I took a ridiculously early morning Saturday flight out to Berlin to be sure to have time to explore before work began. And I am so glad I did.
I was at my hotel, just off the Kurfürstendamm, by 10:00. I dropped my bags and headed out for a tasty breakfast to gather my energy and study my guide book and map, then bought my travelcard and I was off. It is a huge city, but thankfully there’s an excellent public transport system to speed me to the start of my first walk.
I alighted at Ostbahnhof and headed towards the River Spree, destination the Berlin Wall; specifically the 1.3 km long stretch of decorated wall that makes up the East Side gallery. This stretch of wall features over 100 paintings by artists around the world, making up what is probably the largest open air mural gallery in the world.
Whilst the main paintings here are on the east side of the wall, you can get access to both sides of the wall; the area between the river and the wall is now a grassy area. Standing here at the start of this strip of wall, you can see both sides – not something many would have seen between 1961 and 1989.
You can take a quick detour here to get a view of the river and that side of the wall, but then return to the street side to admire the main artwork.
The murals were originally painted in 1990-1991, just after the Wall was opened, but vandalism, graffiti and the weather took their toll. By the early 200s the wall was in a dreadful state and the decision was taken to restore the wall and repaint many of the murals. Many of the original artists took part in the repainting. Some did not, either because they refused or because the were not contacted, in which case another artist carried out the work.
Sadly, as you can see above, there has been more vandalism since the restoration work.
It is a straightforward walk from here, just following the wall and stopping to admire the murals.
As you get to the end of this stretch of the wall, there is a depiction of Checkpoint Charlie and a souvenir shop.
From here, it’s just a short walk to the Oberbaumbrücke. There’s a bar here where you can have a drink and admire views of the bridge.
Next time, I will take you over that bridge, but for now we are going to turn left and up the hill to the Warschauer Straße stations – you have a choice of tram, U-bahn and S-Bahn lines depending on where you choose to go next. Bon voyage, see you soon.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 8 June 2015