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Berlin news in English: daily blog

The latest English news about coronavirus, politics, culture, business and more from Berlin and beyond.

The construction work that caused the damage at Alex. Photo: IMAGO / Jürgen Held

Thursday 26, January

On Thursday, there were 443 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 64.1 cases per 100,000 people.

We finally know when the U2 will get fixed – and it’s not good news

The U2 line has been interrupted at Alexanderplatz for three months already – and it’s not getting fixed any time soon. The damage was done when the subway tunnel was damaged by some nearby construction work on a high rise building undertaken by the real estate development company Covivio. Now, following a meeting between the BVG, the developers and the Senate, we’ve learned that normal service is unlikely to resume until the end of the summer holidays in Berlin – which come on August 25 this year. Since the damage occurred in October, this will bring the total time the U2 has been running on just one track to around 10 months, during which time many other Berlin routes are also closed for renovation. 

Covivio have still not, at this point, submitted plans for the tunnels repair –  and there have been fears the damage is more extensive than previously thought. The tunnel is more than 100 years old, and made of concrete that is not reinforced with steel – but the BVG has denied any speculation that the structure would need to be completely demolished and rebuilt from scratch. 

All flights are cancelled from BER airport on Wednesday. Photo: IMAGO / Political-Moments

Wednesday 25, January

On Wednesday, there were 440 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 55.9 cases per 100,000 people.

No flights from BER today; no traffic on Friedrichstrasse from Monday

Around 300 scheduled flights will remain grounded today due to strike at BER airport. The Verdi union has called for all airport workers, aviation security and ground staff at Berlin’s major airport to cease work today between the hours of 3.30am and 11.59pm as part of an industrial dispute. To counter rising inflation Verdi wants an increase in pay for its members of 500 euros per month – but the company is only prepared to offer a one off payment of 2,000 euros, while also demanding a significant extension to the length of workers’ contracts. A Verdi spokesman told rbb that he believes this one-day strike will apply the necessary pressure on employers enabling an agreement in the next round of negotiations. 

The airport is not the only part of Berlin which may quieten down in the coming days. Traffic Senator Bettina Jarasch’s plans to implement a car-free Friedrichstrasse were blocked by the courts last year, with the street opening up to vehicular traffic again last October following a two year period of pedestrianisation. From Monday, however, the street will close again from Leipziger Strasse to Französische Strasse and – depending on the results of Berlin’s upcoming elections – it may well be permanent.

Germany has a long tradition of defacing election posters. Photo: IMAGO / Eberhard Thonfeld

Tuesday 24, January

On Monday, there were 563 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 57.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Election poster vandalism entering a new “dimension”?

Berlin is preparing for a new vote and, with the repeat election just over two weeks away on February 12, there are already some complaints by election candidates that posters are being targeted for vandalism in a new and concerted fashion. It has long been the case in the city that you can get a measure of how unpopular any given candidate is in your area by how high they feel the need to hang their campaign poster. The higher up it is, the more worried their staff are that unhappy voters will decide to deface or remove the poster rather than have to walk past that particular grinning picture each day. This vandalism has always been around but now, according to some prospective MPs, it has entered a new “dimension.”

Antje Kapek (Greens) and Ramin Rachel (SPD) are both quoted in rbb as saying that this damage is currently being seen on an unprecedented scale. This isn’t quite backed up by the numbers of reported crimes, though police concede there may be a significant increase in unreported cases. But we might do well to take any talk of a new “dimension” with a pinch of salt. We were also told that the New Year’s Eve “riots” showed a new dimension of violence, since which time polls have shown voters have a significant increase in concerns about migration and security and a decrease in worries about traffic and housing problems. And who does that benefit?

Photo: IMAGO / ITAR-TASS

Monday 23, January

On Monday, there were 426 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 62.8 cases per 100,000 people.

How Berlin burglars use acid to melt away your lock

Nitric acid is a strong, corrosive burning substance and oxidising agent for which some Berlin criminals have seemingly found a new use. As of January 5, there were reportedly 50 cases under investigation in Berlin in which people had used nitric acid to break into houses, using the toxic liquid to melt away locks on the doors of targeted apartments. Nitric acid is a controlled substance in Germany: it is illegal for private individuals to possess the substance and it cannot be sold freely. The powerful acid is strong enough to melt away metal, but it would be dangerous to human flesh and the wood of a door: even wearing gloves would not be sufficient protecting against the stuff. Burglaries are up generally in Berlin, too. Following a decline during the pandemic, 6,887 burglaries were recorded in the city last year, an increase of 36 percent on the previous period. 

Photo: IMAGO / Reichwein

Friday 20, January

On Friday, there were 372 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 61.0 cases per 100,000 people.

After another assault, BVG cancels contract with private security firm

Out of control ticket inspectors have been a serious problem on the BVG for some time now. There have been too many cases to name where passengers – both those with valid tickets and without – have been attacked and even hospitalised by the aggressive, bullying security firms who the BVG employ as sub-contractors to carry out their ticket checks. Well, now, apparently, things have gone too far even for the BVG, who have cancelled their contract with the security company Pütz with immediate effect.  According to reporting from the Tagespiegel, the decision was made following another (!) attack on a passenger. The contract was terminated back in November. In order to find a long term partner, the company is now putting the contract out for tender. According to internal documents, they were forced to seek a new interim contractor at short notice as otherwise “the existence of the BVG would have been endangered due to the lack of security”. 

The U2 has been shut for three months already. Photo: IMAGO / Sabine Gudath

Thursday 19, January

On Thursday, there were 443 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 64.1 cases per 100,000 people.

U2 closed, U6 disrupted, North-South tunnel closed – what’s going on with Berlin public transport?

Anyone travelling to the north of Berlin is having a tough time at the moment. The North-South tunnel of the S-Bahn is closed for six weeks of maintenance and renovation work while the U2 has been shut down between Klosterstrasse and Senefelderplatz for three months already due to damage inflicted by construction work on a new high-rise at Alexanderplatz. On top of this, the U6 suffered a technical fault yesterday which left anyone travelling to or from the north of the city without any normally operating line to get them to their destination. The fault on the U6 has now been resolved, but there is a row developing between the city government and the investor group Covivio over the disruption of the U2.

It has now been more than three months since the track closed down, and Berlin transport senator Bettina Jarasch (Greens) criticised the company yesterday for their failure to submit a plan for the repair of the tunnel. “Covivio is the cause of this damage,” she said, “and must ensure that it is repaired.” It still isn’t clear when the U2 tunnel will resume normal service, but there are fears of more problems on the horizon. Investment group Signa are planning another high rise building, also at Alexanderplatz, right next to the U8 tunnel, which doesn’t exactly bode well. Might be time to build more bike lanes…

Nighttime snowfall in Berlin. Photo: IMAGO / photothek

Wednesday 18, January

On Wednesday, there were 469 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 70.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Five to ten centimetres of snow expected around Berlin today

So far this year temperatures have been unusually – and frighteningly – warm (it was 18.1 degrees on New Years Eve!). Now, however, it looks like we might actually get some winter, with five to ten degrees of snow expected in Berlin and Brandenburg on Wednesday. Snowfall is expected to arrive in the capital at around noon on Wednesday, and with temperatures remaining between one and three degrees, it may even settle on the ground. The snowfall is expected to last all day before clearing up during the night – but there’ more coming. More precipitation is expected on Friday and that time the snow will likely last through the weekend. Sub-zero temperatures at night will bring frost, so be careful on the slippery streets – and enjoy the views!

Adidas realitywear, the new fashion range that wasn’t. Photo: Realitywear

Tuesday 17, January

On Tuesday, there were 733 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 72.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Adidas forced to deny they had a good idea after Berlin PR stunt

Yesterday in Mitte, bruised and bloodied models traipsed across a catwalk at the launch of a new range of Adidas REALITYWEAR garments in front their assembled fans who were, for the most part, not aware that the whole thing was a fake. According to a press release sent from a fake Adidas email address, the company was launching a new “suffering-forward” range designed by Pharrell Williams, which allowed fans of the company to “literally wear the toil of workers on [their] sleeves”. The clothing range seemed to aim for a deliberately “distressed look” and the garments were adorned with phrases that recalled the company’s past misdeeds, stating things like: “Wage theft” and “union buster”. Most remarkably, the statement claimed they had appointed a new co-CEO in the form of the trade unionist and former sweatshop worker Vay Ya Nak Phoan. The hoax was picked up by various media outlets, who reported the news as genuine.

Adidas have since denied they are taking such steps to reform their business practices, which have come under the spotlight in recent year for denying workers in Cambodian factories pay for their work during the pandemic and the targeted firing of union leaders.

This is the fake video that was released for the fake launch:

Photo: Imago/FuturexImage

Monday 16, January

On Monday, there were 355 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 83.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Car rams directly into the Brandenburg Gate; man killed

Shortly before midnight last night, a car rammed at high speed into the structure of the most iconic sites in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate. Police and firefighters arrived on the scene shortly afterwards. The driver had been killed in the accident, but there were no other victims. According to witnesses, at around 11.30pm, the Mercedes vehicle approached from Under den Linden, picking up speeds of around 200 km per hour before hitting the curb and crashing into the monument, where it wedged itself between two pillars and caught fire. The site around Pariser Platz was shut off to the public for several hours, only reopening this morning at around 5am. Police are still investigating the incident and working to identify the driver. The motive behind the incident is still unclear. 

As the election approaches, Berlin politicians can’t stop talking about New Year’s Eve. Photo: IMAGO / Funke Foto Services

Friday 13, January

On Friday, there were 432 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 92.2 cases per 100,000 people.

“Is Ali more dangerous than Adolf?” Fireworks and racism in Berlin parliament debate

With one month to go until the repeat elections in Berlin, things are heating up in Berlin politics. In the city parliament on Thursday, the different parties debated fiercely with the main focus of discussion being use and misuse of fireworks on New Years Eve – and its political implications.

