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Friday, February 23, 2007

Berlin-Splitter (16)

This week was the high point of the Carnival Season in Germany. If you missed the Parade last Sunday, you probably won't have noticed much of it though: Berlin doesn't really go in for carnival. The only really visible indication of what's called the "fifth season" (fünfte Jahreszeit) citywide was the sudden increased availability of doughnuts at bakeries.

Gas prices may be coming down (see last week's edition), but it looks like Berlin's water is the most expensive in any German major city, with residents paying around €5 per cubic meter for water delivery and removal. Expensive Munich ranks down at number 9 at just €3.21 / m³, beaten narrowly by Cologne at €3.15 / m³. Berlin also has the highest rate for land tax (which you pay even if you're renting: check your latest Betriebskostenabrechnung, it'll be in there somewhere.

Another group of people with tax issues are Berlin's prostitutes: a few years back the federal government made the world's oldest profession legal, i.e. taxable. Now it looks like Berlin wants bordello owners to collect a daily advance tax of €30 from their horizontally-orientated employees and pass it along to the tax administration together with the names of the ladies (and possibly gentlemen) in question.

The Tierpark Berlin's giraffes have been busy at it too: at the start of the week "Lotti" gave birth to her third calf since 1999, "Andrea", who started off life at 1.81 metres tall. Meanwhile over at the Zoo, baby polar bear "Knut" is doing find and will be presented to the public before Easter.

News of a zoo of a different kind: as reported, the Love Parade is leaving town, probably never to return. The displays of public grief and mourning have, so far, been very limited in nature. It looks like there'll be a "Berlin Dance Parade" scheduled for July 14th instead. Rumours that Al Gore is considering Berlin as a location for one of the "Live Earth" concerts - which would have coincided with the Love Parade - have not been confirmed.

Another dinosaur will be making an appearance in Berlin though: the Naturkundemuseum (Museum for Natural History) will be reconstructing its famous brachiosaurus skeleton in March. It was dismantled a couple of years back for renovation.

Thoug not quite as old as the dinosaurs, parts of Berlin's U-Bahn network have seen better days. On Thursday Südstern station on the U7, opened in 1924, was closed for almost 10 hours after it was discovered part of the platform was potentially at risk of collapse. The problem has been provisionally repaired and the station is now open again.

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