why a visit to the East Side Gallery in Berlin is more important than ever

After a few stops around 'Museum Island' in Berlin, I {quickly} realised that the history I wanted to learn about wasn't centred on German art and sculpture-- it was outside the walls of the Bode in the 80°F weather all over the city. 

So, I set out for the East Side Gallery. 

Tara's quick history notes for those who don't know: At the end of World War II, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt met with Stalin at what was referred to as the Yalta Conference. During this conference, the Allies decided what would ultimately happen to Europe. They split Germany into four zones of occupation and Berlin was split right down the middle. Your main takeaway should be that it turned into a shit show. West Berlin was governed as a democracy. East Berlin was run by the Soviets under communism.  It's unclear exactly how many people died trying to cross from East to West Berlin {some sources say 80 others estimate over 100}, but any loss of life in the pursuit of greater freedoms or to simply be with one's family is heartbreaking. 

The East Side Gallery is a kilometer stretch of the former Berlin Wall. It is also the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Artists from all around the world hurried to Berlin after the fall of the Wall and painted murals. Some are pictures of hope and others stand as reminders of the tragedies that occurred. 

Overall, it is a monument honoring freedom of expression.

At first, I felt sadness as I walked along this remainder of the Wall. It made the history of it all more tangible. The Berlin Wall fell not even a full year before I was born, which makes {me feel old and} it feel insanely fresh. As I continued walking, I felt more hopeful. Humans have the capacity to do atrocious things to one another. We also have the capacity to unite with one another and overcome. That's uplifting. 

Berlin is a very different city today. It has an infamous reputation for drugs and techno clubs. It's one of the best cities in all of Europe for food, especially if you are seeking vegan and vegetarian options {in the words of Bastian, "It's harder for me to find a place to eat meat in Berlin than it is for Alina to find vegan food."}. East Berlin in 2017 is a bit like Brooklyn-- where all the young, cool kids hang out. It's a stark contrast to how it looked not long ago. 

Not all walls are made of brick and concrete. Some are built around our hearts as emotional barriers that, in the long run, stunt us and keep us from what we really want. Some are built upon the fears of things we don't understand-- other religions, for example. It seems like we've learned little about walls despite places like the Wall standing as a reminder. That's why it is more important than ever to visit the East Side Gallery. To remember that unity always beats division and that love always trumps hate.


Let's tear down walls, k? Or, at the very least, paint them with colourful murals! 


Street address:  Mühlenstraße, 10243 Berlin, Germany

Cost of admission: Free to the public {there is no entrance}