The CDU – currently polling in first position in Berlin with 22 percent – continued to talk about “young men with migration backgrounds”. Since the events of December 31 the party has been trying to use the issue to its advantage. On a talkshow, national leader Friedrich Merz recently described the sons of migrants to Germany as “little Paschas”. The party also controversially asked the Senate to reveal the first names of all suspects arrested on New Years Eve – attempting to single out people with foreign sounding names. In Thursday’s debate, they were asked to apologise for both of these racist manoeuvres.

Polling neck and neck behind the CDU, each on 18 percent, are the SPD and the Greens. Both criticised the CDU. The domestic policy spokesman Tom Schreiber took aim at Merz, saying his comments his comments about young migrants “spits in the face of an entire social class”, while Green politician Vasili Franco, referencing the calls to release first names wondered which type of name Germans should fear more, asking “Is Ali more dangerous than Adolf?”

The most recent polling in Berlin has the CDU on 22 percent, the Greens and the SPD on 18 percent, the left and the AfD on 12 percent each, and the FDP on 7 percent. The election will be held on February 12.

European Passport, 28.10.2020, Copyright: xkbuntux Panthermedia09896926

Thursday 12, January

On Thursday, there were 735 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 105.3 cases per 100,000 people.

It’s getting easier to become a German citizen

Germany is opening up to foreigners… a bit. Draft legislation from the Federal government has been revealed which outlines a new process making it easier for foreigners living in Germany to gain citizenship. One change – which has been rumoured for a while already – is that they’re going to allow dual citizenship, something which had been a point of contention in the past. Non-EU citizens will no longer need to give up their old passport to get a new one. What’s more, citizenship will become possible after just five years (down from eight) and, in special cases, it will take just three. Language proficiency will still be required – but even this can be waived in special cases and for older people. Children will also automatically be entitled to German citizenship if one of their parents has lived in the country for five years (again down from eight).

Some limits remain, however. Polygamists beware! You won’t granted citizenship if you’re married to several people. The draft also specifically states that citizenship won’t be granted “if the foreigner does not accept the basic equality of men and women laid down by the constitution”. Seems a bit harsh perhaps to apply higher standards to foreigners than you would to, say, Christian Lindner.

Due to a stall in negotiations, the monkeypox vaccine is currently unavailable in Berlin. Photo: IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini

Wednesday 4, January

On Wednesday, there were 590 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 113.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Monkeypox vaccine no longer available in Berlin, hundreds of appointments cancelled

Of all Germany’s states, Berlin was the hardest hit by monkeypox, registering 45 percent of all infections nationwide. Despite that, vaccinations are currently not available in the capital due to the expiration of two key contracts which the Berlin Senate allowed to run out at the end of 2022. Hundreds of planned vaccination have now been cancelled, according to a report from rbb, with one medical practice in Friedrichshain cancelling 30 to 60 appointments per day. Although doctors are increasingly frustrated, negotiations are ongoing and the Senate hopes to resume the contracts as soon as possible.

In other news, yesterday saw confirmation of the news we reported last week. From February 2, masks will no longer be required on public transport. For the time being, the requirement will remain on long-distance trains and for visitors to hospitals and nursing homes.

The village of Lützerath is to be dredged for coal extraction of the corporation RWE. Photo: IMAGO / Panama Pictures

Tuesday, 10 January

On Tuesday, there were 1,057 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 130.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin comes out in solidarity with Lützerath

Every day on social media in Germany, more pictures come out of groups of police guarding enormous industrial excavators which are set to demolish the small town of Lützerath. Activists from all over Europe are currently descending on the town in an attempt to halt the eviction. Last night in Friedrichshain, Berlin held its own protest in solidarity. More than 500 demonstrators marched holding banners which read: “Defend freedom: Solidarity with Lützerath” or “Expropriate RWE”. RWE is the energy company planning to demolish Lützerath, near Düsseldorf, in order to access the coal deposits underneath. The governmental district have ordered an evacuation of the village, prohibiting people from staying there from December 23, 2022 until February 13, 2023. The forced evacuation of the town is set to start today.

Test stations are closing down, but are numbers as low as the seem? Photo: IMAGO / Sabine Gudath

Monday 9, January

On Monday, there were 746 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 141.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Is Berlin in the midst of an invisible corona wave?

This time last year, the numbers were skyrocketing. Mid-to-late January of 2022 saw infections from Covid-19 climb in early February to more than 17,000 new cases in a single day. This year, however, the numbers appear to be falling. Berlin is even set to end its mask mandate on public transport on February 2. But there is one measurement which tells a different story. The concentrations of corona virus measured in Berlin’s wastewater is going up and up – even as the infections detected by PCR tests remains low. Until now, these two values have always seemed to mirror each other. So is Berlin in the midst of an undetected wave of COVID-19 infections? It’s possible, according to a report in the Tagesspiegel, since we’re we’re simply not testing as much as we were last year, we aren’t finding as many cases. On the other hand, there are 6.4 million acute respiratory diseases being treated in Germany right now – and COVID-19’s only the fourth highest cause, as the danger of the disease has reduced over time.

Police and the fire department were called at 2.20am. Photo: IMAGO / lausitznews.de

Friday 6, January

On Friday, there were 954 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 150.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Murder in Lichtenberg: Woman killed with a chainsaw last night, man arrested

At around 2.20am this morning, Berlin police were called to an apartment building on Paul-Zobel-Strasse in Lichtenberg, where a horrific act of violence had taken place. A 52-year-old woman was attacked and killed in her home by a man wielding a chainsaw. The suspected perpetrator, a 34 year old man who lived in the same building, was also injured in the assault and has since been arrested. According to the Berliner Zeitung, Police have confirmed that a chainsaw was used in the attack, along with an “unconventional fire and explosive device”. Flaming bottles were recovered from the scene by the fire department. The suspect has been taken to hospital, where he is being treated for a serious injury to his foot.

Photo: IMAGO / Jens Schicke

Thursday 5, January

On Thursday, there were 1,102 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 164.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Investigations being carried out into ‘xenophobic’ and racist police group chats

Last year, Berlin police carried out just over 100 investigations into racist and problematic statements made by police officers in various group chats. Of these, about half have been deemed criminally relevant, said police chief Barbara Slowik in a statement this morning.

According to the Tagesspiegel, pictures, videos and comments sent on the chats have been deemed ‘xenophobic’ by police. While Slowik stated that xenophobic and inhumane communication will not be tolerated, she insisted that the evidence doesn’t reflect extremist viewpoints. Heard that one before. 

Evidence of Berlin police sharing potentially racist content over group chats is sadly not a new phenomenon. In December, it was announced that 2 chats with 62 members featured exchanges with a ‘xenophobic’ tone, and investigations are ongoing. According to Slowik, it’s important to note which officers are actively participating in the chats and which are just bystanders reading the messages. But as the German saying goes, if you’ve got ten people sitting at a table and one of them is a Nazi, you’ve really got ten Nazis.

IMAGO / Sabine Gudat

Wednesday 4, January

On Wednesday, there were 1,428 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 179.0 cases per 100,000 people.

Taking food from the trash is illegal in Berlin – but that could be about to change

In an eco-friendly city, like Berlin, it’s hard to believe that you can get in trouble with the law for grabbing a couple of fresh Brötchen from the bins behind the bakery, but right now, that’s the law. The contents of a supermarket or restaurants’ bins are legally their property, so technically taking anything out of them is considered theft. According to Tagesspiegel, however, members of the Grüne and Linke parties are teaming up to legalise dumpster diving, known in German as Containern.

“Berlin has been campaigning for this at the federal level for years. We have submitted a corresponding application for the upcoming conference of agriculture ministers,”, says Bettina Jarasch of the Greens. Legalisation seems long overdue. According to Cem Özdemir of the Greens, far too much food ends up in the trash in Germany – a total of around eleven million tons a year. While zero-waste food apps have grown in popularity over the last few years, legalising Containern would stop punishing people who are just trying to eat.

Tuesday 3, January

On Tuesday, there were 1,413 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 223.3 cases per 100,000 people.

More people are taking drugs on the U-Bahn, with a noticeable rise in crack consumption

Syringes lying on the floor, blackened foil, sachets of powder and rolled cigarettes: the signs of drug use on Berlin’s public transport system is particularly noticeable at this time of year, when addicts are forced to take shelter from the cold weather. And according to people on the ground, the situation is getting worse. Aid workers like Malte Dau from the organisation Fixpunkt report there is more consumption than usual on Berlin’s public transport system this year and that addicts are more often engaging in “polytoxic behaviour”. That means taking a bunch of different drugs at once – with the most noticeable rise coming in the use of crack cocaine, which is the second most common drug used after heroin (according to monitored consumption rooms).

The reason for the increase in public use, according to Dau, is a general lack of living space in the city, alongside the closure of emergency overnight housing and safe, supervised retreats for addicts. Without such spaces, public transport becomes a relatively safe zone for drug users – and BVG staff have a policy of not sending anyone who seems vulnerable into the cold without a specific reason. There are currently five official drug consumption rooms in Berlin: two on Kottbusser Tor, one on Karl-Marx-Strasse, one in Wedding and one in Moabit.

Will Berlin ban fireworks, or is it just an elaborate display? Photo: IMAGO / Marius Schwarz

Monday 2, January

On Monday, there were 1,069 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 184.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin politicians call for fireworks ban after New Year’s Eve attacks

New Year’s Eve in Berlin is always messy, with thousands of improvised fireworks displays on every street corner and a general feeling of anarchy and danger. On the whole, it’s quite fun, but it comes together with another less enjoyable tradition: the authorities complaining that, this time, things went too far. This year, those voices are louder than ever. In their defence, it was all a bit much. First there was a giant fireworks battle in Schöneberg two days before New Year’s Eve, then the night itself saw emergency service personnel repeatedly targeted with fireworks and firecrackers, the vehicles shot at, damaged and even looted. 15 firefighters and 18 police officers were injured and the fire department spokesperson talked about “a new level of escalation. This was intentional.”

