ve taken something off my bucket list. This place is life changing.”
I give Stonehenge a thumbs down. It is an important piece of history containing mystery enough to spike your curiosity. However, having toured around England a few times, I can say that there are many more spectacular places you can visit that are guaranteed to ignite the excitement and connection to history that Stonehenge failed to deliver.
Check back next month to see Emily's article, Goodbye to Solo which will be posted four days before Emily ties the knot with her fiance! With a nod to Rome and Cuba, Goodbye to Solo will be posted August 14th!
Emily Wilson is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. She was born and raised in Ontario and lived in Australia for a year and a half. Emily has visited 33 countries and will share some of her experiences and advice for globetrotters of all ages.