The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, but several long segments remained standing, including this one. Kani Alawi and other artists preserved it as a cultural centerpiece of the city in 1990 by organizing artists from all over the world to contribute paintings. But now the East Side Gallery has seen decades of deterioration and the artists are struggling to get money for repairs.
The East Side Gallery encompasses all 1,316 meters of wall in this section, which stretches along the Spree River. It is said to be the largest entirely open-air gallery in the world. But it is also one of the only galleries in which visitors leave blatant marks (look closely and you'll see tiny signatures), despite that doing so is illegal.
New York to Berlin? That was the author's path, and certainly the cities are connected through their arts scenes -- especially as more U.S.-based artists decide to make cheaper (and arguably more vibrant) Berlin their stomping grounds. Here, a tribute to the interconnectedness of the metropolises -- called "Berlin ? New York" -- as repainted in 2000 by Gerhard Lahr.
These days you can walk through a narrow break in the wall and grab a martini. In the Friedrichshain neighborhood of Berlin, a row of clubs, music venues and restaurants lines the Spree River -- and in recent years a few have set up shop in the narrow tract of land between the West side of the East Side Gallery wall and the river.
Deterioration like this break in the wall's concrete, exposing inner metal beams, is becoming more common in the East Side Gallery, as tourists' touches and scavenging bits of the artifact add to natural weather wear from years of exposure.
Sometimes the irony can be too much. A boy from Barcelona chips off a piece of the Berlin Wall near the start of the East Side Gallery -- where a new mural depicts blatant vandalism.
It isn't just weather and the deterioration of the concrete portions of the wall that the founders of the East Side Gallery are seeking to repair by restoring the wall. They'd like to get back to the art that's under thick layers of sloppy signatures and graffiti.
A tourist snaps an image of a spray-paint reproduction of the famous image that adorns the other side of the wall: the fraternal communist kiss between East German leader Erich Honecker and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Tourism is also taking its toll on the wall. Here, 19-year-old Barcelona resident Albert Mendez chips away a piece of the wall's surface to take home as a souvenir.