Often the best finds when you’re travelling are those that can be deceiving at first. Promising very little upfront, but revealing an amazing space behind them. Berlin has a lot of these as a city, with its plethora of historically-important spots and intricate streets.
On a walking tour of the city, I was treated to something so special and a little hidden away that blew my mind that I really feel I have to share it. Graffiti is a part of any city, it’s a version of social commentary that no urban jungle can escape. Artists of quality will thoughtfully spray their mark in intricate patterns, well-thought out murals and sometimes simple statements. Berlin’s history and the creative soul of the city create a combination too strong for graffiti artists to resist. East Berlin is particularly rich with public art and while most people focus on the graffiti of the Berlin Wall, and understandably so, there are hidden gems like the courtyard at Rosenthaler Straße 39 that are a must-visit here.
Behind an unassuming archway lie the walls splattered with Nazi rhetoric and social commentary from a period starting during the holocaust itself (early 1940s) and stretching to just before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The murals and scratchings here represent the people that resided in East Berlin during this time. Once the city started to clean up its streets after the fall of the wall, important historical reminders were left preserved, including this alley, as a memorial to the story of Berlin.
Just as an important as the graffiti itself is the Museum of Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind at the end of this alley. Otto was a paintbrush maker in Berlin and during the Jewish Holocaust, took in his jewish workers and hid them in the rooms of his workshop in this very alley.
My initial impression walking into the alley was that it looked very run-down in comparison to its surrounding (and dare I say gentrified) neighbourhood of Mitte. Once our guide explained the history behind the alley, its beauty was haunting. It was raining when we went, but I’d love to go back one day and document more of the pieces on the wall because there is just so little detail about them online.
If you’d like to visit this spot, it’s pretty simple to find if you’re on foot, but otherwise check out the Museum’s website for directions including public transport options to get to Mitte. A Berlin walking tour is a great way to get familiar with the city fast and usually doubles up as a crash course on the public transport routes here.