Berlin's East Side Gallery
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Day 21: A City Divided

For nearly 30 years, a major world city was divided in half by a concrete wall. On one side, Western-style prosperity flourished in a post-war economic boom. On the other side, people longed for freedom as they lived under the thumb of a totalitarian government.

The Berlin Wall—Berliner Mauer in German—served a dual purpose. Technically, the wall faced West Berlin, keeping the “fascists” (as East German propaganda referred to the west) from crossing into the Communist-controlled east. But ultimately, the wall kept East Berliners inside. With each escape attempt, the wall as further fortified until it became virtually impenetrable.

On our first full day in Berlin, we walked a three-mile stretch of the wall’s remains from the East Side Gallery to Brandenburg Gate. While only small stretches of the wall still exist, a double-cobblestone line traces the original position of the wall through the streets of Berlin.

East Side Gallery features works of peace and politics and has now stood as a symbol of freedom for nearly as long as the wall stood as a symbol of the Cold War. West Berliners famously used the wall as a canvas for political street art. When the wall finally fell in 1989, a project was commissioned to bring artists from all around the world to paint murals on the newly-opened border.

During the 1990s and 2000s, many of the paintings degraded due to weather or were covered by graffiti. In 2009, a new project commissioned the original artists to come back and redo sir works using more appropriate paint. Fences were added to limit the reach of vandals.

Today, the gallery is the longest stretch of the original wall in Berlin at just short of a mile. Signs detail each of the 105 paintings showing when that piece of the wall was constructed, when it fell, when it was painted and when it was restored.


Click any photo in the gallery to see a larger version and start a slideshow view


The famous sign at Checkpoint Charlie, an original border crossing between East and West Berlin is now in a museum. The checkpoint has been recreated in its original spot, complete with "American" soldiers as a tourist photo op.

The famous sign at Checkpoint Charlie, an original border crossing between East and West Berlin is now in a museum. The checkpoint has been recreated in its original spot, complete with “American” soldiers as a tourist photo op.


The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a far-reaching series of stone slabs with varying heights. According to documents, the memorial is "designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason."

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a far-reaching series of stone slabs with varying heights. According to documents, the memorial is “designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.”


Built in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate originally served as the beginning of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg City. The gate was closed off during the wall era and became a symbol of reunification when the wall finally came down in 1989.

Built in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate originally served as the beginning of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg City. The gate was closed off during the wall era and became a symbol of reunification when the wall finally came down in 1989.


More Photo of the Day posts from our January-March 2016 trip to Europe

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