Wednesday, May 3, 2017

East Side Gallery and Berliner Dom

Today we got to see something I had long been looking forward to, Berlin's East Side Gallery. The gallery itself is a 1km stretch of the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany, a once blank canvas that displays 101 murals painted by artists from all over the world to create the world's largest existing outdoor art gallery. The East side of the Berlin Wall was originally part of a communist society, and an oppressed society that were not allowed to lay their hands on the wall from 1961 to 1989, which made it the perfect place for the world's artists to express their ideas about the world and the politics of the time, signifying their new freedom of expression following Germany's reunification and the falling of the wall.
Our tour guide Jörg Weber was an artist himself who spoke passionately and enthusiastically about the messages behind what he believed to be the most important murals in the gallery. His English was not always the clearest or easiest to understand, but I think he really gave us an insight into the world through the eyes of both people from the East and West of the wall at the time, and not only the history through the facts and figures we often hear, but possibly an alternate history - one that was not written but simply experienced by those people. I thought it was really important as well, that we heard everything we did firsthand, from a man who lived through the events he described to us (growing up and living to this day in the East side of Berlin), and is even depicted in one of the murals as he crossed the wall from the East to the West when it fell.
After we had bought some East Side Gallery merch, we walked the remaining distance of the wall (which was unfortunately mostly fenced off for it's protection) and onto the train, travelling to Berliner Dom led by Iain.
Despite my original assumption that Berliner Dom was "just another church", once inside I was absolutely in awe of the intricate carvings, statues and patterns highlighted in gold that covered every inch of the enormous building. Looking out over one of the balconies with a view of the 7000 pipe organ, central stained glass windows and 500,000 piece mosaics (of which there were eight), we received a short history of the protestant cathedral, from it's construction in 1905 to how it stands today. We got the chance to ascend the 200 steps to the dome's viewing platform and look out once again over Berlin, and also see the crypt below where the remains of the originals Prussian emperors still lie. 
As the cathedral's maintenance is not funded by the government, we thanked our volunteer tour guide and some of us contributed to the church by buying gifts from the Berliner Dom souvenir shop. 
Finally we trained back to Werder, with some knew knowledge, and maybe a new perspective of Berlin's history.
By Jackie

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