Hidden Berlin: “Room of Silence”

Room of Silence

Pariser Platz, the site where one can find the renowned Brandenburg Tor, is one of the most crowded spaces in Berlin. How many times have you found yourself wandering across it, trying to avoid the massive groups of tourists (especially in spring and summer) admiring the Gate or taking pictures in front of it? And how often did you mindlessly, as an inhabitant of this city, passed by the Brandenburg Gate – thinking there is nothing new to see or interesting to experience there anymore?

I know I have had those thoughts – too many times. We often visit and see the places we know with our “old eyes”, unaware of their hidden gems and peculiarities that sometimes open up to us only on second look, second reading, second experience of an already seen part of this city. Only then we can notice the tiny jewels on an already impressive crown – or in this case, the island of peace in the sea of loudness and crowdedness that is Pariser Platz. That peace island is just a room really, yet it represents a precious accessory to Berlin’s most famous landmark. This “room of peace” is perhaps more commonly known as the “Room of Silence.”

The “Room of Silence” is located in the north side of the Brandenburg Gate. The inspiration for opening such a place in the heart of Berlin comes from a similar project in New York: the meditation room in the UN building that has been in use since 1954. The idea of creating a non-denominational Room of Silence in the center of Berlin was first born in the eastern part of the city in December 1988. Following the German reunification in 1990, the vision was passed on to the citizens of the western part of the city. It was shortly after that, that a small “Action Group” was formed, with the aim of creating a “Room of Silence” near the former border between opposing military forces and diverging ideologies. The “Action Group” later became the organization “Förderkreis Raum der Stille in Berlin e.V.” in 1993 under the protectorate of Dr. Hanna-Renate Laurien, President of the Berlin House of Representatives at the time.

With the help of the Berlin Senate, the “Förderkreis” officially opened the “Room of Silence” within the Brandenburg Gate on 27 October 1994. Berlin’s ‘island of peace’ has since then offered tourists and Berliners alike a chance to sit in silence, rest or meditate without the surrounding and often overwhelming atmosphere of Brandenburg Gate.

Better known in German as the “Raum der Stille”, the “Room of Silence” is not dedicated to any ideology or a system of belief. Everyone is welcome to enter its space of most protected quietude in the heart of the city. The idea behind the project is that all people, regardless of their religious and ideological affiliations (or lack thereof), can have the opportunity to enter the room’s premises and remain in silence and peace for a while. The room represents a symbol of tolerance and unity of human beings, and serves as a reminder against violence and xenophobia. The sponsors of the “Room of Silence” therefore wish to remind us of our similarities, rather than differences, and in that way contribute towards peace and spiritual, non-religious, unity.

Even the very decoration of the room avoids any religious, ideological or political symbolism. Its neutrality and simplicity convey a sense of purity and understanding – for me personally, the feelings of fulfillment and content too. The only adornment in the room is a woven wall hanging, designed by the Hungarian artist Ritta Hager. Her artwork symbolizes the light that penetrates the darkness.

The “Room of Silence” is definitely a place worth visiting at least once. It is often forgotten or overlooked because of the grand Brandenburg Gate. If you have not visited this quiet Zen abode yet, I warmly recommend you to do so on your first next visit to the ‘center Mitte’ – either for a peace of mind, a curious peak, an interest in its history, or all of the reasons above!
Pariser Platz
S-Bahn Brandenburger Tor
Opening Hours: Apr-Oct 11:00 -18:00, Nov & Jan-Mar 11:00 -17:00, Dec 11:00 -16:00.

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