Mar182013

Berlin (Don’t) Tear Down this Wall

Outside the Ostbahnhof, East train station in Berlin, is the East Side Gallery, a 1.3 km stretch of the Berlin Wall covered in 106 murals and thousands of pieces of graffiti on top of the murals. I read East Side Gallery is the second most visited tourist site in Berlin.

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Tourists at the East Side Gallery, Berlin Wall – March 9, 2013.

Brandenburg Gate is the city symbol for Berlin and the number one tourist  destination visited.

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

East Side Gallery was a collaborative project of international artists who painted over 100 murals on this remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall in 1990.

I visited the Berlin Wall once before in July 2000. Seeing the wall was the first task I planned on my trip to Berlin on that earlier trip. At that time many of the murals were flaking and chipping paint and graffiti had been added over many of the pieces.

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East Side Gallery in July 2000.

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East Side Gallery mural March 9, 2013.

Visiting the East Side Gallery ten days ago revealed plenty of graffiti covered murals still. The wall was repainted in a 2009 project allowing many of the artists to replicate their original murals. Most of the repainted murals are already defaced with graffiti and some look worse after being repainted less than four years ago compared to how they looked in 2000 after ten years from their original painting.

I found the state of the East Side Gallery murals to be depressing.

On a positive note, the murals appear in better condition in my photographs than I considered them to be when standing on the sidewalk looking at them from a close distance.

A tourist needs to keep in mind that the wall is an expression of freedom and apparently that freedom involves plenty of “I was here” declarations of expression on top of the original artist’s work.

East Side Gallery is not a guarded museum piece of art. These murals are communal expressions of artistic freedom. This is the kind of gallery where if Mona Lisa were on the wall, she would likely have been given a painted mustache by some passerby.

Just keep that in mind as preparation for your visit to the East Side Gallery.

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Berlin Wall East Side Gallery sign

Berlin Wall East Side Gallery

Wall erected 1961

Wall came down November 9, 1989

Wall painted February to September 1990

Wall restored 2009.

It is forbidden to deface or damage the Wall. Offenders will be prosecuted.

We thank you for your cooperation,

Have a pleasant stay in Berlin.

[My German to English translation of the sign. The last three sentences are written in both German and English on the East Side Gallery sign.]

I started at one end of the East Side Gallery and walked the length of the Berlin Wall taking photographs of each mural. I will post some of the better looking murals in a separate piece on Loyalty Traveler. This post is to inform people about the recent protests at the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery to stop the removal of pieces of the Wall by real estate developers.

(Don’t) Tear down this Wall.

March 1, 2013 there was a protest demonstration at the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery to block the removal of a stretch of wall to accommodate a luxury condominium project planned near the River Spree.

There are already openings in the wall. A section was removed when the O2 World Arena was erected and opened in September 2008. The break in the wall gives access to the River Spree walkway about 30 meters on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

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O2 World arena is a popular venue for concerts and sporting events with a capacity for 17,000.

On March 1, 2013 workers tried to remove a 20 meter section of the wall to provide access to the river for residents of a luxury apartment project being built. Hundreds of protestors converged at the East Side Gallery to block the wall removal. A small section was removed before protestor anger led the police to stop the wall removal.

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This section of the East Side Gallery shows a gap on the right side where the wall was  removed March 1, 2013 before protestors stopped the removal work.

Berlin is in a constant state of reconstruction. The Berlin Wall East Side Gallery separates a section of the city from easy access to the river. There are spaces here around the wall, near the Spree River, available for development.

Apparently East Side Gallery is not necessarily a sacred memorial to history.  Maintaining the integrity of the East Side Gallery is a contentious current issue in Berlin’s development plans.

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West side wall of the East Side Gallery reveals how the wall limits access to the River Spree.

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River Spree view from west side of Berlin Wall East Side Gallery

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Save Our Earth is one of the East Side Gallery murals by artist Indiano.

News Sources: East Side Gallery: Developer halts removal of Berlin Wall (dw.de March 4, 2013).

Protest marks destruction of East Side Gallery (dw.de)

“Walled In!” Germany’s Inner Border is a 10 minute DW video showing the Berlin wall fortifications as they appeared in the 1980s using computer animation.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. @ABC – the sun mural or the sun in Berlin?

    The weather turned to snow about one hour after visiting the Berlin Wall East Side Gallery. The snow fell for the remaining 48 hours I was in Berlin.

    I did not see much sun in Berlin, if any at all, during the six days I was there.

  2. When we visted Berlin last summer I was terribly surprised at the amount of graffiti. It was basically everywhere you turned.

  3. Near Patsdamer Platz (apx a 5-10 min walk) is a whole block+ long of the wall w/o any murals or wrtting on it. Its by what was the Gestapos HQ building and theres a trench you wlak down into where they are pics of what was there

    If my memory doesnt fail me its on Zimmer str, between Wilhelm str & Stresemann str (Stresemann str is a diagonal and ends (or starts) by Platsdamer Platz.

    We didnt get to the East Side Galley but Topography of Terror,gave I feel a better understanding as its untouched and with the pics on display and the buildings still standing you get an eerie feeling of what it was like, both under Communism and also when the area was being used by the Nazis

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