At the beginning of February, I had the pleasure of going on the English/Mechanical Engineering Society trip to Berlin. During my time in Berlin, I was overwhelmed by the plethora of art, history and culture before me. Of all these cultural treasures, I found East Side Gallery the most striking and interesting sight-seeing experience.
East Side Gallery is an international memorial and gallery of street art. It is set across a 1316m section of the Berlin Wall on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, near central Berlin. It is the longest open air gallery in the world, open 24 hours a day to the general public. The gallery is a monument of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which separated the East and West sides of the city during the Cold War.
“The gallery has been standing for over 20 years and attracts around 2-3 million tourists each year”
The Wall was built by the German Democratic Republic and stood from 1961 to 1989, and throughout this period, the wall prevented emigration from one side to the other. Around 5000 people attempted to escape by crossing over the wall, with 100-200 of them being killed. Therefore, East Side Gallery stands for peace, liberty and freedom between societies against the persecution and isolation that previously occurred. The gallery has been standing for over 20 years and attracts around 2-3 million tourists each year. It has also received lots of media attention during this time, demonstrating its worldwide appeal.
The gallery includes the work of over 100 different artists from around the world. Many of the works are politically-themed, for example, the one pictured below, titled ‘Lord Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love’, by Dimitrij Vrubel. This image shows ‘The Eternal Kiss’ of two Stalinists: Brezhnev and Honecker.
Personally, I was stunned by the range of bright, bold colours of the artwork. Each piece was very different and had a strong message for the audience. As well as politically-inspired works, there were many influenced by issues such as global warming, religion, and society generally. My personal favourite piece was the one inserted below, named ‘Touch The Wall’ by Christine Kühn.
My interpretation of this piece is that it represents global unity, using the handprints to show how people from all different walks of life have come to view the gallery. It is also representative of the fact that artists from twenty-one different countries have contributed to the gallery, showing how it is a universal creation. Unfortunately, the majority of the wall is protected by metal barriers in order to prevent vandalism, but I was still able to appreciate the artwork.
Although my time there was only short, I had a fantastic weekend in Berlin and visiting East Side Gallery was definitely a highlight of the trip. I would highly recommend visiting the gallery if you get the chance, as it is an incredibly unique experience, celebrating freedom and equality. As a city in general, Berlin is a very rewarding one to visit, with plenty to see and do. From historical monuments to artwork, to pretzels and beer, Berlin has it all!
Image credits: Sophie Hunt