Restoration starts on longest remnant of Berlin Wall

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BERLIN — East German leader Erich Honecker famously proclaimed in 1989 that the Berlin Wall could remain in place for another 100 years.

It turns out that his faith in East German construction was almost as off the mark as his political instincts. The Wall opened for traffic a few months after Honecker spoke. And now the remaining pieces are crumbling physically.

On Wednesday, some 19 years after the barrier was opened, restoration work began on the longest remaining stretch, which has been ravaged by age and damaged by vandals and trophy hunters chipping off pieces.

The three-quarter-mile (1.3 kilometer) stretch, known as the East Side Gallery, snakes along the Spree River in Berlin's Friedrichshain neighborhood. In 1990, 118 international artists covered it with elaborate graffiti at the city's invitation...

Today, the stretch of Wall attracts droves of tourists, who pose for snapshots in front of the murals...

In addition to the crumbling concrete, the murals themselves have seen better days, as pollution, rain and graffiti have turned them into a sad, flaking sight.

The approximately 2.2 million euro (US$3 million) restoration project will see much of the original concrete removed and replaced with better-quality materials, and then finished with a surface that will better keep the artwork from peeling off.

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