“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand-or say they don’t-what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin!” -John F. Kennedy (1963)
Today, despite waking up late, I immediately grab my coffee to go and head out for another afternoon wandering Berlin. Tomorrow I’ll join the group for Potsdam, but today I want to see the East Side gallery; a long stretch of original street art painted on the longest intact section of the Berlin Wall. Most of the art is inspirational and relevant to the oppression and feelings related to the wall’s existence and its fall in 1989.
It takes me a while to get there, but eventually I’m exiting the Ostbahnof station into a bleak industrial looking section of the city, complete with torn billboards, large stretches of bare concrete, graffiti and open dirt pits. Soon, I see the wall though, and walking the length viewing the 106 paintings that consist of this open air gallery is fantastic. I take my time admiring the politically charged art and appreciating the messages.
The Berlin Wall was comprised of two parallel walls and the space between was known as “The Death Strip.” There is an open space in the front wall where you can see a remaining piece of the second wall, thus the middle section. The Death Strip is the hardest to see after learning about it. The walls aren’t so tall, but have rounded tops preventing hooks from catching. I learn though, that even if people made it over the wall, they had to make it past the strip that was patrolled by guards and sniper with shoot to kill orders. It’s tragic. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to wake one morning and learn that in the middle of the night your city was divided into East and West. Friends and family that might reside on the opposite side of the wall are suddenly separated from you, by a wall you’re not allowed to pass through.
Near the end of the Gallery, I sit behind the wall along the River Spree, to write and enjoy the warmth of the sun. Today I can finally enjoy the spring weather that’s been missing… I can even take off my jacket! *small pleasures*
I’m soon back on the S-Bahn and make my way to the Reichstag, since I haven’t been inside yet. The Reichstag is the center of the German Government. I stand in an endless line for nearly an hour, luckily with a book to occupy me. A rowdy Italian school group gossiping and flirting, a few snapshots for a travel couple, and a couple chapters in my book later, I’m through the metal detector and exiting the elevator into the large glass dome. There is a tornado of mirrors in the center and spirals of walkways along the side the circle that leads up to the outside platform.
I enjoy a panoramic view of Berlin from every direction. To the West I can see Tiergarten and the Brandenburg Gate to the South. Looking East I see Museum Island and the TV Tower. The best part… is I’ve arrived just in time for sunset across the sprawling yard of the Reichstag that has hosted many historical rallies and protests. Inside, there is a photographic timeline recounting major events at the Reichstag; the exhibition includes photos of important government meetings, rallies, the Fire of 1933, and even a Michael Jackson concert!
After sunset, I grab a quick meal of Currywurst and meet up with some friends for a random, rambunctious night the begins with a joke-filled walk to the S-Bahn and ends with me being so very thankful I made it home and am safely and warmly in bed. So tired.