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Stretch of Berlin Wall to be protected from tourists

After "unbelievable" acts of vandalism, Berlin has decided to build a barrier around the East Side Gallery. Officials have blamed tourists who consistently write their names on the wall or chip away at the murals.

The city of Berlin announced plans on Thursday to build a barrier around the East Side Gallery, the largest remaining stretch of the Berlin wall, to protect it from souvenir-hunting tourists.

"We have witnessed in recent weeks and months an unbelievable amount of vandalism," said Sascha Langenbach, a spokesman for the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, during a press conference. When announcing plans for a fence, she asserted: "It's about respect."

Around three million tourists visit the site each year, with many of them writing or etching their names on the wall, taking selfies of the act, or even chipping away at the historic murals.

The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 kilometer (one mile) stretch of the Berlin wall which was covered in over 100 iconic murals between February and September 1990 by artists from around the world. In October, the district began a 230,000 euro ($250,000) renovation project to restore the artworks.

But the new paint was barely dry before tourists defaced many of the completed pictures, reported Adalbert-Maria Klees of the district's public spaces commission.

"This barrier should make clear that this is a historical monument," said Klees, who said the immediate vandalism prompted the decision to build the fence. An 80 centimeter-tall (2.6 foot) transparent barrier will keep tourists 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) away from the artworks.

The transparent wall is set to cost 150,000 ($163,000), but should cut down on the unwanted graffiti by 90 percent, according to Klees. Visitors should expect to see the new barrier early next year, along with signs noting the East Side Gallery's protected monument status.

Until then, the murals which have already been restored will be fenced off from the public.

rs/rc (AFP, dpa)

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