We were staying only 1 night in Krakow, Poland at the Hostel Giraffe. During check-in I noticed your typical information peg board of flyers for tours, hostels, etc. Amongst them I found one lonely flyer that stood out to me. It was black and edgy looking with the words “ALTERNATIVE BERLIN” on it. It was advertising a FREE walking day tour taking through the underground world of the city. The words of this flyer drew me in a sold me in a heartbeat and I eagerly showed it to Scott. Berlin was now officially added to our list of must go places. Finally a chance to see the other side of a city, the sort of side we like to spend our free time back home in Vancouver. Now all we had to do was show this flyer to Karen and Steve and convince them to come too.
Not at all to our surprise, they were interested and we shortened our time in at Oktoberfest so we could squeeze a day in Berlin to attend this walking tour before they had to fly back home to Canada. The day was overcast with a chance of rain so we all packed our rain gear excited for what we might see for the day. They say each tour is tailored to the needs and general interest of the groups, and we were hoping that it would only be us 4 in the group so we could direct it our way! Thankfully everyone on the tour was in the same mindset as us.
For our tour we were taken to various areas of the city with amazing graffiti work, squat houses, skate parks and awesome art spaces. The artwork we saw is some of the best graffiti work we have seen and all the pieces we saw got a bit of background about the artist and sometimes their intent as well. Half way through the tour it started to down pour rain. We felt great being so prepared but others on the tour came with nothing and got soaked.
There is so much good artwork all over the city, we asked about it. Apparently in Berlin it’s illegal to graffiti, but unlike other cities there’s no law in place forcing building owners to cover it up. Because this usually costs quite a bit of money the building owners don’t paint over it, leaving much of the artwork up. It’s interesting because most of the graffiti was artwork, not some squiggles on the wall that is just vandalism. Almost like an equilibrium has formed between building owners and artists; paint crap and we’ll cover it, but make it worthwhile and we’ll leave it alone.
Check out some of our favorite photos from the day below:
If you come to see this one at night the astronaut actually looks like it is carrying a flag due to the car dealerships flags and it’s lighting located just in front.
This piece and many more bright and colorful images just like it were painted by various artists all on the first floor area of an apartment building that had a large problem with violence and gangs, to the point that people were scared to leave their homes. A campaign was done to clean up the area with art. Many of the images of the people on the walls of are ones who live in the building or who have died, or just random images of faces that make you think. Low and behold the idea worked! There hasn’t been any problems at the base of this building since and for the most part other artists have respected the area and don’t cover up the work with their own.
I could describe everything we saw and learned this day about Berlin that most people never learn or bother to get to know, but it would be quite an epic post. So, in short I’ll say this: After spending 1 day on this tour we want to go back to Berlin one day to experience it some more and sign ourselves up for some of the other tours that Alternative Berlin offers. They are a great bunch of locals that LOVE their hidden side of the city but thankfully of willing to share it with those who are interested.
So if your into grafitti and other underground scene related things, check them out at www.alternativeberlin.com and spend a day with them. You won’t be disappointed!!
Check out the rest of our pics from the day at our flickr album or by clicking on a thumbnail below: