The East Side Gallery open-air art gallery – Berlin
Berlin is a city I’ve visited twice now. Once on a school A-level trip back in 1992 and once just last month as we watched the Berlin Marathon. It was on day 1 of our sightseeing that we introduced ourselves to the city with a 35 minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate down to “Checkpoint Charlie” but I really wanted to see more of the infamous Berlin wall. For that I needed to see the East Side Gallery!
Original sections of the wall
Stumbling across many billboards dotted across the city describing ‘Der Berliner Mauer’ made we want to see an original stretch of it even more, and where better to see it than the ‘East Side Gallery’, SE of the city centre on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg (Google link here). It’s the longest art gallery in the world with a length of 1,316 meters.
There are many other isolated pockets of the wall with the ‘Berlin Wall Memorial‘ on Bernauer Str and the Topography of Terror on Niederkirchnerstraße 8 being two great locations. However on this occasion the 4 of us wanted to visit this graffitted section with its famous artworks of Honecker, a Trabi car and various other thought-provoking pieces of artwork.
Getting to the East Side Gallery
Take the S-Bahn to Berlin Warschauer Straße station (or Berlin Ostbahnhof which is slightly closer at its western end) and stroll all of 600m downhill to the eastern tip of it. It’s pretty obvious when you get there. At this point you are still in old East Berlin, with the “death strip” lying behind the wall, followed by the River Spree and then the sanctuary of old West Berlin. Make sure you look behind the wall too as there’s information on the hidden side of the wall, a view of the river, plus the knowledge that you’re stood slap bang in the middle of the “death strip” and just 29 years ago you’d have been shot for being there!
It was fitting that it was a dreary day when we went as this added a slightly fitting sombre atmosphere to where we were walking. After all, the imposing wall was an ideologically as well as a physically barrier separating loved ones from one another for many years. In our group of 4 we stopped at each and every piece of artwork, sometimes in silence, sometimes in shared amusement, sometimes falling back individually to contemplate a certain piece … or just in the vain attempt to take a photo of the artwork without anybody other people bring in it!
Some East Side Gallery facts
- Building of the wall (Errichting der Mauer) = 1961
- Fall of the wall (Mauerfall) = 9th November 1989
- Painting of the wall (Bemalung) = February to September 1990
- Repair work (Instandsetzung) = 2009
- Length = 1,316m
- Cost to visit = free 🙂
My favourite pieces of artwork along the wall …
The great thing about the wall is that everybody’s going to have their favourites. Mine were probably influenced by them being the most famous, or of late of course the most Instagrammed!
… and some thought-provoking ones!
Many of the pieces had a simple message that no doubt go in and out of fashion dependent on what political factors are taking place in the world at the time. This one below was getting a lot of interest due to Trump’s plans to build his ‘Mexican wall’ and translates as “There are many walls to be dismantled”. It was going down very well with the American tourists we encountered!
So get down to the East Side Gallery. Take your time walking backwards and forwards and make sure to step around the back to look at the other side. If you like souvenirs check out the small shop at the very eastern end where you can still buy a “genuine” piece of the wall. It’s now 28 years since the Berlin wall came down so do you think these souvenirs are genuine? It was 96 miles long so probably? Either way most gift shops around town are selling them as well. Tschüß.