Take awalk on the East Side: Pt. 2

True confessions: I’m a mural-holic.

I’ve taken hundreds of photos of the murals of Gainesville. I wrote a piece for Forum about the best mural cities in Florida. My wife automatically stops (and rolls her eyes) when we walk past a mural so I can snap a shot.

So naturally while in Berlin I obsessed on the East Side Gallery. The section of the old Cold War Wall that has been turned into an open air mural gallery.

My wife humored me on the first day of my Wall visit. On the second day she sent me off by myself.

But you are never alone at the East Side Gallery. It is one of the most photographed places in Berlin.

The Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 on the east side of the Berlin Wall. The actual border at this point had been the river Spree. The gallery is located on the so-called “hinterland mauer,” which closed the border to West Berlin.” Wikipedia.

The paintings at the East Side Gallery document a time of change and express the euphoria and great hopes for a better, more free future for all people of the world.” Wikipedia.

There is an rusty iron gate in the wall. And it is still possible to look through it from one side and envision a time when oppression lived on this side of the Spree. Or from the other side and see a people living in liberation.

This door truly does swing both ways.

Hey, babe
Take a walk on the wild side”
I said, “Hey, honey
Take a walk on the wild side”

Lou Reed must have had this Berlin in mind when he wrote his counterculture anthem.

“I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles…..”

And don’t get me stared on what The Who saw.

The whole world is waiting to see whether the Batman or the Joker will prevail.

We can fix this. I am sure of it.

“Yesterday upon a stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d go away.”

With apologies to William Hughes Mearns.

Two-thirds of the paintings are badly damaged by erosion, graffiti, and vandalism. One-third have been restored by a non-profit organization which started work in 2000. The objective of this organization is the eventual restoration and preservation of all the paintings.” Wikipedia.

The East Side Gallery is the embodiment of Berlin’s grit and guts. It’s a symbol of hope, creativity and resilience – for Berliners, but also the rest of the world.” Lonely Planet.

The 155-kilometer-long Berlin Wall, which cut through the middle of the city center, surrounded West Berlin from August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989. The Wall was designed to prevent people from escaping to the West from East Berlin. In 1961, the SED began adding additional obstacles to the border, expanding the Wall into a complex multi-layered system of barriers. In the West, the border strip was referred to as the “death strip” because so many people were killed there while trying to escape. In 1989, the Wall that the SED had used for so long to maintain its power in the GDR, fell. With the fall of the Wall, the dictatorship came to its definitive end.” The Wall Foundation.

“All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.” Pink Floyd.

Waddya wanna do today? I dunno. Waddya wanna do?

For many old West Berliners, the wrangling over the East Side Gallery is a perversion of the original wall art that was not commercial and was never meant to last forever. It was an expression of the will to be free, a constant finger in the face of those guarding the murderous border. It was the combination of danger and the desire to be known in the scene that magically attracted people.” Thewallmuseum.com.

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water. “ The Wasteland: T.S. Eliot

Another problem is the fact that the Spree plots there are among the most sought-after building plots in Berlin. That is why a lot of segments of the former Hinterland wall have already been removed. The district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has neither the financial means nor the professional skills to find a permanent solution.” thewallmuseum.com

The Kiss is easily the most photographed mural on the wall. But I suspect it makes the other murals jealous.

“The graffiti is not just a product of its creator’s imagination – it’s a depiction of a photograph taken on the 30th anniversary celebration of the foundation of the German Democratic Republic (Eastern Germany) in 1979. The two men depicted in it are Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union at the time, and Erich Honecker, the General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of the GDR.” iheartberlin.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, just two countries away, gives fresh relevance to the wall’s symbolism. You can see signs of solidarity for the invaded country everywhere in Berlin.

History tells us that the quest to escape to freedom never ends.

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