I would never walk down to a place like this in America: a graffiti painted so called "park", just off the train station, where I've seen drunken people gather every night, doing who knows what in the so-called "Photo Booths" that border this park. I've passed this area every night, heading home from the train station, and I've always tensed up: it screams robbery and danger to me.
However, in broad daylight, Stuart and I noticed a sign on the barbed wired fence that read that an urban street art gallery and a restaurant were down below—so we hesitantly went down the steps to check it out. As we walked down the stairs and through graffiti covered alleyways, I jokingly whispered to Stuart in English that we needed a code word, just incase we got into danger. We decided on “Pineapple. ” However, much to our surprise, (and relief) there was no need for a code word. In fact, in a few minutes I was actually relaxing along with the parents, children, tourists and couples that were also in this surprisingly beautiful park. The park was well kept, with an urban street gallery and a restaurant as promised… and much more (I posted pictures below)
Stuart and I kept walking on through the alleyways, and graffiti painted ruins to find a rock climbing station, 3 cafes, 4 restaurants, a flea market and a club. I was shocked. It felt like this was the Berlin that we learned about in class—the Berlin that you discover when you have an open heart and some curiosity.
We spent a good 3 hours in this hidden graffiti park. We ate delicious currywurst and pommes while watching a photo shoot of a man and a woman. We met a vendor, originally from Argentina, but has lived in Berlin for the past 25 years because “It has the best culture.” We bought small paintings of Berlin, and I haggled a shirt for 2 euros. We explored the artwork, drank coffee, and journaled.
And as I was journaling I couldn’t help but agree with this Argentinian vendor: Berlin does have the best culture. Here we are, sitting in a graffiti urban gallery, complete with a flea market, restaurants, cafes and above all things, a rock climbing station, which evolved from what was originally just an open space and abandoned ruins. Art and culture in Berlin is everywhere, and this was a prime example of how something could be made of nothing.