A Berlin graffiti tour, yo!

by Heidi Obermeyer

Okay, maybe that title was a bit of an exaggeration. Graffiti in Berlin isn’t that gangster. It’s kind of the equivalent of beautiful Germans in Munich- it’s everywhere, and at first you’re super impressed and take pictures sometimes, and then later you realize that both are a dime a dozen and you’re only wowed when you see a REALLY great specimen. And yes ladies and gentlemen, I did just compare Münchners to street art. It’s a sassy kind of day.
When Katelyn visited over Easter, we went on an “underground” tour of Berlin. We found out that that basically means that an extremely hip person with more piercings than you will ever have is willing to show you around all the cool parts of the city for “free” (which really means tip or scram, motherf***er). We thought that this was a great idea since Berlin is all about weird art. We actually saw some pretty cool graffiti and street art, but I will say that the tour guide was a little lackluster in her information-sharing skills. We spent at least 10 minutes discussing the difference between street art and graffiti, which anyone who has already watched Exit Through the Gift Shop obviously already knows. So on that front, things were a little lame, but on the vandalized store-front, they were not!
Most of the pieces we saw were created along the lines of the whole “East v. West” split, which is interesting, but it’s been over 20 years since then. C’mon Berlin, let’s display something else! What about all those baby animals at the zoo? Blow a photo of one of those cuties up and spray paint a version of it on a wall- I know I’ll come visit! According to our tour guide, the graffiti attracts hipster tourists (and their cash $$$, which the city desperately needs) to Berlin from all over the world. Cool! They really ought to be commissioning more work from these daring artists of the night if they achieve such a high level of international notoriety.
Overall, I wouldn’t say I loved the tour, but it’s hard to know where all this cool street art is unless someone shows you, so if you’re really interested I’d say go for it. It was almost worth it just to see the hip-ness levels of the other participants- at least half of the people there were taking photos with film cameras. FILM people.
Some of my favorite street art pieces weren’t on the tour intentionally, like the funny stencil of Kim-Jong-Un on the rocking horse, but are scattered across the city and meant to be experienced serendipitously. It’s fun to just keep an eye out as you walk around, especially in the more happenin’ neighborhoods like Kreuzberg. Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got on graffiti in Berlin! Are there any huge pieces that I missed whilst wandering around on my hipster tour? What else should I keep an eye out for on this city’s walls?