A definite must see in Berlin for both art and history lovers is the East Side Gallery. Located near the city's center, this international memorial for freedom is the largest open air gallery in the world, spanning 1.3 kilometers and features 101 images painted onto a remaining section of the Berlin Wall. Whilst in Berlin the ESG is always high on my list of things to see.
After meeting at Brandenburg gate, some sight-seeing in the general area and a cheeky smoke in the Tiergarten, my friend Amanda and I decided to make our way across town to the East Side gallery. I am unsure if our brains weren't functioning or if it actually is confusing, but if you ignore the good hour we ended up spending figuring out the whole S-bahn and U-bahn confuffle in Berlin, the gallery is actually really easy to get to and is a only short walk from Berlin Warschauer Straße or Berlin Ostbahnhof (train stations). Once arriving we had to laugh as Amanda realised that the gallery was only 200 meters from her backpacker hostel (where the 2 yellow lines meet on the map) and she knew exactly how to get back to her hostel quickly from Brandenburg gate.
I didn't realise this until returning to Berlin and the gallery with Amanda, but I was quite lucky with my short 2012 visit as the some of the wall had just been retouched and was in much better condition the previous year. Being outdoors erosion is a factor however vandalism and graffiti are prevalent as the major issues. I was actually quite shocked to see the condition of the wall upon returning, some of my favourite pieces had been almost completely ruined or covered by scribble. The Graffiti does add a certain type of ambiance to the gallery, I am quite a fan of all the graffiti covering the East Side Gallery Sign and Ohne Titel (Untitled) by Hans Bierbrauer at the beginning of the gallery, however I believe that out of respect it should stop there and not continue to spill onto the rest of the artworks. Quite a few of the artists are now deceased and it is disappointing to see their work ruined.
Below are some comparisons of the condition of the wall 1 year apart.
DANKE ANDREK SACHAROW BY DIMITRI WRUBEL
TEST THE BEST (TEST THE REST) BY BIRGIT KINDER
OHNE TITEL (UNTITLED) BY LUTZ POTTIEN
DEVELOPER REMOVES SEGMENTS OF THE EAST SIDE GALLERY
In March 2013 a developer removed a 1.2 meter section of the wall (Himlen over Berlijn by Karina Bjerregaard & Lotte Haubart Nielsen) in order to build an access path to a new residential complex. A very large proportion of Berliners have a vested interest in preserving the remaining stretch of the Berlin wall and the decision sure enough caused an uproar. Protesters gathered in their thousands from early March when the first panel was removed until finally, at 5am in the morning on the 27th of March, the developer swooped in guarded by 250 police and the final pieces were taken (read about it here). Personally I was pretty disgusted to hear that such a piece of history could be compromised so easily and removed for something as petty as a driveway, but oh wow did my morals unfortunately fly out the window when on my next visit I noticed I could buy pieces of "the wall" as a tacky souvenir. I highly doubt my small piece is genuine, but for now I will ignore common sense and intuition, and tell myself that I have a little slice of German history sitting upon my desk.
EXTRA IMAGES [click to enlarge]