The East Side Gallery




Thierry Noir heads



Looking at this, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was West Berlin in the 1980s. The wall became famous for the graffiti that covered the western side - including things like these heads by Thierry Noir, which you'll often see on postcards and other pictures from the time (he's briefly shown painting the wall in Wim Wenders's film Wings of Desire too).

This, however, is not the western side but the eastern side - the East Side Gallery to be precise! A group of artists painted this section of wall - the longest still standing, at 1.3km/0.8mi - in 1990. It's remained ever since and has just been repainted - not without some controversy, though, as some artists weren't happy with the idea of it being erased and them having to start again. It was getting very flaky and - perhaps ironically - graffiti strewn, though, so I don't really blame them for wanting to restore it.

Some of the artists are still at work. This is Italian artist Fulvio Pinna:




Fulvio Pinna at work


With all the tourists flocking round to take a look, it felt a bit like a zoo.




Fulvio Pinna behind bars!


Someone even offered him a banana...

The first time I came to the East Side Gallery, in December 2001, there was barely anyone walking along this stretch of road at all. That certainly wasn't the case today though - it was positively crawling with tourists and news journalists.




Tourists at the East Side Gallery


As you'll know already, I'm not a big fan of anywhere that has too many tourists per square metre and this was definitely way over my threshold, so it was time to get going. On the way towards Ostbahnhof, I saw something which made me think of the GDR...




A banana


This is definitely not a scene you'd have come across in the days before the wall fell. Bananas (and other 'Südfrüchte' - southern, that is, tropical fruits) were scarce and I doubt anyone would have valued them so little as to leave them lying by the road. Even if someone didn't want something, they'd often realise that it had a value as something to trade - some people talk of joining queues outside shops long before they found out what it was they were queueing for, because they knew that it must be something desirable which, at the very least, could be traded for something desirable which they actually wanted.

I didn't much fancy my chances of trading these bananas for anything useful though (especially if I'd said I'd found them by the road), so I left them for the next person...perhaps someone will try feeding them to Fulvio Pinna.

U-Bahn: 
Warschauer Straße (U1)
S-Bahn: 
Warschauer Straße (S3, S5, S7, S75)
Ostbahnhof (S3, S5, S7, S75)
Location: 
The East Side Gallery
Mühlenstraße
10243 Berlin

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