Berlin Notes

News and views from Germany's federal capital in easily-digestible blog format.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Berlin's first telephone book was published exactly 125 years ago, on July 14 1881, about six months after the introduction of the first telephones. It contained just 28 pages and 187 listings - the modern version runs to two thick volumes of about 1500 densely printed pages each. Back then the Stock Exchange (Börse) had bagged the very easy to remember telehpone number "1".

If you want to take a trip down Berlin's telecommunicative memory lane, the publisher Berlin Story Verlag has reprinted the original as Das erste Berliner Telefonbuch 1881 (German only).

If you want to know more about Berlin's communication history, check out the Museum for Communication Berlin.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Since Germany won the 2006 World Cup (actually they came third, but living here you get the impression the actual final match was a sort of afterthought) everyone was expecting Jürgen Klinsmann, the charismatic and unexpectedly successful team trainer, to extend his contract.

He didn't.

Can't say that I blame him, what with all the millions he has already as well as a nice place to live in California.

But it's not all bad news: the Love Parade is back after a two-year hiatus - appropriately enough under the motto "the love is back".

Taking place on Saturday the 15th, the Love Parade offers a unique opportunity to cure your post-world-cup depression by mixing with hundreds of thousands of provincial teenies having their idea of fun, which if previous years are to go by involves long-term damage to the inner ear and turning the long-suffering Tiergarten into a toilet.

Whether the predicted million or so ravers will actually turn up is another question. Any marketing activities have been rather eclipsed by the World Cup, and the event itself is under new management (much to the disgust of Dr. Motte, the parade's founder, whose company however failed to run the parade at anything less than a large loss).

If nothing else the weather should be OK, with temperatures on Saturday predicted to be around 26C and a 10% chance of rain.

If you can't make the Love Parade, try this event two weeks later (Warning: site name contains a four-letter word which might not be safe in an Anglo-Saxon work environment).

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Don't trust the clocks in Berlin If you find yourself in Berlin without a watch - don't rely too much on the public clocks, they're notorious for being wrong. In extreme cases such as the one on the right, they can show several completely different - and wrong - times.

The World Time Clock (Weltzeituhr) on Alexanderplatz is generally pretty accurate though.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Buy cheese, get flipflops freeAs predicted the good weather is holding up, but evidently the heat has gone to the heads of whoever thinks up product marketing for the Extra chain of supermarkets: at the moment they're offering a "buy cheese, get free flipflops" special. With the flipflops in the same wrapping as the cheese.

Still, at least the flipflops don't need to be "worn in" to get that authentic cheesy fragrance.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Swiss Embassy, Berlin: announcing the European Cup 2008 in Switzerland Well, it's all over now bar the shouting, and to be honest seeing all these footballs everywhere does get a little tiring. It'll be another two years before the next round of craziness, which according to this light installation on the back of the Swiss Embassy will be the European Cup in 2008, to be held in Switzerland which is fortunately quite a long way away.

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Sunday, July 9, 2006

World Cup - the "Fan Mile" in Berlin As someone who has trouble remembering which teams are playing in a match, my participation in the plethora of World Cup related events has been somewhat minimal. More by chance than design I ended up at the "Fan Mile" in Berlin's Tiergarten on Saturday night in time to watch the Germany-Portugal match for third place (although judging by the reactions of the local citizenry you'd think Germany had won the cup).

Though very crowded, especially in front of the big screens, it was a comparatively civilized affair, the kind of event where you could - and people did - bring the kids. There was a police presence, and fairly thorough searches were conducted at the entrance points, but once inside safety was pretty much up to the crowd itself, and as I've experienced at similar events in Germany, everyone was pretty well-behaved. Loud and raucous yes, but noone doing anything really idiotic like throwing stuff into the crowd or brawling. (Might have been different if England had been playing though).

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Saturday, July 8, 2006

If you're taking a walk along Berlin's longest remaining section of wall, the East Side Gallery, don't be surprised to find part of it missing. A 40 metre section has just been removed (and put up again a short distance away) to create access to the River Spree from the nearby O2 World stadium / arena complex, which is currently under construction.

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Friday, July 7, 2006

Well, I was right about the motive behind the mysterious concrete footballs. Turns out the guys behind them "feel that they have been misunderstood as artists", with their intent behind the rather-too-solid balls being to symbolise football as a mass phenomonen etc. etc. The Berliner Zeitung has more information (German only).

All 16 "installations" have disappeared in the meantime, making Berlin once again safe for casual kickers of footballs.

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Thursday, July 6, 2006

For the last few days footballs filled with concrete and chained together in pairs have been turning up in various parts of Berlin. Sometimes they've been accompanied by the invitation "can u kick it?", which has led to foot injuries to anyone trying. 16 of the football pairs have turned up so far. Now the police have found the perpetrators: two Austrians who have been living in Berlin for some time, and who were in the process of making more of the concrete footballs, which weigh about 10kg each.

Their motives are not yet known, though I'd bet the words "conceptual", "art" and/or "installation" would be involved in any explanation.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Empty street in Berlin It was Germany versus Italy in the semifinal last night - and the streets virtually empty, the only noise coming from the fluttering of German flags and the occasional cries of despair as yet another goal opportunity was missed. The German description for this kind of must-see event is Strassenfeger (literally "street sweeper").

Only problem was the slight lack of goals against Italy, and the atmosphere this morning is somewhat subdued to say the least. Still a lot of flags flying defiantly though.

Not being German we celebrated with some Italian nectarines fresh from the supermarket.

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