I dedicate this photo journal to my husband, the talented, award-winning artist and graphic designer, Travis Cain, for inspiring me to see the beauty in the world every single day.
Some of the best writing I have ever done was during or after distressing times. I have a trunk full of diaries with hand written tales of teen angst, and broken hearts, and troubles at home. Before I could write, I would draw my feelings, capture them in a piece of paper and give them to whomever I wanted to express these emotions to – often times that was my mom. I have always been one to pour my emotions into some visual form of expression, whether drawn or written.
Walking through Berlin felt to me like walking through pages and pages of emotional expression. Art is everywhere. To express political, social, or even personal turmoil and celebration. It’s fitting that the graffiti capital of Europe would also be a UNESCO City of Design. Once that wall came down in 1989 West Berliners saw the gray, sterile walls of East Berlin as fresh, blank canvases for their art.
The rebellion in all of it is exactly what artistic expression is, especially for those of us who use our creativity to speak up and speak out. But there’s a lot of celebration too, the celebration of freedom of expression. Today Berlin is one of the graffiti cities in Europe.
A tourist favorite spot for graffiti viewing and photographing is along the Berlin Wall on Mühlenstraße in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, otherwise known as the East Side Gallery, where a long list of artists who contributed close to mile’s worth of art over the years.
It’s pretty cool to see something that was so oppressing and divisive be used as a medium for expression in this way. The opposite side of the wall isn’t as organized, but it is the nicest place to sit and enjoy the views of the river Spree.
However, there are other areas where I thought the graffiti was a bit more impressive. The courtyard on Rosenthaler Straße is a massive display of street art. Here artists are free to make their mark without fear of legal repercussions. It’s truly an open air museum. If you walk too fast, or fail to look all around, you are bound to miss something. Some art is huge, such as Astronaut Cosmonaut by Victor Ash, ROA’s Transit, and East Side Hotel Mural by Boa Mistura. Some art is smaller and maybe a bit more hidden, but no less impactful. And not all street art in Berlin is spray painted onto walls. The Ampelmännchen (little street light man) was designed in 1961 by an East German traffic psychologist named Karl Peglau.
When the wall fell a lot of Western Berlin’s marks took over the East. However, the Ampelmännchen hung on, becoming a cultural icon admired and recognized throughout the world. It has become a symbol of reunification, of embracing signs of an oppressed society and reinventing them as unifying art and acceptance.
Berlin is one those cities you don’t close your eyes to. The old with the new, the energy and constant waves of creativity that surround you, it’s really easy to fall in love. And I definitely did.
Disclosure: I was the guest of Berlin Tourism.