East Side Gallery
The Berlin Wall was a hated piece of concrete in both West and East Berlin. It divided the city and created a large, ugly grey scar. In 1984 Frenchmen Thierry Noir and Christophe Bouchet didn’t want to look at the boring concrete anymore and decided to revolt by painting the Berlin Wall on the Westside.
It was quite a dangerous mission at that time. It was absolutely forbidden to paint on the Berlin Wall on both sides. They risked getting shot at by East-German guards patrolling on their side of the border. Therefore Noir and Bouchet had to be really quick to change the grey concrete into wild colors. Noir rapidly painted his worm-faced brightly colored people with big lips while Bouchet held guard. Brush by brush they turned Berlin Kreuzberg’s wall into a big colorful slab.
Painting the Berlin Wall
Not everybody was happy about it. West Berliners often swore at the newborn painters and they often had to run for their lives when the border guards noticed them. But that didn’t stop them. Painting was a political act for them. By adding colors to the death strip they showed others that the hated piece of concrete wasn’t there forever. The paint they used even ate away the concrete, like acid.
Tourists started to make pictures of the Berlin Wall paintings. It inspired other artists and Berliners to paint the Wall as well.
Thierry Noir didn’t grieve for a second when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. He was very happy he could go to the other side without being scared of getting caught.
In December 1989 the first painter of the Berlin Wall also became one of the first painters of the Eastern part of the wall, at Friedrichshain. In 1989 118 artists from 21 different countries painted this part of the Berlin Wall that was never touched by art before, because it lies so close to the river Spree. Noirs large faces on the East Side Gallery have now become a part of Berlin history.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall
There is much more to see on this 1,3 kilometer long slab of concrete. Kani Alavi painted ‘es geschah in November’. It depicts the thousands of happy, crying people when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Birgit Kinder shows us a Trabant, the famous East-German car, crashing through the Berlin Wall with ‘test the rest’. It actually happened quite a few times that someone crashed a Trabant into the wall. It was the main reason for the East-German government to use solid concrete with metal inside to prevent cars from breaking trough the Berlin Wall.
Another interesting painting depicts the story of Austrian Heinz Meixner who escaped East-Berlin in a sports car with a loose windshield. He hid his fiancée and his mother in law in the back of the car, hit the gas and was able to cross the gates at Checkpoint Charlie by inches. The guards watched him speed up, but didn’t do anything.
Dmitry Vrubel shows us the ‘deathly’ kiss of Soviet Leader Brezjnev and East-German leader Honecker with ‘mein Gott hilf mir, diese todliche Liebe zu uberleben’ (My God, help me to survive this deadly love). Check out more artwork.
Although a lot of artwork has been restored a couple of years ago, a building company tore down a few slabs of Berlin Wall to make way for a luxurious apartment building near the river Spree. Tourists and Berliners are very angry with this. Protests are going on right now David ‘Da Hoff’ Hasselhoff even sings to protest against the removal of parts of the Berlin Wall, as well as Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.
More Friedrichshain on Place to be:
The Oberbaumbrucke is the main bridge between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain. 364 days a year crossing this beautiful bridge to the other side of the Spree is a great thing to do. But once a year nobody cares about the great architecture, the small towers and elegant arches. Once a year hell breaks loose.
This part along the river Spree is R.A.W. Raw, because this area in Friedrichshain is half in ruins and covered with beautiful graffiti. And raw, because it used to be the ReichsbahnAusbesserungsWerk. In the good old times 20.000 people worked here on the mighty steel of the trains.
the Karl Marx Allee is a street you will never forget after you’ve seen it. If you walk along Karl Marx Allee you’ll feel small like an ant. The buildings are called workers palaces. And like castles made by the rich and famous, they are also lavishly decorated and made to impress and make people look small and humble.
Friedrichshain has a lot of groovy, interesting bars. Students know their way around this area to go clubbing and dancing in Berghain and Cassiopeia. But Friedrichshain has more to offer. For example bars where you can buy the furniture you sit on or home made beer, lemonade, cakes and cider. And others where you can dance as well as play table football.
In Friedrichshain you can find no nonsense food for bargain prices. Even the local bakery near Boxhagener Platz makes really good cheesecake. Not a coincidence. This square buzzes with great little restaurants from all over the world.