10 things you can do in Berlin – but should you?!

I recently stumbled across an article published already last summer, featuring the catchy headline “10 things you can do in Berlin, but not in the US“. The article listed ten things, the author wants to make you believe ‘you can do in Berlin’. I had a closer look at those ten things ‘you can do’ and I must say I’m a bit concerned. Is this the picture people have of Berlin? Is this, what tourists think of Europe? Is this, why so many people choose to travel to Berlin? I hope not.

I know – publishing business is difficult. Listicles do ‘click well’. And the more provocative an article is, the better the chances are, that the article can ‘go viral’. But still: the article is really bothering me. Not that I think, the article would not tell the truth – which in some parts it does, in other parts it doesn’t. But only because you can do something, does it mean you should?

I know – the author of the article “10 things you can do in Berlin, but not in the US” probably does not really want to encourage the reader to do all those things, while in Berlin. I suppose the article was originally written rather out of curiosity – and I must admit I think I do understand the original purpose and I share the curiosity for differences between cultures, habits, laws. There are even some things missing: drinking in public is listed. But for example smoking in bars is missing. Anyways. In the end I probably had a very similar motivation, when I started this ‘Berlin guide’ nuberlin.com:  to simply point out, what you can do, when you’re in Berlin – and how things are done in Berlin in general. And what the local habits are. And – well. So far so good.

I really don’t want to be a ‘Spaßbremse‘ when I quickly go through the list, adding my opinion to each of the “things you can do”. I just have to add my ‘five cents’ (“my mustard“) and point out, what I think of each point. Hope you enjoy it still.

1. “Drinking in public”

Well – yes. Of course you can drink in public in Berlin. But please consider not getting drunk in public. Or at least try to behave. I even put up a hole page about this, because I think it’s quite an important subject: Drinking in Public

2. “Urinate outdoors”

What?! Well. Ok – compared to the US, maybe this is something, you can do – but should you?! I mean – would you really like the idea, of… Anyways. If it is really necessary, you may of course try to find a spot – behind a tree, in the bushes – but… Please try to avoid urinating in public. And by the way: urinating in public is not allowed in Germany! In some cities, you’ll risk a fine up to 5000 Euro! In Berlin however it’s only 20 Euro, as far as I know.

3. “Buy sex on the streets”

Excuse me?! Well. Ok – again I can just say: compared to the US, maybe this is something, you actually can do – but should you?! I don’t really want to go into details – but to me it just sounds so wrong. And it appears to me even worse to point this out in such an article in an encouraging way. Basically I find it good, that ‘sex workers’ are not criminalized for their job in Germany – but there is just so much more to this topic than just “legal vs. illegal”. There is a lot of human trafficking in Europe, young girls are promised ‘model careers’, passports are taken away, girls do risk their health for a ‘better’ life, etc. …

4. “Be naked… anywhere”

Again: What?! “Anywhere”?! Don’t! Well – again: compared to the US, the situation here probably is quite relaxed. But what does the author want to say by pointing out that “everyone is swimming naked, including entire families with kids”?! Of course, there are actually some spots, where people do go swimming naked. But when you are actually visiting Berlin please try to spot one naked person – it may be quite difficult.

5. “Reach countless other countries by train”

Yes, this is so true, especially ever since the Berlin Wall came down. You can basically book a train ticket to every and any European, or even Asian destination.

 6. “Stay a student until your mid-30s without shame or judgment”

Well – true. Somehow. But without shame of judgment? I’m not so sure…

7. “Drive at 150 on a public road, legally”

Yep. Or let’s put it this way: there are still parts of the German Autobahn where you have no speed limit – but not in Berlin anymore. On some days, if there is not so much traffic and the weather conditions are fine, on these parts of the Autobahn you may actually go “as fast as possible”. But again: should you? I actually have to admit I do enjoy it myself from time to time. But please remember: driving f***ing fast it is f***ing dangerous!!

 8. “Get a massage courtesy of your health insurance”

Well – if the doctor decides, that a massage would help, then you’ll get a massage. And depending on the health insurance contract you won’t have to pay for it. Of course!

9. “Evacuate due to bomb threats… from unexploded WWII bombs”

OMG yes. This is actually probably kind of unbelievable: about 60 years after the heavy bombings there are still bombs hidden underneath the city. And every now and then streets are closed, houses are evacuated, bombs are removed. Scary.

10. “Ride public transportation for free”

This is a good one. You could also claim, that you could have free lunch – if you just ate and run. But as we all know: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!

Please feel free to head over to thrillist.com and read the original article “10 things you can do in Berlin, but not in the US

Drunk man took hostage in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg

Some Berlin news from last night: shortly after half past midnight, a 24 year old man entered an apartment in Berlin Prenzlauerberg’s Christburger Strasse. He then called the hotline of the Berlin fire department and claimed he had taken a hostage.