Since then, Berlin politicians have been trying to push each other out of the way to condemn the New Year’s Eve mayhem. Most recently, Berlin’s culture senator Klaus Lederer, who called for a complete prohibition on the sale of fireworks. His remarks follow comments by mayor Franziska Giffey (who wants to expand no-fireworks zones) and Interior Senator Iris Spranger (who talked up criminal prosecutions for those responsible). However, since Lederer himself said that any ban would have to be legislated federally, there’s a chance this is all talk, especially given that Berlin is holding a repeat election next month and the right-wing CDU are neck and neck in the polls with the SPD.

The S-Bahn north-south tunnel will be shut for six weeks from January 6. Photo: IMAGO / Jürgen Heinrich

Friday 30, December

On Friday, there were 1,693 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 199.0 cases per 100,000 people.

North-south S-Bahn tunnel closed for six weeks from January 6

Several busy S-Bahn lines will be out of action from early in the new year, as Berlin’s north-south S-Bahn tunnel is being closed for maintenance and modernisation work. The work will take place in two construction phases, spread over six weeks: first from January 6 to January 27, then from January 27 till February 17. The affected S-Bahn lines are the 1,2, 25 and 26. In the first construction phase, these lines will be closed between Südkreuz/Yorckstraße (Großgörchenstraße) and Nordbahnhof, while in the second phase the work will stretch a little further north to Gesundbrunnen. Replacement buses will operate throughout the disruption. You can check the Deutsche Bahn site for details. 

Category F2 pyrotechnic items are on sale in Berlin for the next three days. Photo: IMAGO / Mike Schmidt

Thursday 29 December

On Thursday, there were 1,770 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 202.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Fireworks back on sale in Berlin; supermarket burns down

For the first time in three years, firecrackers and rockets are back on sale in Berlin. Anyone who has been in Berlin for New Year’s Eve knows of the city’s proud tradition of waiting until midnight and then lighting up every street corner, doorway, park and Platz with loud, dangerous, exciting rockets and firecrackers. For the last two years, however, the sale of such incendiary devices has been prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic, and things have been a little more subdued. This year, Berlin’s gunpowder merchants are back in business, and doctors and nurses are preparing for more injuries as a result. Category F2 pyrotechnic items are available for purchase for three days starting on December 29. Their sale will become prohibited again on Jan 1. Demand is reportedly higher than ever.

Meanwhile, a supermarket burned down just outside Berlin last night – and the fire brigade suspect some negligently thrown firecrackers may have been the cause. No one was seriously injured, and the fire bridge were on the scene quickly enough to stop two pallets of fireworks from being ignited in the blaze. 

Might Berlin end its mask requirement early? Photo: IMAGO / snapshot

Wednesday 28, December

On Wednesday, there were 2,764 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 204.2 cases per 100,000 people.

“In my opinion, the pandemic is over” Debate over mask requirement in Berlin

Berlin politicians are seriously debating putting an end to the remaining corona measures, following an interview from Christian Drosten. The expert virologist stated that Germany was “experiencing the first endemic wave of Sars-Cov-2 this winter,” adding that in his opinion “the pandemic is over.” This has led to a number of local politicians calling for a rapid end to the long standing protections, including the mask requirement in public transport. In Brandenburg, the SPD and the CDU are calling to drop the measures as quickly as possible, but Berlin is more cautious. As things stands, the mask requirement for public transport like buses, the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn will remain until January 17, 2023 and the nationwide requirement for a mask on long distance transport is currently set to remain until April 7, 2023. 

Berlin would by no means be the first region of Germany to drop the measures: Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt have already abolished the mask requirement in public transport, while in Schleswig-Holstein it is only set to last till the end of the year.

There are elk wandering around Brandenburg. Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

Monday 27, December

On Monday, there were 1,579 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 261.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Wild elk roam outside Berlin

For a few years now, wild elk have been roaming the countryside outside Berlin – and their number is increasing. There are now reportedly 15 of the enormous animals roaming outside the city, including a large male called Bert who has apparently fallen in love with a herd of cows, according to Moritz Klose from WWF Germany. Elk and bison were once common across Germany, but they were hunted until their numbers dwindled. It is now forbidden to shoot the animals all year round. The history of elk in Berlin goes back a long way, too: during the construction of Berlin’s U9 line in 1956, construction workers found a fully preserved elk skeleton dating from the end of the Ice Age, about 11,000 years ago. You can see the animal’s bones today the Neues Museum.

December saw Berlin deal with an unprecadented amount of sick leave. Photo: IMAGO / photothek

Friday 23, December

On Friday, there were 1,700 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 261.1 cases per 100,000 people.

More flu cases in Berlin this year than ever before (& Union Berlin carol singing)

This year, all of Berlin seems to have been given the same early-Christmas present: a nasty case of the flu. The insurance company AOK announced this week that never before have so many of its policy holders been on sick leave in Berlin as they were in mid-December, with 73 percent more people out sick than the average for the previous three years. The company had 75,500 people written off sick in the first two weeks of December, the primary cause being a rapid increase in colds and flu diagnoses. Berlin’s health senator Ulrike Gote (Greens) spoke out about the situation, recognising that sick leave was higher than ever both in the city and nationwide, and commenting that the situation was “foreseeable”.

Elsewhere, if you’re looking for something to do this evening in Berlin, Union Berlin is hosting its annual carol singing event at the Stadion der Alten Försterei, RBB did a nice interview with the organisers – and, if you’re already further away, they’re broadcasting the event from 20.15 tonight. Happy Christmas, Berlin.  

The refugee welcome centre at Tegel Airport. Photo: IMAGO / Jens Schicke

Thursday 22, December

On Thursday, there were 2116 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 268.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin authorities struggling to accommodate refugees

When Berlin authorities set up tents in the old Tegel airport, it was meant to be a temporary measure. Officially, refugees were meant to stay a maximum of three nights before moving to more permanent accommodations in Berlin, or being sent on to other German states. 

But many have been living there for months now according to a report from RBB. Berlin’s social administration denies this, saying that whilst the situation has worsened, a refugee spends on average two to three weeks in the tents before being placed. According to their internal documents, in September, 125 refugees stayed longer than three days, compared to 2,200 this week. 

Construction is currently underway, and the social administration expects that they will be able to host a further 3,200 refugees at Tegel after more temporary shelters on the runway are completed. This likely won’t be enough though, as there are currently 200 refugees arriving daily in Berlin. According to Berlin Senator for Social Affairs, Katja Kipping (DIE LINKE), with the expansion of the Technical University site and the LAF reception centre, up to 10,000 additional temporary places should be added by the end of the year.

The Artemis raid in 2016. Photo: IMAGO / Fabian Matzerath

Wednesday 21, December

On Wednesday, there were 2581 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 274.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin to pay €100,000 in damages to brothel owners

A Berlin court has ruled that the owners of the Artemis brothel should be paid €50,000 each in damages as recompense for statements made by authorities after a raid in 2016. The Berlin court of appeals found that the public prosecutors office made partly inaccurate and prejudiced statements that implied that the brothel owners had connections to organised crime. No such connection was ever found, but the senate judicial administration will be challenging the verdict.

Back in April 2016, over 900 police officers, customs officers and public prosecutors conducted a raid on the brothel, believing that Artemis had connections to organised crime and that they were exploiting prostitutes, controlling them with violence.

The Berlin court of appeal revoked the search warrants after the raid, citing no urgent suspicion of evasion of social security contributions and taxes, which were the initial charges. The brothel operators then sued the state for damages, initially seeking €25,000 in compensation, to be paid to a non-profit of their choosing. This case was dismissed in January 2021, but the Artemis operators were unsatisfied. Taking the claim to the court of appeals, it was concluded that the brothel owners were operating legally, resulting in a €100,000 pay out, plus interest.

A homless person sheltering in a bus stop. IMAGO / Rolf Kremming

Tuesday 20, December

On Tuesday, there were 1,662 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 266.2 cases per 100,000 people.

The most expensive apartment in Germany is in Berlin; Social workers accuse Berlin of anti-homeless ‘Hostile Architecture

If you’ve ever needed more proof that you live in a completely different world from the 1 percent, look no further.

On Immoscout, a popular real estate website in Germany, the most expensive apartment in the country is located in Berlin and is currently on sale for €17.9 million. The Mitte penthouse is 578 square metres, spread across nine rooms, includes three bathrooms, and if you include the terrace (with its view of the Rotes Rathaus) it’s actually a total of 882 square metres.

Built in 2017, the luxury penthouse even has a name, The Crown Prince. Must be nice.

Meanwhile, as the housing/homelessness crises worsens in Berlin, social workers are calling on authorities such as local government and the BVG to remove hostile architecture, elements of urban design that are deliberately installed to make life more difficult for the homeless.

Often rebranded as ‘defensive architecture’, this urban-design strategy has existed since the 1960s and was initially intended to purposefully guide or restrict behaviour in an attempt to prevent crime, but has historically been used to make life hard for those who rely on public spaces. It usually manifests as spikes on flat surfaces or armrests in the middle of a bench to prevent the homeless from sleeping.

Places such as Ostbahnhof and Hansaplatz are perfect examples, where over the past few years many pyramidal coverings have been put over bollards to prevent people from sitting on them.

Rays, clownfish, sea horses and jellyfish were all among the victims. Photo: IMAGO / Future Image

Monday 19, December

On Monday, there were 1,786 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 291.8 cases per 100,000 people.

630 fish rescued after Aqua Dom collapse. Plans for new Berlin aquarium under scrutiny

In the early hours of Friday morning, the world’s largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium shattered, sending around 1,500 fish to the doom and spilling around one million litres of water onto the hotel floor. Now, the US company, Reynolds Polymer Technology, who installed the acrylic tank is sending a team to Berlin to investigate the incident and determine the cause of the disaster. The hotel which housed the tank was not the only property damaged, the neighbouring DDR museum was also affected and will likely remain closed for a few months while the damage is repaired. While almost all the 1,500 fish in the tank died, 630 fish were being held in breeding tanks elsewhere. These have been rescued are currently being redistributed around other facilities, such as Berlin’s Zoo and Tierpark.

