News and views from Germany's federal capital in easily-digestible blog format.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Got kids? In Berlin for the summer
(or for any length of time until Easter 2007)? Unless you keep your
offspring holed up in a cellar, you and your wallet
might be interested to know
about the Super-Ferien-Pass 2006/07
(Super-Holiday-Pass 2006/07), a 144-page booklet
containing coupons providing discounts or free entry for
over 200 places popular with children, such as the Berlin
zoos, museums, sights such as the television tower etc.
Particularly attractive: the pass allows free entry during
school holidays to all indoor and outdoor swimming pools
run by Berlin (Berliner Bäder-Betriebe, BBB), and in winter
also to Berlin's municipal skating rinks.
The pass costs just €9 and is valid for anyone up to 18 years old.
It is available from all branches of Kaisers Supermarket
(just about everywhere in Berlin), Karstadt Sport, ticket offices
of the BBB and various city and borough offices.
Further details (in German only):
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Here's a mini quiz for Berliner car owners:
- Are you male?
- Is your first name Horst?
- Do you live in a palatial building in the middle of the Tiergarten?
If the answer to all three questions is yes, your name
is Horst Köhler, you are the President of Germany and you
have a good reason to have a German flag fluttering from your car.
For everyone else: it's been a whole two weeks since
won the world cup came third,
your flags are not going to make the slightest bit of difference
to the result, and are starting to look tatty too.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Sunset over the Bernauer Straße (Prenzlauer Berg) in April 2006.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Well, it's Friday, and it's still hot (btw according to today's print
edition of the Berliner Zeitung yesterday broke the 37°C barrier),
so time for a mixed bag of useless information under the title
Berlin-Splitter, "Splitter" meaning in German literally
"splinter" or "fragment", but in this context means, well, "a mixed bag
of useless information".
Straight off: a study by health insurers
Kaufmännische Krankenkasse puts Berlin
in 4th place among Germany's 16 Bundesländer for cases of acute
alchoholism per head of the population. Only Bremen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
and Schleswig-Holstein have proprotionately more alkies.
Get some free cinema at the Balkonkino (balcony cinema) in
Hellersdorf (way over on the eastern outskirts of the city) on the
Cecilienplatz. It's one of those Plattenbau areas - vast estates
of prefabricated apartment blocks put up towards the end of the GDR, and
the companies that run them come up with all sorts of ideas to make them
attractive. In this case by offering free open-air cinema: open to
all-comers, though you have to bring your own chair if you want to sit down.
July 22: "NVA" (Germany 2005); July 29: "Hitch, der Date Doctor" (USA 2005),
August 5: "Alles auf Zucker" (Germany 2004) and August 12:
"Die Legende des Zorro" (USA 2005) (all in German, start time: 10pm).
Ever wanted to get lost in a maze of sunflowers? Check out the
in Lichtenberg, open from July 21 - September 6. Entrance is free, and there
are 100,000 sunflowers to get lost in.
Have a favourite place in Germany: the ZDF
is running a competition to find Germany's 50 favourite
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Recommended: ice cream from Kleine Eiszeit in Prenzlauer Berg
According to the Berliner Zeitung it hit
36.1 celsius / centigrade
today, which explains why I got absolutely nothing done.
For those of you watching in Fahrenheit, that's about 97 degrees. I can say
that with confidence because I looked it up
Come to think of it, which countries still use fahrenheit to any great
degree? (Haha). The only one I can think of is the United States, and
to a certain extent Britain, but anyone born after about 1970 - such
as myself - grew up with celsius in the weather reports, so I only have
a vague grasp of fahrenheit. It was always an afterthought along the lines
of "tomorrow will be a sweltering
24 degrees, about 144 fahrenheit, so don't forget to take your woolly
jumper in case it rains". (This is British weather we're talking about,
so weather forecasts are a bit strange anyway).
Berlin's weather is a bit more predictable, and even if I hadn't seen
the forecast I could say with some confidence Friday will be hot and
humid with a high chance of thundery showers in the evening which will
bring some relief and possibly localised disasters such as flooded
cellars and trees falling on cars. It often happens like that after
a hot period: it starts growing humid, black clouds pile in from the
west and suddenly all hell is let loose for an hour or so with squally
rain showers which can be quite dangerous (seriously, as anyone who
remembers the Great Summer Storm of 2002 will confirm).
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Even if you don't speak much German, if you use the U-Bahn or
S-Bahn a lot
in Berlin, there's one word you'll come to know and hate:
Probably the best translation would be something like "shuttle transport",
though I don't think there's an exact translation in English. Basically
what happens is, that a stretch of line requires repairing (which happens
more often than one would like, but is understandable in a network
more than a century old, and which has suffered from decades of neglect).
Rather than completely close the affected section, the powers that be
closed off one of the tracks for repairs, and run a "shuttle train"
the other track. So if you're going from A to Z, the train will run
normally until S, where you have to get off, go over the platform
and board the train continuing towards Z but running on the wrong track.
This will run as far as say P, where - if you're lucky another train will
be waiting to take you as normal to Z, or if you're unlucky it too
will be a Pendelzug which will take you to G. If you are very, very
unlucky there'll be a third Pendelzug, but this is very unusual
and I can only recall suffering it once.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
The recent oil price rises are beginning to hit home, even in a city
like Berlin where half of all households don't own a car. The BVG has calculated
that its costs for diesel are likely to double in comparision with
three or four years ago and has been looking round for alternatives.
They reckon hydrogen is the best bet - the other alternatives would
have been fuel cells, bio-diesel and natural gas - and the first two
hydrogen buses are due to be put into service in Spandau in the next
few weeks. In the next couple of years they plan to convert 20%
of their fleet to this new propulsion form.
Personally I wonder why they didn't try the sauce they put on
currywurst, that certainly makes me go.
Monday, July 17, 2006
So you'd like to come to Berlin but just don't have the time? Simple: send
your teddy instead. Seriously. Not one but two companies are now offering
Berlin tours for teddy bears. For between about €75 and €150 depending
on the type of tour and distance from home,
you can send your teddy on a trip to Germany's federal capital.
The package tours include a trip around the sights
with obligatory photos, and even some extras such as a picnic in
the Tiergarten and a postcard to the owner.
Hard as it is to admit though, this service is not an idea born
Teddy in Munich
has been offering guided tours around the city of the
Oktoberfest since 2005.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
By tradition the middle of June marks the beginn of the
Sommerloch (literally summer hole), that period
when schools and politicians finish for the summer holidays and
the only news is the kind of scurilous, vacuous and empty-headed stuff
specialized in by the Bild newspaper.
The Love Parade has some really cool sponsors
such as the drug store chain Rossmann.
It's somehow appropriate that the Love Parade coincides
with the start of the Sommerloch, being the kind of event which attracts
vacuous and empty-headed - not to mention possibly scurrilous - people,
primarily provincial youth who value the opportunity to use the Tiergarten as a giant toilet while having their DNA
subtly rearranged by high-decible music at about 240bpm.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The Reichstag's cupola - that Norman Foster dome on the roof -
will be closed from Monday to Sunday 23rd July for cleaning. The
roof terrace (which also offers a nice view) and restaurant will be open
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