Monday, April 6, 2015

The Brandenburg Gate

I don't know that I'll ever tire of the Brandenburg Gate.

Looming large over Pariser Platz in the heart of Berlin, it anchors the city to its 18th century Prussian roots while simultaneously acting as the vanguard of a new era.  It is a ubiquitous feature of tourism in Germany, and plays a central role in my own memories of this city.

I have visited the Gate with my German teacher and classmates in the nineties, with my wife before we were even engaged, and now with my own students.  I have run through it countless times, and participated in parties at its base countless more.

But I am obviously not the only one to enjoy the Gate, as it is mobbed by all of humanity on any given day of the year.  Tour buses, taxis, horse-drawn carriages, and hordes of camera-wielding tourists occupy Pariser Platz all day long.

This is why I enjoy being a runner.  You see, I woke up at 6:30am this morning to get my long run in.  Before my students woke up, and before a full day of sightseeing, I headed out for 14 miles around Berlin.  One of my first stops was the Gate.  It was cast in deep, golden morning sunlight with brilliant cloudless blue skies behind it, and I ran through it completely alone.  The same Gate where Napoleon and Hitler had marched, that had nearly been destroyed in the Second World War, where triumphant citizens had partied deep into the night in the 80's, I had all to myself.

I continued on through portions of the Tiergarten, through the Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, into my old neighborhood of Kreuzberg and its Viktoria Park.  In this park there is a brief climb to a hilltop monument that overlooks the city.  As I charged up the winding path, I thought about how the runner's high is anything but a myth.

At the top, with the sun just above Berlin's horizon, a spring chill in the air and a burning in my lungs, I could still make out the Brandenburg Gate in the distance.

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