This summer I went on an amazing sort of Eurotrip along Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm. I had never been to any of these three cities and it was time to cross them out of my to-do list. In particular, I went on a quest to find street art around these cities. Overall it turned out to be a pretty awesome trip. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun and met so many wonderful people throughout this relatively short journey.
In terms of street art and discovering the alternative part of the societies I was about to discover, I would like to take my hat off for the amazing work the people at Alternative Berlin walking tour do. This is not only a free tip-based tour: it’s the best I have ever done.
Taking you beyond the tourist destinations to the heart and soul of the city:
The underground sights & sounds, world-famous STREET ART and GRAFFITI culture, haunts and hangouts of the famous and infamous and the landmarks of rock, reggae, punk and electronic music.
What really made this tour special was the thoughroughness of the information, the explanation of the stories and the roots behind the origins of the current society in the city of Berlin. This wouldn’t have been the same without our awesome guide Jason. From Cali, 15 years in Berlin, and a true passion for this city.
The tour was intense (+ or – 4:30 hours) but I haven’t felt bored once. The passion Jason trasmits when talking about the modern history of Berlin is captivating. You just can’t stop listening. History is made by the victors, they say. True. But it’s also made of a lot of unsual stories that you wouldn’t expect to read in a history book or an official city guide book. Jason knows a big deal of these stories. What happened on both sides of the Berlin wall, why a particular piece of street art has been placed in a specific place, what it meant for society at the time of its making, and what it means now. This is what I was looking for … and I found it.
At the very beginning, you are taken to the “RAW.” The postindustrial jumble of derelict buildings along Revaler Strasse is one of the last alternative compounds in central #Berlin. In its earlier life it was a train repair station, founded in 1867 as the ‘Reichsbahn-Ausbesserungs-Werk’ (RAW for short) and in operation until 1994. Since 1999, the graffiti-slathered grounds have been a thriving off-beat socio-cultural centre offering workspace for artists and creatives of all stripes along with clubs and bars, an indoor skate park and – in summer – a bunker-turned-climbing-wall with attached beer garden and outdoor cinema. This is a place with literally everything but each and every corner has its own story. You can’t miss it.
Moving on, I was really looking forward to see the work of El Bocho. The Berlin-based artist works with giant cut outs and installations, some up to 20 ft tall, which he then hangs up Berlin city walls during night time. The cut out here below is on a wall just behind the RAW area. Aside from using canvas he has recently started working with tiles. His newest experiment involves exposing poster paper to sunlight and precipitation, then adding color, before leaving it outside again to mesh with the natural surroundings.
After taking a short train ride, nearby Oranjestrasse we arrive at one of the greatest pieces of street art you can find in the German capital. Victor Ash made the Astronaut mural in Kreuzberg as part of the 3rd editon of the Backjumps Festival in 2007. Since then, the wall has become one of the street art landmarks of Berlin, together with the famous murals by Blu, Roa or Os Gemeos, all in Kreuzberg.
The visit obviously ends at the Berlin wall which came to symbolize the Cold War’s division of East from West Germany and of eastern from western Europe. About 5,000 East Germans managed to cross the Berlin Wall (by various means) and reach West Berlin safely, while another 5,000 were captured by East German authorities in the attempt and 191 more were killed during the actual crossing of the wall. In 2015 its power, its symbolism and iconology is a strong reminder of what “us Europeans” have managed to achieve in the form of the European union: peace.
L’Europa è più forte unita. Manteniamo la pace e manteniamo l’Europa unita per noi stessi e ele generazioni future
I tipped Jason generously because it was a terrifici day and the expertise demonstrated throughout the tour was indisputable. Make sure you join this tour on your next trip to Berlin and do the same.