You could easily spend the best part of day in the area, both on the road-side of the wall, with the many different pieces of art, but you should also spend some time on the river-side of the wall, the Spree Park, where you can relax on the banks of the River Spree. But I didn't have a day, I had a couple of hours, and by the time I was finished, the camera was about 2 kilos heavier, and smoke was coming out of the lens...
THE VACUUM BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
In the years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, many things changed in Berlin, and the residents of the former East Berlin were left in a vacuum of elation, disbelief, freedom, scepticism, hope, doubt, and a desire to express to the world, the effects of Soviet oppression throughout the Cold War, and afterwards. The remaining 1,300-meter stretch of 'Soviet Segregation Architecture' provided the perfect canvas for artists to express their many conflicting emotions, both freely and without consequence, possibly for the first time in decades.
Here, even today, you can feel the atmosphere around this time of change, and in the paintings, you can find the expression of euphoria and great hopes for a better and free future, for all people of the world, felt by these artists, back in 1990.
"No more wars. No more walls. A united world."
The section of Berlin Wall that carries these 105 intense graphical messages to humanity, starts at Berliner Ostbahnhof and runs towards Oberbaumbrücke, which marks the start of the Spree Park, the area behind the East Side Gallery, facing the river. The most recently renovated sections are close to Ostbahnhof, and at the other end of the gallery, adjacent to the Oberbaumbrücke. You can either park the motorbike and walk the 1,300m stretch (just remember you have to walk back again), or take it in the same direction as the traffic, stopping the bike occasionally for a closer look at the main works.
One of the more famous works on the East Side Gallery, is that of Russian artist Dmitry Vrubel from 1989, entitled: "God! Help me survive amid this mortal love" depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev's passionate kiss with East Germany's leader Eric Honecker, symbolising a unity between the USSR and the DDR.
RESTORATION TIME AGAIN
Through the 90's, over 60% of the artwork was damaged by erosion, polution, weather, vandalism and graffiti artists contributing their 'artwork' to the wall. Today, the eastern side is covered in graffiti, which would have been impossible to paint, when Die Mauer (The Wall) was guarded by the armed soldiers of East Germany. Previously, graffiti appeared only on the western side.
Around 25% of the severly deteriorated section was repaired in 2000, by The German Paint Makers' Association, with a fundraising initiative, accumulating 300,000 German Marks. 42 paintings were repainted by 40 artists, restoring that section of the East Side Gallery to its 'original' condition.
A complete restoration began in 2009, but this has led to legal disputes between some of the artists and the organisors, and 8 of the original artists from 1990, refused to paint their own images again, after they had been completely destroyed by the renovation. Some of the other artist's works were reproduced without their permission, and this led to a legal battle about copyright ownership and permission to reproduce artwork which has been destroyed. Understandable, but the world would perfer to see these works again, painted by the original artists.
THE HOLE IN THE WALL
In July 2006, a 40-meter long segment of the gallery was removed, to create access to the River Spree from the nearby O2 World. The segments have been relocated parallel to the rest of the wall, a little further to the west. This break in the wall gives you access to Spree Park, where you can park the bike, process all the impressions you just received, take it all in, and then take a walk along the rear side of the wall, which also contains some interesting scars and inscriptions.
"Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, can alter the face of the world."