On the top of my list of things I needed to do in Berlin was to head to the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is possibly the largest open air gallery around and is a dedicated memorial for freedom. When the Berlin wall went up, the East side remained clear of graffiti, but on the free side of the West, it was covered in street art. In 1990, after the wall had come down in 1989, a group of artists from more than 20 countries came together and painted over 100 murals on a 1316 m long section of the Berlin Wall, stretching from Oberbaumbrücke to the Ostbahnhof, on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, near the real border which was on the River Spree. We managed to fit in going after we’d been at Markethalle 9 for Street Food Thursdays, it was only a short tube away.
The once untouchable East Side is now covered in street art which celebrates the end of the Iron Curtain. It also calls for the hope of a better and freer society. It was quite a poignant experience. Seeing this huge wall which had once divided Berlin being used for something which symbolised the opposite. It felt even deeper considering all the talk of walls in the news at the moment. Trump, I’m looking at you.
Despite how unbelievably cold it was when I was in Berlin, this was one of the busiest places for tourists we’d come across on our travels. I’m not surprised. Some of the images are incredibly famous and they’re pretty great to look at. I love wandering around Shoreditch and looking at all the street art there, but here it felt as though it was not only just some great works of art, but they had real meaning and purpose.
Unfortunately, the East Side Gallery has become a victim of some serious vandalism over the years. Now it’s hard to see much of it unless you’re standing behind a barrier. Some of the murals have also become a victim of decay from bad weather and pollution. To top it all off, a property developer also created a gap in the wall to provide access to the arena on the other side of the road. Efforts are being made by the Artists Initiative to restore the murals, but some of them have been seriously ruined by other people’s squiggles, which seems a real shame.
My favourite painting is the one pictured above. Named “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” or “Mein Gott, hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben”. Painted by Dmitri Vrubel in 1990, the painting shows Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kissing. It reproduces a photograph in 1979 during the 30th-anniversary celebration of East Germany. After years of decay, Vrubel was commissioned to repaint the piece in 2009. He donated the €3000 fee he was paid to a social art project.
Even though it was absolutely freezing, it was still an enjoyable walk along the stretch of the wall. We spent ages picking out all of the different pieces. A definite must see if you ever find yourself in Berlin!