Meanwhile, plans for another aquarium are coming under scrutiny. The company Coral World is building a hotel and aquarium complex in Lichtenburg, which they expect to bring hundreds of thousands of tourists a year. The company had already been come under fire for exceeding their development plans. Now Lichtenberg district councillor Kevin Hönicke (SPD) is asking the company for an interview.

The interior of the hotel is a disaster scene. Photo: Twitter @lararimmer

Friday 16, December

On Friday, there were 2,438 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 284.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin’s largest tropical aquarium explodes in bizarre accident

Guests at the Radisson hotel near Alexanderplatz in Berlin had their sleep bizarrely interrupted last night when the enormous fish tank in the centre of the hotel exploded, sending more than 1,500 tropical fish and around a million litres of water hurtling to the floor. The incident took place shortly before 5:43am, when the fire brigade were first notified. The Aquadom & Sea Life aquarium has been completely destroyed, with water flowing uncontrollably throughout the premises. There are already a number of videos and photos being shared online from guests at the hotel. Only one person was injured – but more than 100 police and fire brigade personnel are currently on the scene. Until last night, the Aquadom was the largest free standing aquarium in the world. It had an elevator at the centre, meaning guests could ride through the middle of the tank and “discover Nemo, Dory and many other colourful fish up close”. The exact cause of the disaster remains unclear at this time. 

Berlin will have two separate votes next year. Photo: IMAGO / IPON

Thursday 15 December

On Thursday, there were 2,371 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 257.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin’s climate referendum set for March 26, 2023

So now it’s official: Berlin has a date for its referendum on climate neutrality – but it won’t be on the same day as the city elections next year. After gathering more than 260,000 signatures, activists were able to force a vote on whether Berlin should become carbon neutral by 2030, a significant acceleration on current plans to reach that milestone by 2045. However, when organisers from Klimaneustart Berlin brought a motion before Berlin’s constitutional court to try and ensure the vote was held on the same day as next year’s election, the court ruled against them, believing there would not be enough time to prepare. Instead, the election will take place on March 26, six weeks after the do-over elections slated for February 12.

Thermal image of a nuclear power plant in Germany. Photo: IMAGO / Arnulf Hettrich

Wednesday 14, December

On Wednesday, there were 1,940 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 240.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Poland plans to build its first nuclear power plant; Berlin’s against it

Ever since the disaster at Fukushima, Japan in 2011, Germany has been very wary of nuclear energy – but that doesn’t mean their neighbours agree. Following Polish plans to build the country’s first ever nuclear power plant, 250km from the German border in Zarnowiec near Gdansk, Berlin and two other German Bundesländer have now expressed their concerns. Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony issued a statement on Monday that, bearing in mind the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, plans for the use of nuclear energy should be abandoned “in the interest of the population and the environment of all Baltic Sea countries”.

However worthy, these German claims are not free from hypocrisy: the country still has three functioning nuclear power plants itself. Originally, these remaining sites were going to be decommissioned at the end of this year, on December 31 2022, but German chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) delayed their shutdown until April next year in view of the country’s ongoing energy crisis.

That one person in the office who isn’t sick yet. Photo: IMAGO / photothek

Tuesday 13, December

On Tuesday, there were 2,499 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 240.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Everyone in Berlin is sick

Sometimes it’s nice to have your sneaking suspicions confirmed. Rejoice, hypochondriac know-it-alls: the Tagesspiegel reports that Berlin is so ill that it is just barely functioning. There are currently twice as many people sick with respiratory infections than there were the same time last year, and an extra 50 percent of people are calling in sick, according to one of Germany’s largest health insurance agencies, DAK.

So which sectors of our barely-functioning society are suffering the most? First of all, the cops: somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the police are off sick at the moment, as well as around 20 percent of the fire brigade, but those numbers are rising rapidly due to them being so overworked.

The BVG has had to reduce their services because they don’t have enough bus drivers and the S-Bahn have been cancelled trains due to sick staff.

BER airport, BSR and Stromnetz Berlin (the people who keep Berlin’s electricity network functioning) report that they aren’t experiencing significant difficulties – though who knows if it’s good news or bad for BER to be functioning normally…

The Finanzämter are reportedly managing OK without their sick colleagues, but the Bürgerämter, struggling to get anything done since forever, and severely overloaded since Russia’s invasion have indicated that it’s impossible for them to figure out how many staff are ill.

Finally, caregivers are hard hit. Many Kitas across Berlin have closed, as a suspected 75 percent of Erzieher*innen are too sick to work. One school in Pankow reported that 200 of their 500 students are sick, and clinics across Berlin are cancelling voluntary procedures in order to cope with the lack of healthy staff.

Mask up, Berlin – and stay home if you’re sick!

It’s getting chilly in Berlin. Photo: IMAGO / Xinhua

Monday 12, December

On Monday, there were 1,470 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 235.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Snowfall in Berlin; sub-zero temperatures all week

Just a few weeks ago, we were experiencing the warmest November since records began, but that has started to seem seem like a distant memory. Sub-zero temperatures are expected to last all week in Berlin. It might even be time to bite the bullet and turn on those expensive heaters.

Light snowfall began last night, and Germany’s weather service has warned of black ice and slippery roads. However, for the rest of the week, conditions will be clear, if bitingly cold. The next five or six days will see temperatures go no higher than -2, and sink as low as -7 at night.

Wrap up warm people – and enjoy some pictures of Berlin in the snow.

Also, here is the Kältebus website. They are an organisation that try to keep Berlin’s homeless safe and warm during these harsh months. Give them a call if you see someone you think needs help at 030 69033-30.

Photo: IMAGO / Mike Schmidt

Friday 9, December

On Friday, there were 1,515 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 235.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin’s referendum on housing gets a boost

Well, that’s a surprise. When an expert commission was appointed to consider the “implementation” of the successful Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen referendum, many on the left believed it was an attempt to kill the proposal by burying it in bureaucracy. After all, the rent-cap had already been overturned by the courts and this referendum – which proposed to expropriate the real estate holdings of the major landlords in Berlin – was opposed by almost all of Germany’s major parties. The SPD were against it, as were the Greens, the CDU and the FDP. Only Die Linke supported it – and yet Berliners voted by 56% in favour of the move.

But now, an interim report has leaked from the expert commission which seems to suggest they think such a move would be legally possible. This is by no means final – a decision is expected to be reached next summer – but it seems like a boost for advocates of expropriation.

Meanwhile, Berlin’s (for now) mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) is already hard at work trying to block another referendum. Berlin 2030 Climate-Neutral is campaigning for a vote on whether the city should set more ambitious climate change targets than those currently in place. Mayor Giffey thinks it is unrealistic that the vote should take place on the same day as the city’s repeat elections, as there isn’t enough time to prepare – not that that stopped her proceeding with the vote which brought her to power, mind you…

Alarm bells to ring at 11:00. Photo: IMAGO / Wolfgang Maria Weber

Thursday 8 December

On Thursday, there were 2,023 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 233.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Alarm bells to ring across Germany at 11:00 – but more quietly in Berlin

It might seem unnecessarily frightening to test a new alarm system just one day after police raids prevented a right-wing coup in Germany, but that’s exactly what is happening today. At 11:00 this morning, radio and television stations across Germany, mobile phones, apps and websites will all display a disaster warning. This is the first time the system is being tested nationwide in Germany. Those people who get the warning message on their phone should see their device vibrate, emit light signals and play a loud tone. There will also be a warning message played on trains and at all Deutsche Bahn stations. If everything goes to plan, an all-clear message should follow at 11.45.

It all sounds quite exciting, but Berliners won’t get the full experience: sirens were meant to blare out a warning across the city, but most of the planned 400 new devices have not yet been installed. Better luck next time, Berlin. 

Police conducted raids in Berlin to prevent a planned coup d’etat. Photo: IMAGO / snapshot

Wednesday 7, December

On Wednesday, there were 2,162 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 224.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Police raid “Reichsbürger” in Berlin and across Germany to thwart planned coup

Today’s news feels like it comes from another century. German police conducted raids in Berlin this morning against a group of radicalised right-wingers who were planning a coup in Germany, after which they planned to instate German nobleman Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss as the restored monarch. 25 people were arrested, including the Prince, former members of the German army, an AfD politician and a judge. The group drew from elements in the Reichsbürger and Querdenker scenes (people who believe the legitimate German state is the empire which was abolished in 1918 and corona deniers, respectively).

Apparently, the plotters even scouted out barracks across the country to check whether the troops would remain on-site after their planned overthrow of the state. They had even planned out who would occupy key offices of state, including the Minister for Justice, the head of the army and, of course, the emperor. Arrests were made in Berlin, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony and Austria. 27 further suspects are still being sought.

Tesla vehicles lined up opposite vehicle components outside the Gigafactory in Grünheide. Photo: IMAGO / Jochen Eckel

Tuesday 6, December

On Tuesday, there were 1,936 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 217.1 cases per 100,000 people.

“Total chaos” at the Tesla factory in Grünheide

When Elon Musk turned up to open the Tesla plant in Grünheide outside Berlin, German politicians were pushing each other out of the way to fawn over the project. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the plant as the future of the car industry. Since then, even those who were not previously paying close attention have seen in Musk’s reluctant and chaotic takeover of Twitter that his approach to business isn’t quite the genius operation he likes to pretend it is: Tesla stock is falling, and now there’s trouble brewing in Brandenburg.

The Gigafactory was meant to hire 12,000 people this year, they’ve only managed 7,000. Musk had claimed they would produce 5,000 vehicles a week, the company claimed to be managing 2,000 per week at the end of October. Insiders at the plant told the US Magazine Wired that the situation at the plant was “total chaos”. Staff are leaving faster than they can be replaced, there was a fire at the plant and, since then, an investigation has found that workers lacked adequate dust protection – an act of carelessness which can lead to lung cancer.

But the Tesla factory is already serving another purpose: more US companies are moving in. Real estate developer Panattoni announced plans last week to clear land in the region to develop supply warehouses, offices and parking spaces. This story isn’t nearly over yet.

