IT IS HARD TO IMAGINE THAT THE RIVER ONCE DIVIDED THE KREUZBERG AND FRIEDRICHSHAIN DISTRICTS. JUST A SHORT WALK DOWN THE ROAD, YOU REACH THE ICONIC OBERBAUM BRIDGE, WHICH WAS ONCE SEALED OFF FROM TRAFFIC.
Here on the other side of the river, in the former East German divide of the city, the iconic Berlin Wall stood as a barrier to prevent anyone coming or going.
Today the Wall still stands, and has been turned into one of the largest open-air galleries in the world. Facing the former Eastern Side, international artists were invited to paint murals along a mile-stretch of the Wall as a symbol of freedom, identity and unity. Today, you can still visit and walk up and down the gallery for free, and see the iconic image of two former communist leaders kissing each other, or the bizarre series of coloured heads. The East Side Gallery is also one of the largest standing sections of Berlin Wall still around, and is arguably one of Berlin’s most recognised landmarks. It functions as a stark reminder of the city’s former hard times, converted to represent its more edifying, liberal and colourful present. It would be remiss to spend time in Berlin without seeing this huge stretch of the Wall, to understand how the division of the city helped propagate its desire for art, and how Kreuzberg fought against the politics by creating its own history through independent movements, music and art. The Wall itself was also the catalyst behind songs such as Nena's “’99 Luftballons”, and, of course, David Bowie's iconic “Heroes”, recorded at Hansa Studios, which looked out towards East Berlin.