Alternative Berlin, which means street art...
Yet another "free" walking tour was on the agenda for today, this one called "Alternative Berlin". It didn't start until 11am and from the foot of the Berlin TV Tower, a lazy less than 20 minutes away by foot, so that meant no rush was required.
Di is testing out the steam egg cooker to the left of the picture for our breakfast. Worked like a breeze.
We did leave a bit early around 10am so that we could take our time to get to the start of the walking tour.
This was another new for us, each floor in our building has an outdoor smoking area, presumably so that the poor smokers who don't want or can smoke in the respective apartments don't have to travel all the way down to ground floor level and go outside.
This is the Spreekanal off Friedrichsgracht. The old bridge looked very cool.
Ha, this was interesting and we were sure that it had an interesting history. This building looked like an old palace, which is very well may have been as the road it was on is called Schloßplatz, but then you continue to the front...
...and you are met with some serious socialist propaganda. Good ol' Karl Marx looking down at you and the utopia of socialism...
A bit further on, more of the same...
Of course, today the building had a totally different purpose as it was another place of education, Higher Music.
Moving right on and this brown old Vespa also looked like a relic from the communist years although it looked very good.
Three little bears..., no... four little bears..., no... four little bears and Di...
Berlin, particularly in the east, is currently one big construction site. This major construction of a new U line near Alexanderplatz provided a viewing tower.
Yep, another big hole and more construction.
At 11am we met for our Alternative Walking Tour. The area we covered was quite large and can be seen on the map below (note that on one stretch between 3 and 5 and a bit km was done via train).
The reason the tour was so far spread is that it focused on Berlin street art and there are a couple of well known neighborhoods to cover.
Liam was our guide, an Aussie from Melbourne, but clearly a fan and well versed on Berlin street art, which is of a very high standard if you look beyond the lazy tagging.
The group started the exploration along the brickworks underneath the train line between Alexanderplatz and Hakesher Markt, where Van Gogh made a good intro and set the scene.
A few well known street artists made regular appearances.
The cartoon girl in the middle, Tina Berlina, by El Bocco is a regular on the Berlin streetscape as is the unknown Argentinian artist who has posters of dancing/partying girls.
Even Ned Kelly makes an appearance but only us Aussies knew him by sight and laughed when Liam asked the group the question who he was.
The street artists El Bocho uses posters and has several themes he paints - one is of surveillance cameras having conversations of what they see on the streets, often with a focus on tourists.
The one of the left here is saying "I love a webcam" and the one of the right is saying "I know".
Some art was not explained but appreciated by the group as being clever.
Then a copycat started doing a poor quality version of a Banksy stencil (the Mary Poppins Rat) and putting it up on walls over Berlin. People know what it is - faked - and somebody even wrote "fake" above this stencil.
We could not believe it when we turned into a tiny laneway around the corner from where we had been staying in Hackescher Markt and saw this...how had we missed it?
...and the other.
It turns out that this laneway often gives permission to street artists to do major pieces as it is national heritage listed as it was once a broom factory owned by Otto Weidt.
We were told that Otto Weidt in these parts was almost as famous as Oscar Schindler for trying to save the lives of his Jewish employees and their families with fake papers (some even from local prostitutes).
One story goes that he even turned up at Auschwitz and bribed anyone so that he could to successfully clear the release of a Jewish prisoner (and it worked). Definitely plaque worthy.
Some of the street art pieces here are on a huge scale as the artists get permission and space, and time to complete them.
The painting below was having a go at tourists and their guides (the tourist on the left with the camera and the guide saying blah, blah, blah or similar on the right).
This screaming polar bear was painted upside down from the roof, the artist balanced on the edge (and hopefully had someone holding his belt...)
Some art seems more politically driven, but not much as this tends to get painted over fairly quickly. However, appropriate to see JFK here as we were only 3 days of the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
This Latino looking lady just seemed so full of life.
A face poking out of the wall was something new and beside it what appeared to be an anti-Euro comment.
Di's favourite by Osh. Most of the artists featured here are international and very talented. This artist has been exhibited in London.
An angry Pacman sizes up Hans' ear for a nibble...
From Hackescher Markt we took the train 3 stops to Ostbahnhof where the East Side Gallery is located, the longest remaining section of the wall in Berlin and covered with street art.
Liam mentioned that for bigger pieces the artists normally get permission. This international photographer displays his work on a big scale and got permission for nearly all his displays - except this one. Ironically this one was done over 3 days in broad daylight opposite a police station...too good for anyone to object? Or the story may just not be true?
Our group headed to the Wall in not the prettiest part of Berlin opposite Ostbahnhof. Di was up the front somewhere as usual...
The East Side Gallery is more than 1km of wall, was always a graffiti artists dream on the west side and when the wall came down in 1989 the pristine, previously untouched east side became a new canvas.
Both sides of that remaining wall are now completely covered by street art.
Liam then announced the time for a short break which also provided an excuse to explore this cool informal Rastafarian open space called YAAM, Young African Art Market, a group who do lots of good community work but have no government backing.