German bureaucracy is no joke. Photo: IMAGO / Schöning

Monday 5, December

On Monday, there were 1,435 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 228.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Study finds Berlin job centres discriminate against foreigners from within the EU

With its insistence of printed documents and arcane rules, German bureaucracy is famously hard to navigate. Now, a new study conducted from 103 interviews with people who’ve had to navigate the Berlin job centre claims that foreigners from within the EU are being discriminated against. Legally, there should be equality of treatment between German citizens and those from abroad. This is not the case, the study claims, with many foreigners missing out on social benefits through their inability to understand the system.

There was no discriminatory intent, the study reported – the workers at the job centre didn’t want to deny people benefits – it was rather that the unique culture of bureaucracy combined with a lack of German skills on the claimants behalf meant that people were systemically being denied benefits they were entitled to. Surprisingly, the study found that migrants from outside the EU often had a better time of it: the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016 meant that more resources for language mediation had been made available for people from the effected regions.

A doctor points out what he believes to be a patient’s left leg. Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

Friday 2, December

On Friday, there were 1,524 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 217.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin hospital performs surgery expertly – on the wrong foot

After a man in Schöneberg injured himself playing football, it was determined that he needed surgery to correct torn ligaments in his left foot. The operation took place at the Elisabeth-Klinik in Tiergarten, and it went very well with only one small hiccup: they had operated on the wrong foot. The patient had injured his left foot but, somehow, things got mixed up, and the operation was performed on the right. When the patient woke up from anaesthetic, he complained on pain on his right side. “Of course,” a nurse told him, “you had an operation there.” When he pointed out the mistake, the nurse called the chief physician, who apparently commented: “Now the right leg has become even stronger. We’ll operate the left one tomorrow!”

The hospital has since apologised for the mistake. The patient will receive compensation – and a spokesperson said they are “intensely analysing” how this could have happened.

IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini

Thursday 1 December

On Thursday, there were 1,621 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 207.3 cases per 100,000 people.

€49 “Deutschlandticket” to come into effect April 1

We’d been promised January, but now it’s looks the nationwide €49 ticket will come into effect on April 1, 2023 – which seems like a solid, reliable, not-at-all hubris-inviting date to kick things off.

The ticket, which will be known at the “Deutschlandticket”, will be fully digital – unlike the €29 ticket currently available in Berlin – and it will cover all travel across Germany excluding long-distance high-speed trains. The reasons for the delays were pretty vague, apparently “preparations were still necessary”, but an agreement for April 1 was reason on Tuesday between federal and state governments. €3 billion has been earmarked for the scheme.

In Berlin, meanwhile, mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) believes it is possible to continue Berlin’s state-wide €29 ticket beyond its planned end date in March, meaning we might see the two schemes running side by side. We’ll just have to wait till April fools to find out.

Photo: IMAGO / Seeliger

Wednesday 30, November

On Wednesday, there were 1,970 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 194.6 cases per 100,000 people.

E-Scooters and rental bikes will soon appear somewhere else they’re not wanted

Berlin motorists are already a pretty stressed-out bunch, and things won’t improve much when they hear the news that from January 1, 2023, the few precious parking places in the city will be allowed to be occupied by e-scooters and rental bikes. In a move designed to free up more space on footpaths, these vehicles will become exempt from a parking fee. One of the things which has prompted the move is the current untenable situation where two-thirds of all e-scooters are falsely parked, often in the middle of the pavement, at bus-stops or on central islands posing a serious risk to blind or visually impaired people. 

What’s more, parking fees for motorists are going up for the first time in 20 years. Instead of fees of €1, €2 or €3 per hour, drivers will soon have to pay €2, €3 or €4. It’s hardly an astronomical increase – and shared vehicles will pay a lower rate – but still, we spare a thought this morning for Berlin’s angry drivers. The future doesn’t look so bright for them

Image: Deutsche Bahn AG

Tuesday 29, November

On Tuesday, there were 2,067 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 173.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Fake ticket controllers on the S-Bahn; Berlin’s new “underwater” station

As if there weren’t already enough to worry about from Berlin’s infamous controllers, now we get reports of imposters pretending to be ticket inspectors on the S-Bahn, scamming unsuspecting customers by imposing an unofficial “fine”. Yesterday evening at 17.03 the official account for the S-Bahn Berlin tweeted: “Danger! Watch out for fake controllers!” and warned passengers that real inspectors never ask for cash and would always issue a receipt for any transaction. 

Also on the Berlin S-Bahn, meanwhile, designs for a new station at Berlin Hauptbahnhof reveal a special “marine” design. The simulated images created by Deutsche Bahn show a special wave pattern which will decorate the walls of the upcoming S21 line, connecting Südkreuz to Wedding and Westhafen via Berlin’s Central Station. It looks nice, but don’t expect to see it any time soon. Deutsche Bahn have been at work on the project already for eleven years, and they’ve already called the scheduled opening date of 2026 “unrealistic”. 

Alexanderplatz Christmas market was subject to threats on Sunday night. Photo: IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini

Monday 28, November

On Monday, there were 1,239 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 161.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Police increase security on Alexanderplatz Christmas market after anonymous threat

Last night, an anonymous call came in from a man threatening to drive a vehicle into the Christmas market at Alexanderplatz, just as happened on December 19, 2016, at the market in Breitscheid Platz. In response, police closed the tunnel on Grunerstrasse, shut off streets around the market and conducted checks on a number of vehicles. In the end, no evidence was found that the threat was real, and police are now investigating the caller on suspicion of misuse of emergency calls. Naturally, police are extremely sensitive to this sort of threat, at 9.17pm they tweeted that “anyone who alerts the police for their own pleasure, triggering police operations and unsettling people, could find the fun ends quickly.”

The attack in 2016 killed twelve people. ISIS claimed responsibility, while the actual perpetrator was confronted and killed near Milan three days after the event. A memorial in the shape of a golden crack in the ground was installed at Breitsheid Platz on December 19, 2017, the one year anniversary of the attack

More problems at BER. Photo: IMAGO / imagebroker

Friday 25 November

On Friday, there were 998 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 157.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Climate activists shut down BER airport

Activists from Letzte Generation managed to shut down BER airport briefly yesterday when they cut through the fence and stuck themselves to the tarmac and rode their bikes around, preventing planes from taking off. The protesters live streamed their demonstration on Twitter. BER was forced to temporarily stop operations on both runways, cancelling five takeoffs affecting roughly 750 passengers.

Criticism flowed from all corners, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) sharply condemning the action on Twitter, writing: “These actions are destroying important social acceptance of the fight against climate change.” Berlin FDP leader Sebastian Czaja went further, referring to the activists as “climate criminals” while AfD party and faction leader Tino Chrupalla who called on the Verfassungsschutz (Germany’s equivalent to the FBI) to actively investigate Letzte Generation.

Letzte Generation are not the only ones risking life and limb at BER. The large glass facade of the airport has become a wall of death for Berlin’s birds, who are flying full speed into the building’s glass facades, killing themselves in the process. According to animal rights activists, hundreds of animals die at the airport every year – and you can see their ghostly imprints on the glass.

Where is my van? Photo: IMAGO / Steffen Schellhorn

Thursday 24, November

On Thursday, there were 1,355 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 157.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Tokio Hotel get their tour bus stolen in Prenzlauer Berg

You thought Prenzlauer Berg had lost it, didn’t you? That it was all hipster coffee shops and yuppie affluence now? Well, the district showed this week that it’s got some bite left on Saturday when German rock band Tokio Hotel celebrated the release party for their new album “2001”. While the group were enjoying themselves, some enterprising Berliners spotted an opportunity in the band’s tour van which was parked nearby, fully loaded with instruments, laptops and other personal items. At some point during the evening, the vehicle was discovered to have been stolen. Police confirmed that a report was filed for the missing van, a white Peugeot Boxer, at 2.30am. There are so far no leads on the whereabouts of the vehicle. Despite the incident, the band didn’t cancel the event, later writing on Instagram that they had celebrated the “greatest release party of all time.”

After thieves raided safety deposit boxes in Charlottenburg, angry customers came back to demand their goods. Photo: IMAGO / McPHOTO

Wednesday 23, November

On Wednesday, there were 1,313 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 145.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Pearl-clutching in Charlottenburg; Berlin can’t see the wood for the thieves

The first incident happened on Saturday night, around 8pm, on Fasanenstrasse, an upscale residential street in Charlottenburg. Here, a company operating a “high-security locker facility of a former private bank” had their safety deposit boxes broken into, the thieves ransacking numerous lockers and escaping undetected. We still don’t know exactly what was stolen but, clearly, customers of the firm are extremely worried because, on Monday, 40 people turned up at the location demanding to see their goods. When the owners denied their request, things got out of hand: two police cars were called to the scene to try and calm the situation down.

But rich people’s expensively locked-away trinkets aren’t the only thing being stolen in Berlin at the moment. Cases of theft are also rising for a more down-to-earth commodity: wood. As energy prices rise, so do those of firewood. There have been 41 reports of stolen firewood in Berlin this year – a significant increase on previous years – with the splintery stuff being nicked from construction sites, hardware stores, day care centres and even a cemetery.

Have you been getting messages from Keanu Reeves on Instagram? Photo: IMAGO / APress

Tuesday 22, November

On Tuesday, there were 1,379 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 145.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Housing scams, Instagram scams, Keanu Reeves scams: Berlin’s got them all

It’s notoriously difficult to find an apartment in Berlin right now – and some people are taking advantage of the situation. Hundreds of victims are reporting having been scammed on the popular rental platform Housing Anywhere, lured in by false promises. In one such case, the victim transferred €3,700 to an account in order to secure a furnished apartment without seeing the place or getting a key. Once the money had been transferred, the provider disappeared from the platform and was not contactable anywhere. Housing Anywhere has confirmed at least 337 such cases nationwide, most of them in Berlin, and has promised to increase security checks on its platform.

