Formerly the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery is nowadays the world’s longest open air art gallery. Today, you’ll find over 1.3km of artwork, as well as the rich history and culture from its former life as the Berlin Wall. The best way to get to the East Side Gallery is by catching the train to either Warschauer Straße or Ostbahnhof station. From here, it’s then a short walk to the impressive artwork on the bank of the Spree in Friedrichshain. To this day, the East Side Gallery is the longest, unbroken section of the Berlin Wall to survive.
Discovering the East Side Gallery
The East Side Gallery was born after the Berlin Wall came down. Over a hundred artists from countries all over the world began painting the wall. In September 1990, it officially opened as an open air gallery, and it has continued to grow as one of Berlin’s most popular attractions ever since.
The East Side Gallery initially began as a political statement by artists on the changes happening in 1989 and 1990. This took the shape of dozens of paintings on what was formerly the east side of the wall. It remains a political commentary even today, with nods to the recent protests taking place in Hong Kong.
The mural below by Ines Bayer depicts the words, ‘es gilt viele Mauern abzubauen”. This translates to ‘it’s necessary to break down many walls’. It takes an cynical jab at Donald Trump, in its own ironic position.
I loved the colourful Gotterdammerung mural, with its rainbow spillage brightening up the row of wall art.
Iconic Murals at the East Side Gallery
One of the most iconic murals of the Berlin Wall is East German artist Thomas Klingenstein’s ‘Detour to the Japanese Sector. It’s symbolic of Klingenstein’s desire to visit Asia and live there. This all stems back to how East Germans were never even allowed to dream of going to Asia, let alone travel there. Klingenstein was later imprisoned for opposing policy, but was later extradited to West Germany. He later lived in Japan until the mid 1990s, so finally got his dream of having a detour to the Japanese sector.
I love the iconic type and symbols of this mural below – a true homage to the previous split of Berlin.
This mural also depicts the unsavoury feelings towards Berlin, and hopes towards the rest of the world.
Of course, one of the most famous murals at the East Side Gallery is Dmitri Vrubel’s Fraternal Kiss. Also known as ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’, it’s a mural showing Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, kissing the East German leader, Erich Honecker. The socialist fraternal kiss was once a greeting between socialist leaders. It’s indicative of the connection between socialist countries. When leaders were particularly close, the kisses were on the mouth as opposed to the cheek. Since communism has faded across Europe, the fraternal kiss has also died out.
Christmas Market by the East Side Gallery
Once we’d finished checking out the incredible murals of the East Side Gallery, we spotted a Christmas market across the road. Beautifully decorated, we snuck in for a glühwein and to discuss everything we’d just seen of the Berlin Wall.
The area was huge and felt quite magical, as though we were walking through a real forest of Christmas trees in the heart of Berlin. At Mercedes Benz Arena, right around the corner, there’s a huge Christmas tree. It’s probably one of the largest I’d seen, with tons of coloured baubles.
Afterwards, we walked on towards the U-Bahn station to get back to our hotel. We were both pretty surprised to hear the trains were on hold due to the discovery of a WWII bomb that hadn’t been detonated. Apparently, this is a fairly common occurrence in Berlin!
Drinks in Mitte
The world is a small place, and Alice actually has a childhood friend living in Berlin. He manages a bar, so we got ready and headed off to see him for some drinks that evening. We headed to The Castle bar in Berlin’s Mitte, and settled in for drinks.
After a few too many of these deliciously spicy Caesar-like concoctions, we moved onto another bar and then back to hotel.
Another great way to spend an evening in Berlin!
That’s my discovery of the East Side Gallery in Berlin. Have you visited? Which are your favourite murals at the Berlin Wall?