The fire department then called the police and went straight to Christburger Strasse. When the police arrived, the ‘hostage’ – a 59 year old man, is already free and is taken care of by the medical staff of the fire department. The drunk man had hurt the ‘hostage’ on the wrist while ‘holding’ him. The ‘hostage’ anyways still escaped rather easily.

The 24 year old man then ‘welcomed’ the police by throwing things from the third floor kitchen window – media reports say that there were also kitchen knives among those ‘things’ thrown from the window.

The police then went to the third floor, talked to the man through the closed door and asked him to open the door. By then the man had already calmed down and replied he would want to open the door, but couldn’t because the door was locked and the key was broken and stuck inside the lock. The police then opened the door by force. A first alcohol test revealed the man was quite drunk: 2.31‰. The man was then escorted to a nearby hospital. Good morning Berlin!

Here’s the news in German at Tagesspiegel.de:
Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg Betrunkener scheitert mit ‘Geiselnahme‘”

Berlin City Palace – historical and current photos

Since 2012 the inner city area around Schlossplatz is a gigantic construction site: the Humboldtforum is built where Berlin’s City Palace once was.

I know, most people refer to the new building as ‘The City Castle’ or just “The Castle” – but only because it looks like a castle and it’s located where the old City Palace once was doesn’t make it a City Palace.

Anyways. I will try to dig into that rebuilding- and naming-problem on a different page. This news entry is actually about a series of photos – both historical and current photos – you can find on the website of Berlin’s newspaper Berliner Morgenpost. The intersting part is: some of the current photos are shot from the same perspective as the historical photos, that were shot between 1900 and 1939. A slider lets you switch between the historical view on Berlin’s old City Palace and the view on the construction of the Humboldtforum.

Additionally the ‘Interactive Special’ is enriched with a time lapse video, showing the construction of the ‘New City Palace’ bit also some video footage from the inside of the brand new building.

Here you go:
Das Berliner Stadtschloss damals und heute” (interaktiv.morgenpost.de/berliner-schloss)

And here’s the Wikipedia Page about the Berlin City Palace:

If you want to get an impression of what the Old City Palace looked like you may want to watch this 12 minute video:

You want to know what actually happened to the old City Palace? Well – it got damaged during Second World War bombings – and then it was blown up in 1950 by the East German government.

…to be continued…

Berlin: a Single City (both male and female)

Are you single? Or I should actually rather ask: Are you living alone? The good news is: you are not alone. A recent research tells us, the majority of Berlin apartments are inhabited by one person – or in other words: the majority of Berlin households are single-person households.

For long-term Berliners this probably isn’t the newest news – already in 2004 microcensus-data showed us, that most of Berliners seem to live alone. But also locals may find it still interesting that nothing much has changed in the past ten years: Berlin (still) is the Capital of singles. And – yes – that does somehow apply to female and male Berliners. That is at least my conclusion since the report doesn’t actually distinguish between sexes.

Anyways. Here’s some of the ‘Single Facts’

  • More than half of Berlin households are single households – or in numbers: 53.9% of Berlin apartments are inhabited by one person only – which is 3.7% more than the results of the last research ten years before.
  • Berlin now has less households (2014: 17.7%) inhabited by three or more Berliners, than ten years ago (2004:18.9%).
  • A bit more than a quarter of all Berlin households (28,4%) are two-person households.
  • This ‘trend’ also seems to apply to elderly people: In Berlin over 40% of people older than 65 years live alone – in Brandenburg it’s less than 30%.
  • In the inner-city districts Mitte and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg have the highest percentage of single-person apartments – 60% more households are single-person households compared to the all other Berlin districts
Berlin: a single-person household city

Berlin: households compared

What do these statistics tell us? Do men and women prefer to live alone? Is this a sign, that Berlin apartments are still quite affordable? Is the traditional family mother-father-child a vanishing construct in large cities? How does Berlin compare to other great cities like London, Paris, New York, Tokyo? I must admit I’m a bit puzzled – living in a two-person household myself I know only very few people living alone. But maybe that’s just me? I’m looking forward to read your point of view – please feel free to leave a comment…

data / microcensus-data: CC BY – Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg

Berlin Airlift – a candy bomber pilot’s thoughts about freedom

The Herald (www.heraldextra.com) recently published an article about Candy Bomber Gail Halvorsen who shares his thoughts about freedom. 95 year old Halvorsen was serving as a ‘Rosinenbomber’ pilot back in 1948, supplying West-Berlin with food and goods – and candy bars when Berlin was blocked by russian forces. For the 67th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift Halvorsen will ‘re-enact’ the Airlift in his hometown Orem – planning to  fly over Orem on July 3 and drop candy bars from the plane.