But these aren’t the only criminal schemes making the news in Berlin today. In one case currently being tried in the district court of Tiergarten, one scammer posed as the Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves on Instagram and convinced a Berlin woman to transfer €14,150 to his account in order to secure a face-to-face meeting. This was the largest such scam he’s been charged with, but not the only one: two other women seem to have been also tricked out of significant sums of money by the same person, one woman sending €2,865 to “Billy from England” and another transferring €1,800 to “Raymond Clark” from Australia.

The Berlin Zoo will remain shut for two weeks. Photo: IMAGO / Xinhua

Monday 21, November

On Monday, there were 1,063 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 153.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Bird flu in Berlin: Zoo closed for 2 weeks after disease detected 

The Berlin Zoo will remain closed for 2 weeks while staff test every bird in captivity for the H5N1 virus, more commonly known as bird flu. The disease was first detected in an African hamerkop, a type of wading bird which died of the virus. Immediately, the decision was taken to shut the zoo and begin thorough testing of the animals. The first 86 animals known to have had direct contact with the infected bird have already been tested; samples are now being taken from the 200 other birds who did not have direct contact, but were cared for by the same zookeepers. Avian flu can spread to humans, though cases are rare and usually require prolonged exposure – but there is a significant risk to other birds. The zoo believes it has caught the outbreak early, and Berlin’s poultry farmers are not required to take any special measures at this stage. In fact, Berlin’s other zoo Tierpark, in the east of the city, remains open.

Nachtigalplatz (here smeared with red paint in protest) will become Manga-Bell-Platz on December 2. Photo: IMAGO / Jürgen Ritter

Friday 18 November

On Friday, there were 1,494 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 148.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Racist street names to be removed from African Quarter 

Berlin’s method of reckoning with its colonial history has hardly been ideal in recent years (Humboldt Forum and the Africa Stone come to mind) but there seems to be some movement in the right direction. Two places in Wedding – Nachtigalplatz and Lüderitzstrasse – will finally have their racist, colonial tributes replaced with different names aimed at honouring resistance fighters.

Nachtigalplatz (currently named for colonial administrator Gustav Nachtigal) will be renamed Manga-Bell-Platz after the resistance leaders Rudolf and Emily Duala Manga Bell. 

Lüderitzstrasse (named for Adolf Lüderitz, the founder of Imperial Germany’s first colony) will become Cornelius-Fredericks-Strasse, bearing the name of an indigenous fighter who died in a concentration camp in 1907. 

The fight over these racist street names has dragged on for decades, but the changes will finally come into effect on December 2 – with the new names inaugurated in a ceremony to which the ambassadors of Cameroon and Namibia have been invited. 

Photo: https://twitter.com/Wahlrecht_de, INSA poll for BILD.

Thursday 17, November

On Thursday, there were 1,002 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 105.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin to have TOTAL repeat of state elections

The verdict of the Berlin constitutional court was damning: “not just a few, but thousands of eligible voters could not cast their votes on Election Day.” Their decision, announced yesterday, was that the entire election which took place last year will now have to be repeated. The problems included overly long waiting times, votes being cast after polls should have closed, and incorrect ballots being distributed. According to the court decision, poor preparation meant that the city was simply not ready to stage a vote and the election was “in danger before it began.”

The new election is likely to take place on February 12 – and it could have real consequences for the governing red-red-green coalition. According to a poll on Sunday, the CDU is currently the strongest party in Berlin with 21%… though even at that number it remains unlikely that they would have enough support from the other parties to form a ruling coalition. Senator for the Interior, Andreas Geisel (SPD), was responsible for organising the election – and is now once again under serious pressure to resign.

Snow could come to Berlin this week, but the city’s racoons won’t mind. Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

Wednesday 16, November

On Wednesday, there were 1,178 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 159.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Snow incoming as temperatures drop in Berlin?

After an unusually warm early autumn, Berlin will experience a shock this week as temperatures drop sharply. Cold and windy weather is expected from Wednesday (have you been outside yet?) and temperatures are forecast to drop even further. Rain is expected on Thursday, and Friday could even see snow  though it is unlikely to last as the ground is still too warm. From Saturday on, cold night temperatures might lead to frost on the roads which could become dangerous and slippery in places.

In other news, Berlin is trying to contain its rapidly growing population of racoons. According to the Senate, the city has become a “city of milk and honey” for the animals – and measures are needed to curb their numbers. The animal is not native to Germany: it was brought over from North America following the First World War and bred for fur production. Some animals escaped, and they’ve been residing in Germany ever since.

Is Berlin set for a referendum on its climate future? Photo: IMAGO / IPON

Tuesday 15, November

On Tuesday, there were 1,588 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 168.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Climate neutral by 2030? Berlin looks set for another referendum

Organisers claim to have gathered more than 260,000 signatures calling for a referendum on Berlin’s climate future. If true, this would mean another referendum in the city is very likely. The threshold for calling a referendum is 175,000 signatures and, even assuming somewhere around 25 percent of signatures are invalid, the number collected surpasses that mark quite easily. The deadline for submitting the signatures for the “Berlin 2030 Carbon Neutral” referendum was reached on Monday evening – and the campaigners celebrated their likely success with a glass of Sekt on the banks of the Spree.

As things stand, the city of Berlin has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2045, but many believe this ambition is insufficient. Of course, this is only the first step. If successful, the city would need to hold a referendum on the subject – and only if that was passed, would they need to find a way to enact the vote into law. Unfortunately  as we’ve seen with the Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen referendum (which voted to expropriate the property of Berlin’s major landlords)  the city government can find lots of different ways to drag its heels.

How much should you pay for a döner kebab? Photo: IMAGO / Schöning

Monday 14, November

On Monday, there were 1,047 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 181.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Dönerpreisbremse: could Germany set a price cap on the döner kebab? 

On average, every German eats 16 döner kebabs every year. The combined sales from Germany’s kebab shops far outstrip the biggest fast food outlets like McDonalds, Burger King or Starbucks. But now, inflation has led to rising prices, and each day sees ever more shocked reports about how expensive the döner has become. When someone found a place in Frankfurt selling a €10 döner last week, it made national news. But can anything be done about these rising prices? There are some calls for a dönerpreisbremse: a price cap on the döner kebab. The questions of how to combat spiralling food prices was even brought up at Berlin’s SPD conference on Saturday, with one MP remembering that, in her youth, you could get a döner for €2.50. 

And it’s not just kebabs which are suffering: the organisers of the Christmas markets at Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz and the Rotes Rathaus have all announced that the price of their mulled wine will increase by 50 cents. It’s common that when inflation gets completely out of control, people begin to trade in products whose value they feel like know intuitively, like cigarettes or bottles of Coca-Cola. If things carry on like this, maybe Germany can base its new black market on the price of döner and glühwein

New Year’s Eve in Berlin can get dangerous. Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

Friday 11, November

On Friday, there were 1,153 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 186.5 cases per 100,000 people.

160 Berlin prisoners released in Xmas amnesty & New Years Eve fireworks ban

Christmas is still six weeks away, but some of Berlin’s prisoners have got an early present in the form of an amnesty releasing them from detention. Most of the pardoned inmates were being held at Plötzensee prison, and most were eligible for release anyway between October and January of next year. 57 of the prisoners were in prison for theft, 20 for assault, and 18 for “false-obtaining benefits” which is usually a term for fare evasion on public transport. Berlin is not the only German region to grant Christmas amnesties, most other German Bundesländer do the same. In fact, the only region that never grants this type of pardon is Bavaria.

And if we’re already thinking about Christmas, we might as well give some attention to New Year’s Eve. Silvester, as it’s known in Germany, has been relatively quiet the last couple of years with a fireworks ban in force in Berlin due to the city wanting to ensure the hospital’s weren’t overloaded during the pandemic. This year, the ban is going to lifted – except in three firecracker ban zones around the city. These areas are Alexanderplatz, Steinmetzkiez in Schöneberg, and some areas of Alt-Moabit. However, if the experience of the last two years are anything to go by, the ban won’t be followed too closely. Don’t expect a quiet night.

Do Tesla cameras comply with German law? Photo: IMAGO / ChinaImages

Thursday 10 November

On Thursday, there were 1,395 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 188.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Tesla on-board cameras help solve Berlin stabbing: but is it legal?

All Teslas have 8 tiny cameras that constantly record everything they see. This data is then sent to servers in the Netherlands, and saved on the internal USB stick. These cameras are seriously high definition. Any detail within 250 metres is clearly visible.

This information is available to police, but only they have a warrant. And, it seems, Berlin police used data from a nearby Tesla that drove past the accident that killed a 44-year-old cyclist on October 31, to find the man who stabbed the cement truck driver.

However, recording traffic in Germany is meant to be illegal. The Federal Court of Justice has been very clear about this. For this reason, most dashcams only activate when you brake suddenly or use your horn – and they are meant to store only a minute of footage at a time. Tesla is apparently exempt from this… though it’s unclear why.

Protesters atop the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: @THeatherbell

Wednesday 9, November

On Wednesday, there were 1,565 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 192.4 cases per 100,000 people.

Activists stick themselves to the Brandenburg Gate, Christmas tree delivery delays

They are at it again. Letzte Generation activists have stuck themselves to something, but instead of a gallery wall next to a soup-covered painting, this time it is the top of the Brandenburg Gate.

At around 10am on Wednesday morning, two activists climbed up to the top of the Brandenburg Gate and unfurled a sign that reads “We wish for survival for everyone – On the day of solidarity – We are all the last generation.”

The protestors chose today for their latest stunt, as November 9 is an oddly eventful day in German history. It is referred to as Schicksaltag (Destiny Day) because it is the date of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the date that the Germany’s last king Willhelm II was dethroned; Kristallnacht, when the synagogues and homes of many Jews were destroyed and many were murdered; the failed Beer Hall Putsch when Hitler tried to seize power in Bavaria in 1923; and the execution of left-liberal leader Robert Blum after the Vienna revolts of 1848.

