I have been anxious to share about the East Side Gallery in Berlin ever since we returned from our trip there three months ago. Even though I have no formal bucket list, this was one of those things I would have put on it if I did. When we arrived in Berlin, I had hoped the gallery would be one of the first things we saw, but as it turned out, it was one of the last. You’re supposed to save the best for last anyway, right?
The East Side Gallery is such an iconic piece of the wall that whenever I hear anyone mention the Berlin Wall, it is this long stretch of colorful murals that comes immediately to mind. In 1990, after the wall had begun being deconstructed the previous year, over 100 artists were commissioned to paint murals on a one-mile stretch of the inner wall, which would then be preserved and not taken down, to celebrate the reunification of Berlin. Together, they created one of the most recognizable and most unique collections of graffiti art in the world.
The murals have since been repainted by the original artists, where possible, due to weather degradation and the contribution of (how do I put this nicely?) other “artists” work on top of the original murals. As you’ll see from the following pictures, even though these were repainted as recently as 2009, they already suffer from quite a bit of defacing once again. Even still, it was a real dream come true to be able to see these in person. Don’t let my amateur photography skills deter you from checking this out – it really is much more spectacular in person!
That last photo might be my favorite photo of us, ever. Knowing we would see the famous mural of the “Fraternal Kiss” between Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker at the East Side Gallery, I planned the shot out before we even left for Berlin, and then coached Lexie on how to compose it when we got there. It turned out exactly as I’d hoped it would on the first try, which is a good thing, because the East Side Gallery is a busy place. People line up, waiting for their turn to get a photo with the famous murals, and so you’ve pretty much got one shot to get it right before others start moving in on you.
The reason I love this photo so much, though, is not because it’s a particularly artistic shot (it isn’t), but because, for me, it symbolizes everything about our life right now. I never in a million years would have thought I’d ever see the Berlin Wall or any of the other places we’ve been to over the past year and a half. Or, if we did see them, I expected we’d be retirees, 60+ and finally taking our trip around the world. That we’re getting to do this now, at such a young age, is pretty freaking awesome. (That photo would have looked a little different if we waited until we were in our 60’s!) I’m not the type of person to print out photos and frame them, but if I were, I’d blow this one up on a big canvas and hang it in my living room. It’s that special.
Anyway, I don’t know what the future of the East Side Gallery is – will it be there forever, or are its days numbered? – but I do know there is a lot of construction going on in that area and pieces have already been removed, much to the dismay of those who wish to preserve it in its entirety, to give access to the construction. I hope it’ll be around forever, but if it’s not, I’m so very glad I had the opportunity to see this iconic symbol of freedom while I had the chance. Reason #1,789 I’m glad we took this trip to Berlin instead of another one to Paris. If you’re heading to Berlin, do not miss this!
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