Read the full story over at heraldextra.com:
Candy Bomber shares thoughts about freedom on 67th anniversary of Berlin Airlift

See also this video for a short introduction on the Berlin Airlift and the Candy Bomber Gail Halvorse:

See also:

Kaufhof sold to Canadian Hudson’s Bay

Kaufhof is one of the rather large department store brands Berlin has. Chances are you have already been on one of the Kaufhof shops if you have visited Berlin. There is for example one rather large Kaufhof shop right at Alexanderplatz.

Now Canadian Hudson’s Bay has just bought Kaufhof for 2.8 Billion Euro and told the media, that ‘nothing much’ will change: people will keep their jobs, Berliners will keep their shops. Big news? Not really. But a bit strange anyways, since there has been some buying and selling of Berlin department stores in the recent past.

If I remember correctly first in 2013 the KaDeWe was sold to an Austrian investor “Benko” – then also all Karstadt department stores were sold to the same investor. Just last week the KaDeWe was then again sold to the Italian department store ‘chain’ La Rinascente – and Berliners are a bit concerned about the future of their shopping oasis.

I personally find it a bit strange when people buy and sell shops – but that’s probably just me.

Berlin’s Late Shops and Kiosks: sunday shopping re-thought

Currently an online petition makes its round through Berlins newspapers, Berlin blogs and social media. The initiator claims she wants to ‘save’ Berlin’s Late Shop and Kiosk Culture. But wait – is Berlin’s Late Shop and Kiosk Culture really in danger? Maybe not quite yet. But…

As you might know already Berlin appears to be a bit more liberal towards some aspects of life, than other cities. Bars and clubs are basically allowed to close (or not to close) whenever they like, and Late Shops, Night Shops and Kiosks (“Späti” or “Spätverkauf”) can sell alcohol after regular shops are already closed for the day.

Of course Spätis don’t only sell alcohol. The offer may very from shop to shop – often you’ll find a variety of products for everyday use such as tooth brushes, milk, newspapers – and of course also beer, wine, and the like. But (now it comes) alcohol is not to be sold on sundays and other ‘holy days’ between 7 am. and 4 p.m.. What? Yep. That’s at least what I just learnt. Späties selling drinks, be it beer for a chill in the park, be it sparkling wine for brunch, are risking to be shut down by Berlin’s ‘Ordnungsamt’. But (now it comes) gas stations and ‘Mini Malls’ in train stations are not affected by this law (Berliner Ladenschlussgesetz) and may sell bews all sunday long.

Often local ‘Kiez’ Late Shops are privately owned and run by locals. Some exist for generations – I personally know one legendary late night shop that is run by the grand-son of the original owner. The shop keepers work crazy hours – and sunday shopping is important for ’em – be it alcohol or not.

Now some politician from Berlin’s conservative party CDU are suggesting it would be a good idea not to sell alcohol after 10 p.m. – at all. This would then again also affect gas stations and even fast food stands.

While I am aware that alcohol is actually a drug and may have negative effects on health and social life,  I find it personally highly annoying that ‘they’ think ‘they’ can tell Berlin city when and where to buy and/or drink alcohol. I’m not the type of guy that drinks drinks on sundays – but that’s not the point. I wanna keep my Späti! And I wanna keep my freedom! And I don’t want any conservative party politicians to f**k with that. This is why I signed the petition – and this is why I would recommend you sign it too.

> Save Berlin`s unique and popular Späti-culture! (scroll down for english version)

[ via wirres.net and berliner-zeitung.de ]

Carneval of Cultures Street Parade live stream

This year’s Carneval of Cultures Street Parade just kicked off. Wheather conditions are fine, and the parade currently makes her way through the streets of Berlin-Kreuzberg.

Not in town but still want to see, what the parade looks like? Lucky you: local public radio station Radio1 and local public TV station RBB are both covering the parade with live streams and photo galleries etc. – you’ll find the live streams and more from their website www.radioeins.de and www.rbb-online.de

And then there’a also the Carneval of Cultures Street Festival…

S-Bahn strikes again [update: end of strike]

Almost a bit boring – but still relevant:
Deutsche Bahn train conductors are on strike – again.
And that means that also Berlin’s S-Bahn conductors are on strike – again.

Again: about one thrird of Deutsche bahn trains should be operating – and most of the S-Bahn lines will operate every twenty minutes. But as far as i know – again – the Ringbahn will not be in service.

All other public transport, like Trams, U-Bahn and busses, run by Berlin’s public transport operator BVG,  will be operating ‘as usual’ – again.

Further information about the strike should be (again) available on the homepage of Berlin S-Bahn – although currently the site seems to be down. Or is it just me? Anyways – here’s the link to the page with schedules etc.:

[UPDATE] Surprisingly enough one day after the Deutsche Bahn strike began, it will be over. For how long? Nobody knows – at least for a couple of wekks the radio says. Over the day there may still be irregularisies – but (as the radio noted) from about 7 pm on trains should be operating close to normal – and so should Berlin’s public transport provider S-Bahn.