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Friday, February 2, 2007

Berlin-Splitter (14)

The warm winter continues: last week's snow has vanished, it's (comparatively) warm, windy and rainy. 

The world of transport was busy this week. Lots of controversy surrounding the Hauptbahnhof following the recent storm damage: everyone is pointing the finger of blame anywhere but at themselves. Today it was revealed that another one of Berlin's transport running gags, the U55, will have its opening date put back... again. It was supposed to open in 2008, but now the BVG is hedging its bets and not naming any date. Tempelhof Airport, theoretically due to close in 2008, is subject of another legal battle, this time by the affected airlines, who are understandably against its closure. Will we see closure date put back another year or two? Finally, the Panaroma S-Bahn sightseeing train is eight years old and it's time for a holiday: it will be taking a break until March for repairs and overhaul.

The world of hotels was business as usual, as in Berlin has yet more of them. Today the dramatically mis-named "Berlin-Kudamm" - located next to Zoo Station, and not actually on the Ku'damm - celebrated its topping out. It will be run by the MotelOne group (a child company of the Astron Hotels and Resorts AG), which already runs the Motel One onMoritzplatz. Meanwhile, in Mitte near the Auswärtige Amt (Foreign Ministry), construction will begin shortly on the "Arcotel John F.", a 4 start hotel which should be opening in 2009.

And in the world of shopping, good news (at least on the face of it) for consumers: despite the rise in VAT (Mehrwertsteuer) from 16 to 19% at the start of the year, prices have remained stable. However, sneaky retailers spent the last few months of 2006 stealthily raising prices in advance, and further rises can be expected once the sales season is over. If you do have some dosh left over though, the Galleries Lafayette in the Friedrichstraße is doing its best to relieve you of some: the Berlin branch of the famous Parisian department store will be opening its doors until 9pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. And it appears the Kudamm, which has been looking rather dowdy compared to the Friedrichstraße in recent years, has been experiencing something of a renaissance, with over 400 shop, hotel and restaurant openings in the area in 2006.

Fealing a little queasy? It appears that a virus which goes by the name of "Norwalk" (in German: Norovirus) is making the rounds, making its victims very ill in the general location of the digestive tract. It spreads quite easily and is apparently one illness you can catch from toilets. In December 2006 Berlin registered a record 1221 cases, though it's likely many times that number went unreported.

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