In Berlin news which might not quite make that list, the Christmas tree that was supposed to go up at Breitscheidplatz on Tuesday morning was delayed, when it was discovered that the 22 metre high, 2.9 tonne Colorado Fir was too big to fit through the Britzer tunnel. At first it was too tall to fit, but when they secured the tree differently to make it lower, they realised it would be too wide to get past the security bollards at Breitscheidplatz. The transport company only had a limited time on their permit. If they couldn’t deliver it in their window, they would have to reapply, a process that could take weeks. They managed it eventually by doing a test run with another truck that wasn’t carrying the tree. Phew.

The BVG is now telling people not to come to its customer centres. Photo: IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini

Tuesday 8, November

On Tuesday, there were 2,012 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 201.9 cases per 100,000 people.

BVG and the €29 ticket: it’s a mess

What on earth is going on with the €29 ticket? Last Saturday, the BVG sent out a tweet which said that it is not worth going to a customer support centre to try and get a €29 ticket for November – none are available. Instead, tickets can be ordered for December, but only until November 20. After that date, they are worried you won’t get your physical ticket in time, and so you can only order for January. It’s pretty hard to understand, but basically, despite 22 days remaining in November, you cannot buy a ticket for this month. In fact you’ve got 13 days to buy a ticket which is only valid starting on December 1.

But there’s more. Yesterday, the sub-contracted ticket inspectors got the message that anyone carrying an email confirmation of their €29 ticket purchase (but who had not yet received a physical ticket) should be issued a €60 fine. And then, if you get a fine and want to dispute it in their online service area: it displays an error message saying that a “technical error” has occurred. All in all, pretty frustrating – but at least they sell those nicely patterned jackets!

Back Market. Goodbye again. Photo: Ruairi Casey

Monday 07, November

On Monday, there were 1,064 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 222.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Neukölln tenants live in 24-hour darkness thanks to building-sized advert

Head down to the corner of Sonnenallee and Hermannplatz and you’ll see it: an enormous building-sized advert for the tech company “Back Market” covering the entire structure of Sonnenallee 7. The advert went up on November 1, and during that time the residents of the building have had no natural light. What’s more, 20 spotlights blast artificial light on the ad during the night. Tenants have even complained that the situation is bad for their children, with one 4-year-old asking their mother “where the light has gone.” Residents first grew suspicious some weeks ago when they received a notice about “repair measures” taking place on the building. However the letter made no reference to a tarpaulin shutting off the light. One resident discovered from a construction worker that the advert was planned to stay up for six weeks – but that no renovation work was planned.

Sarah Nagel, Die Linke district councillor for Neukölln tweeted about the situation, calling it an “absolute scandal” and promising the council would act quickly.

Photo: IMAGO / Olaf Wagner

Friday 4, November

On Friday, there were 1,410 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 235.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin cyclist dies from injuries, Last Generation insist they can’t be held responsible

The 44-year-old cyclist critically injured in a car crash on Monday died last night in hospital, Berlin police are reporting. Monday morning saw a bizarre and tragic series of events which left a cyclist critically injured after she was hit by a cement mixing vehicle in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. In a weird twist, the driver of the vehicle was then himself injured, apparently stabbed by a bystander who then fled the scene. The suspect of this attack has since been arrested and is believed to be a 48-year-old homeless man.

To further complicate this story, the police union spoke out shortly following the incident – not against reckless drivers, lack of cycling lanes, mental health provision, or lack of social support, but rather to blame the Last Generation climate activists. The activist group were demonstrating on the A100 motorway, in another part of the city, but their action reportedly delayed a police vehicle which was en route to free the woman from underneath the cement truck. As a matter of fact, it seems that what delayed the vehicle was not the protest, so much as the failure of the drivers to create a rescue lane which would have allowed it through. Henning Jeschke, a member of Last Generation who went on hunger strike last year, told the press that the activist group always informs the police of their protests ahead of time, and insisted they can’t be held responsible: “We are not God,” he said.

BVG inspectors assaulting Abbéy Odunlami, breaking his shoulder. Photo: ZDF Frontal

Thursday 3, November

On Thursday, there were 1,516 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 251.7 cases per 100,000 people.

New documentary shows shocking violence of ticket inspectors on the BVG

Ask any Berliner, and they’ll tell you that violence committed by BVG ticket inspectors has been out of control for a while: almost everyone knows someone who has been roughed up, or seen the violence with their own eyes. But now in a new documentary from ZDF Frontal, together with the campaigners BVG Weil Wir Uns Fürchten, extensive footage has been assembled which shows the extent of the racism and violence perpetrated by BVG ticket inspectors. In recent years a series of shocking incidents of violence has increased increased public pressure on Berlin’s transportation company to do something about the problem, but so far very little action has been taken.

In response, to the documentary, BVG have basically shifted the blame. They say that the majority of the inspectors are employed by contractors, so it’s not their fault. Weil wir dich Lieben, indeed.

Berlin €29 ticket will be extended till March. Photo: IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini

Wednesday 2, November

On Wednesday, there were 2,103 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 277.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin’s €29 ticket to be extended till March,€49 ticket under discussion today 

It was only meant to last until the end of the year, but Berlin’s mayor Franziska Giffey announced yesterday that the city’s €29 ticket – covering the AB zone – will be extended at least until March of next year. What’s more, the social ticket (currently only marginally cheaper at €27.50) will be reduced to €9 – thus agreeing to a demand that Die Linke have been making from the start.

These announcements come as part of a package of relief measures for Berlin in the wake of the energy crisis adding up to a total supplementary budget of €2.6 billion, including subsidies for energy costs, relief for some companies and €36 million set aside for the likely repeat of last year’s botched elections. 

The Federal government will also meet on Wednesday to discuss relief measures on a national scale, such as the gas price cap and the €49 ticket covering rail journeys nationwide – the follow up to last summers €9 ticket. The aim remains for the €49 ticket to come into effect on January 1.

A cyclist, a concrete mixer and climate activists were caught up in a bizarre incident on Monday. Photo: IMAGO / Steinach

Tuesday 1, November

On Tuesday, there were 2,534 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 299.0 cases per 100,000 people.

Woman crushed, driver stabbed… and this is climate activists’ fault??

On Monday morning, a bizarre accident took place in Berlin-Wilmersdorf which has led to a lot of finger pointing and recrimination in Berlin. First of all, a cyclist was badly injured when she got into an accident with a concrete-mixing vehicle on the corner of Spichernstraße and Bundesallee. When the driver of the truck got out of the vehicle to check on the victim, the 64-year-old was then stabbed by an unknown assailant who fled the scene shortly afterwards. Because the woman was trapped under the concrete mixer, emergency services tried to call in a special vehicle equipped with tools to free her – but this was held up in its attempt to reach the scene, apparently delayed by the ongoing Last Generation climate demonstrations, where activists have been glueing themselves to the road. The cyclist was later flown to hospital by helicopter.

The police union have used the tragic accident to criticise the climate protestors, saying this incident should make us “say goodbye to the fairytale of harmless protest”… which seems somewhat bizarre. Shouldn’t they be focusing on the stabbing? All in all, a nasty and weird sequence of events.

Climate activists attach themselves to the mounting of a dinosaur skeleton at Berlin’s Naturkundemuseum on Sunday. Photo: Letzte Generation

Monday 31, October

On Monday, there were 1,544 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 331.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Dinosaur skeletons, fake blood: More climate protests in Berlin museums

Following last week’s mashed-potato-on-Monet attack at Museum Barberini, two women were temporarily arrested for attaching themselves to the mounting of a dinosaur skeleton at Berlin’s Museum für Naturkunde on Sunday. The 34- and 42-year-old activists, who performed the stunt on behalf of environmental activists ‘Letzte Generation’ to draw attention to the climate crisis, were removed from beside the 66-million-year-old skeleton at 2:45pm and taken into custody. The museum has subsequently filed charges of trespassing and damage to property. 

In an apparently unrelated incident on the same day, a woman threw fake blood at the glass-covered artwork Clown by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie, before sticking herself to the wall next to it. It remains unclear whether this attack had a political motive. “I am shocked by this further senseless attack on art, which in this case obviously cannot be attributed to any group active in climate policy,” the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger, announced on Sunday evening.

Photo: IMAGO / Sabine Gudath

Friday 28, October

On Friday, there were 2,672 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 353.0 cases per 100,000 people.

Get ready for a warm weekend

Just when we were all starting to worry about gas prices, whether to turn on the heating and how we might manage through the winter – everything heats up. Temperatures in Berlin and Brandenburg are set to be unusually warm this weekend, with temperatures rising to a possible 24 degrees this afternoon – and things are set to stay at a similar level right through the weekend. The highest temperature ever recorded for this time of year in Berlin was 23.4, measured on October 26th 2006. A normal temperature would be about 10 or 11 degrees at this time of year, significantly lower than what we’re experiencing.

The warm weather is also having another effect: gas prices are falling. All across the EU, the scramble to obtain gas ahead of the winter has led to an over-supply. Gas storage facilities are full  and tankers are lining up at ports, unable to unload their cargoes. The price for one megawatt hour of gas is now about €100, down from a peak of €380 at the height of the crisis. It should be noted however that €100 is still very high – a few years ago, the price was just €20.

A 3D render of what Kulturprojekt Berlin hopes their goal will look like. Photo: Courtesy Kulturprojekt Berlin GmbH.

Thursday 27, October

On Thursday, there were 2,264 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 363.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Brandenburger Tor to become giant football goal

If you speak a little bit of German, you will know that the Tor in ‘Brandenburger Tor’ means ‘gate’. Confusingly, Tor is also the word used for ‘goal’, as in “Wow, can you believe we scored seven goals against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup Final?”. It makes sense then that when Germany hosts the European Football Championships in 2024, the Brandenburger Tor will be transformed into a giant football goal for the duration of the championship. The goal will also function as a screen for public viewings of the matches.

Kulturprojekt Berlin, the company responsible for organising the festivities, have also announced that they will be laying down grass on the road that runs from Siegessäule to Brandenburger Tor, creating a ‘pop-up park’ for the expected 1.5 million football fans to relax on between screenings. The public are already speculating that the grass will be covered in cigarette butts within hours, and frankly we agree. Cute idea though.

