The Cold War’s most potent symbol met its end on November 9th 1989, when it was spontaneously hacked apart by joyful East and West Berliners. Over its 28-year history the Berlin Wall had claimed hundreds of lives (the exact number is still unknown) and forged a 150km-long division through the city: politically, physically and idealistically. The wall was dismantled very soon after unification and chunks of it were sold off as souvenirs (you may still see some around, though locals joke that if every piece sold were the genuine article, the wall must have been a thousand times as long).
Today there are a few places to see what’s left, or at least where it was. The most extensive, and certainly the most colourful, is the so-called East Side Gallery. Running parallel to the river between Ostbahnhof and Oberbaumbrüke in the Friedrichshain district, it is the world’s largest open-air museum, where over a hundred German and international artists left images, messages and graffiti along the remnants of the wall.
Works to seek out include a huge flag mural by Gunther Schaefer representing key events in Germany’s history that led to the construction of the wall. Another is a pop art interpretation of Leonid Brezhnev and Enrich Honecker (the Soviet and GDR leaders at the time of the wall’s construction) passionately embracing. Titled ‘My God, Help me Survive this Deadly Love’ it is by Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel.
Time, weather, graffiti and vandalism have taken their toll on the East Side Gallery. Another threat is the encroaching gentrification of this once downtrodden district. For the moment however, the East Side Gallery remains, forming part of the urban landscape with beach bars, Socialist-era housing and other symbols of East Berlin’s now famous counter culture.