On Mühlenstraße in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, a unique outdoor art exhibit clings to what remains of the formidable Berlin Mauer (wall).
Artists and protesters from all over the world were drawn to the site after Ronald Reagan uttered those unbelievable words on 12 June 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Though his words were simply a battle cry from the West, they seemed to open the proverbial floodgates. The people took action and the wall came down.
It was then, and only then, that German people could even dream of beginning to put themselves back together and that East Germans could finally start to assimilate with the rest of Europe. East German citizens had been locked in a dangerous prison for nearly thirty years but had committed no crime.
For this entry my song choice is Einstürzende Neubauten’s “Sehnsucht” (Nostalgia). EndeNeu has evolved astoundingly over the years and has continued to be one of my favourite acts with each new album.
The band formed in the 80s among the rubble of divided Germany and created their literally industrial music in warehouses and scrapyards with whatever tools and textiles they could get their hands on.
East Side Gallery is the largest open air gallery in the world and the murals are painted across the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, which is now a symbol of reunification between East and West Berlin.
In fact, the gallery is more about what the wall represents, than what is painted on it. Each mural illustrates various topics of history leading to the Wall coming down, the political events surrounding the decisions, the hardships in seeing it through, and what this new freedom looked like to the people.
My God Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love is a mural painted by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel in 1990. It is the most notorious piece in the gallery, portraying Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honeker lip-locked as they were photographed on the 30th Anniversary of the foundation of the GDR.
The two were celebrating a new, deadly deal between the Soviet Union and East Germany that imprisoned East Germans even deeper.
You see, after WWII ended, Germany was still divided for almost half a century. It is widely believed that even now, decades after the Berlin Wall was taken down, that reunification has merely began.
Perhaps the cultural and social trauma inflicted on (and by some) German people cut way too deep.
Deutsche Welle has a great documentary about the tedious and decades-long struggle for German Reunification:
A few more that I loved:
To reach the gallery, we took the train from Mitte to the Berlin Ostbahnhof, and walked around the Friedrichschain neighbourhood. If you are looking for a grittier, tough neighbourhood, this may be your place.
Like myself, many people here have tattoos, piercings, dark clothes, brightly coloured or shaved hair, and many of them can be found working on an art installation or graffiti piece or a mural at any given time.
It was an honour to watch, and a perfect way to experience the walk toward East Side Gallery.
One of my favourite parts about Friedrichshain is the Oberbaum Brücke that stretches luxuriously across the Spree River connecting Freidrichshain to Kreuzberg. You may recognize it from the film Run Lola Run.
To learn more about the East Side Gallery, check out this doc:
In the area for a while? Follow me around Berlin.
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