Part of YAAM is a beach leading right to the river edge and we are sure it's hugely popular in summer.
Not sure that this shopping trolley in the air means but it looked cool.
Not much was open at YAAM today (although open toilets were appreciated) and Di wandered about checking out the various Jamaican and African stands.
There was a small soccer field out near the beach and we think this might be a starting point for World Cup stars of the future.
Cool runnings looked just that...cool...but it was the only warm place here in a cold day. Some of our group ducked inside for a hot drink. Not us, we kept looking around outside.
Our next destination was Kreuzberg just south across a bridge over the river Spree.
Followers of our blog will know that we have tried, unsuccessfully, to find the funky part of this large suburb twice in the last week. Third time lucky as this time we were led there by an expert.
Across the river south of Ostbahnhof and we looked back to see a condemned building with a statement on anti development of this area - "f...k off media spree" is aimed at keeping the area grungy and true to the Berlin of old.
This unique piece of street art was done with white plaster first applied to the wall an then scraped off in parts to form the picture. People liked it for a while, but then it was identified as a subtle promo for Levi's and the Molotov cocktail throwing man image to the left appeared...
A nice view down the river Spree with a famous old bridge called Oberbaum Bridge which was used as a connection point between East and West Berlin.
For the period of the Wall, Kreuzberg was a very isolated West Berlin suburb, surrounded on 3 sides by the wall. The wall was almost arbitrarily put up in some locations and in this location left a little bit of East German land on the western side of the wall.
No one did anything with this unused land until a Turkish immigrant set up his garden and treehouse in the space. The East Germans wall guards were suspicious thinking he was building a tunnel somehow but no, he we just cultivating the land. The tree house and garden remain to this day and so does the Turkish immigrant (although at the ripe age of 86 he lives in a flat across the road).
This is the small triangular island that the Turkish guy "claimed"...
This fine old hospital has served various purposes and is now an art location.
The wall used to run behind the back door and it's claimed that the very first street artist who decorated the wall in the early 1960's and lived here did so because he did not like the view out the back door! He painted bright colours on the concrete wall to cheer it up.
And the rest is history as they say...
The local council are making efforts to "clean up" this area to discourage protests and riots here. Apparently on each 1 May, Labor Day, riots were common here in Kreuzberg until the local council worked out that if they encouraged music acts on the streets people would party instead of protest.
The party approach seems to mostly work but Berliners love to protest so some tension can still arise as there is always something to take to the streets for.
The cleanup includes some interesting statues and paving.
Kreuzberg as a suburb is now in demand and has on average the highest rental costs in Berlin. Everyone wants now to live here now while 30 years ago no one wanted to live here, surrounded on 3 sides by the Berlin Wall as it was.
Finally the heart of Kreuzberg where cool bars and restaurants line Oranienstraße.
We finished our tour with a few very interesting street art pieces - Kim Jong Il in Gangnam Style...
This huge astronaut is apparently the most replicated piece of Berlin art and can be found on t-shirts and postcards etc.
The hand of the astronaut does not hold a flag because when he was painted, the car yard across the road had night lamps and it created a flag and pole shadow right where his outstretched hand is located. Very clever.
And a giant piece by a well known Belgian artist (name escaped us) who specialises in painting dead animals (not sure why).
Up close, this artwork did not look like it had been spray painted - it seemed to be individual brush strokes so must have taken ages.
Our tour had finished here, having run for nearly 3 1/2 hours and we were long past lunchtime at 2.30pm. We wandered back into Oranienstraße to locate somewhere to eat indoors - we were well chilled by the 5 degrees of today.
Perfect - Gerüchte Küche specialized in soup and we had a traditional potato, vegie and wurst soup with bread. Yummy and very warming.
Back on the streets we had to stop here - club SO36 - where Berlin punk is said to have started. Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Lou Reed and others hung out here. However, music tastes have moved on and electro music is the dominant type these days.
Hans liked that it still looked grungy on the outside.
Enough of touring for today. We realized it was only about a 2km walk home in a direct line so we headed off.
Yes, they protest here regularly and this looked like a pretty permanent tent city protesting the deportation and overall treatment of refugees.
The tent city had taken over most of the park.
We kept going and this building in the distance reminded Hans of something...how funny to be given "the finger" remotely by a building...
After being out all day we opted for dinner at home and did a quick stop at Lidl for some bolognaise ingredients and were home just after 4pm.
Reading, blogging, cooking (a favourite hobby for Di) then a nice pasta dinner with wine. All very relaxing and then Fußball...a friendly game on TV between England and Germany.
Di was torn on who to follow. Hans chose Germany and was just happy that they had some quality players on the field. Final score was 1-0 to Germany.
Concurrently in Stockholm, Portugal beat Sweden 3-2 to qualify for football's World Cup in Brazil next year (Hans kept up to date with the score line through the net). Oh well, the Aussies should make it there though...
Another great day in Berlin. We really like this vibrant city. Good night.