The plan is to turn Friedrichstrasse into an Italian-style piazza. Photo: IMAGO / Christian Mang

Wednesday 26, October

On Wednesday, there were 3,553 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 390.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Fast & Furious: The battle over Friedrichstraße

A disagreement has broken out in Berlin’s ruling coalition between the Transport Senator Bettina Jarasch (Greens) and Berlin’s mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD), after a Berlin court ruled that the closure of Friedrichstraße to traffic was illegal. In response, Giffey called for the shopping street to be opened to cars as quickly as possible – to which Jarasch commented “I’m not sure whether Franziska Giffey has understood precisely what this judgement is about.” Ouch! The Transport Senator clarified that all that was in question here was the timing, insisting that: “Friedrichstraße will become a pedestrian zone,” and that the parallel Charlottenstraße “will become a bicycle street… the process will continue… Ms. Giffey knows that too.”

WhatsApp is down. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Tuesday 25, October

On Tuesday, there were 3,632 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 402.0 cases per 100,000 people.

WhatsApp is down: Tens of thousands of people can’t send messages

Tens of thousands of people are currently unable to use the instant messaging service WhatsApp in a major disruption affecting Germany and abroad. Since 9.00am, more than 150,000 reports have been received of people unable to use the service. As yet, no one knows what has caused the breakdown, but some Berliners have apparently become so desperate they’ve resorted to using iMessage. Let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad, this year’s been tough enough already. 

****UPDATE: 11.21 – They’ve fixed it!****

Last Generation activists thrown mashed potatoes at Monet’s Haystacks. Source: Twitter/Letzte Generation

Monday 24, October

On Monday, there were 1,837 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 422.3 cases per 100,000 people.

Mashed potato on Monet: art attacks come to Berlin

Just over a week ago, climate protestors in London made international headlines when they threw a can of soup over a painting by Vincent van Gogh to protest climate change. On Sunday, a similar action took place at the Barberini Gallery in Potsdam. This time, the target was Haystacks, a painting by Monet which fetched $110 million at auction. The group Last Generation were behind the attack, which saw mashed potatoes thrown at the famous artwork. Immediately afterwards, two activists glued their hands to the wall of the gallery. The painting, which is covered by glass, was not damaged. Following the attack, the activist group put out a statement on Twitter which read: “What’s worth more, art, or life? Monet loved nature and captured its fragile beauty in his works. Why are so many of us more afraid of one of these images being damaged than of the destruction of our world itself?”

On Saturday, more than 80,000 people joined a protest in Berlin in solidarity with the ongoing protest movement in Iran, triggered by the death of a young Kurdish woman. The protest was significantly larger than anticipated, but was carried out peacefully. We recently spoke with members of the group Feminista Berlin, who helped organise the demonstration.

Weed might be legal in Germany soon. Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

Friday 21, October

On Friday, there were 2,999 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 443.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Germany’s plan to legalise cannabis leaked?

We’ve known for a while that Germany planned to legalise weed, but it’s been unclear until know what that would mean exactly. This week, draft plans by Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) were leaked, revealing details like: where could you get it? How much can you carry? And, how strong would it be?

The answers to those seem to be, in turn: at licensed shops and pharmacies, 20g (plus you’re allowed to grow two plants) and, most controversially, the THC level would be limited to 15 percent for those over 21 and 10 percent for those 18-21. Minors caught in possession would not be criminally charged regardless of THC percentage. There would also be a total ban on advertising, and packaging must be plain.

The change is the law is slated for 2024 – and if it goes through it could turn Germany into one of the largest single markets for cannabis in the world. Some, though have criticised the THC stipulation – 15 percent is seen as relatively weak, and might encourage some to continue to get stronger highs from the black market. So maybe Görlitzer park doesn’t need to worry, after all.

Deutsche Post have a problem. Photo: IMAGO / Michael Gstettenbauer

Thursday 20, October

On Thursday, there were 4,059 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 442.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Missing letters, misplaced packages: what’s up with postal delivery in Berlin?

Who’s got your mail? The number of complaints about letters and packages arriving too late or being delivered incorrectly in Berlin has increased significantly this year: 2,472 complaints were lodged by the end of September in 2022, as opposed to 1,142 over the same period last year. The Deutsche Post has acknowledged there is a problem, citing the pandemic and a lack of staff as contributing factors. Apparently, no neighbourhood is particularly badly affected – it’s a general problem across the city.

Strangely, there has also been a shift in the type of delivery affected: last year, 59 percent of complaints about missing mail concerned parcels, with just 24 percent referring to letters. This year, those numbers have switched: 55 percent of complaints concerned letters, while 28 percent were about missing parcels. Speaking to rbb, Deutsche Post acknowledged the problem, then made a pitch to potential new employees: “We offer very good working conditions, fixed working hours, standard wages and social security. The salary is paid regularly, on the 15th of every month – and the workplace is crisis proof.” Sounds like Deutsche Post have a new slogan: If you can’t beat us, join us!

Photo: BVG

Wednesday 19, October

On Wednesday, there were 3,881 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 410.9 cases per 100,000 people.

Mehr Street kann Wear nicht sein: BVG brings out new fashion range

On Tuesday, the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) announced a new clothing line bearing the newly-commissioned “pattern of diversity”. The design was introduced in July to replace the iconic pattern which all U-Bahn train and bus seats had borne since the 1980s. The change was forced: the designer of the original pattern has sued the state-owned company for breach of copyright. As a result, the BVG introduced a new, visually similar pattern in which the abstract shapes were replaced by coloured silhouettes of different figures one might expect to see on Berlin’s public transport.

This same pattern is repeated on the BVG’s new clothing collection, which was launched with the slogan “Mehr Street kann Wear nicht sein”, which they’re translating into English as: “Putting the street in streetwear”. This isn’t the first time the BVG has tried their hand at merch; in 2018, they released a pair of shoes with Adidas, with some Berliners queuing in freezing temperatures outside a Kreuzberg store to procure a pair. We’ll have to wait and see if this new range inspires similar devotion.

Could you find a place in your home for a red spitting cobra? Photo: IMAGO / BRIGANI-ART

Tuesday 18, October

On Tuesday, there were 3,304 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 415.7 cases per 100,000 people.

Iguanas, snakes, turtles: the energy crisis is coming for everyone

Have you turned on your heating yet? As all of Berlin seems to be worrying about increased energy costs, there’s one group of Berliners who are especially at risk: the cold-blooded. As a result of the energy crisis, animal shelters across the city are preparing for a significant influx of exotic animals, especially those who need to live in high temperatures like snakes, iguanas and turtles. Such species “require very high energy consumption,” said a spokesperson for Berlin’s Tierheim animal shelter. “We expect to get more animals in the coming days and weeks.” Plus, of course, the animal shelter itself is suffering from high energy costs, spending €250,000 per year – up from €100,000 – on gas alone. The Tierheim already imposed a temporary freeze on donations of privately owned animals last summer – but it has since opened up again… to everything except dogs. “We’ve got a waiting list of 80 dogs,” the spokesperson said.

Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

Monday 17, October

On Monday, there were 2,506 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 448.1 cases per 100,000 people.

One in ten people go to work knowing they’re infected with Covid

It’s an unexpectedly warm, pleasant day in Berlin this Monday, with temperatures expected to reach 24 degrees.The good times won’t last, however: rain is expected in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

As seasonal colds and flu start creeping in, apparently Germany needs reminding that it is advisable to stay home and get tested. A new study from the health insurance company Pronova has revealed that one in ten people in Germany go into work despite knowing they’re infected with coronavirus. Nine percent of the people surveyed admitted doing this, with 17 percent saying they worked from home, 17 percent staying home and not working, and eight percent saying that their decision would depend on how busy things were at their workplace. And that was just COVID-19: more than half the people surveyed admitted that they went to work despite having some other potentially contagious illness.

Finally, some measures to address Berlin’s ongoing housing crisis have come from an unexpected source: the CDU. The party’s parliamentary group in Berlin issued a 30-page paper which called for, among other things, a rent register whereby all apartments being rented out in Berlin would be recorded in a publicly available document. Tenants could then find out whether certain rent controls were applicable to their building, if they were being charged a fair price for their district or if their rents were being unfairly raised. Other measures include a legal basis on which to arrange an apartment swap, where you take on someone else’s contract with no increase in rent, and a “misoccupancy” tax for people who live in social housing but earn more than the entitlement would allow.

The pandemic was tough for clubs, but it seems like tomorrow is still the question for Berghain. Photo: IMAGO / Bildgehege

Friday 14, October

On Friday, there were 3,141 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 468.2 cases per 100,000 people.

“Berghain is closing forever” Are the rumours really true?

Rumours are circulating that Berlin’s world famous club, Berghain, may shut its doors permanently in the near future. First, the club shut down their record label, Ostgut Ton, then their in-house booking agency, Ostgut. Now, ex-journalist and techno-insider, Jürgen Laarmann, has posted something on Facebook which makes an extraordinary claim: “Berghain is closing forever. The final end will come this year!” he wrote, in a post which has since been deleted. “One of the founders has already been paid out and is said to be staying in the countryside in Brandenburg, the others simply ‘don’t feel like it’ anymore and have other life plans in mind. In this case there are different concepts, e.g. passing the club on to younger hands or selling it to another operator. Apparently this is not desirable. Continuing to exist as an art location does not appear to be an option.”

While several outlets are reporting the news, it remains unsubstantiated. So we’ll file this under: huge, if true.

Where’s the Ampelmännchen gone? Photo: IMAGO / Wolfgang Maria Weber

Thursday 13, October

On Thursday, there were 2,485 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 468.1 cases per 100,000 people.

250 Berlin traffic lights won’t turn back on – and no one knows why

Where’s the Ampelmännchen gone? The Berlin Ampelmann – the strange little guy wearing a hat who appeared on DDR traffic lights and has since become Berlin’s official traffic icon for both East and West (as well as one of the tourist-y symbols of the city) – won’t be appearing so much today. 250 traffic lights across Berlin turned off last night and won’t come back on. The cause of the defect is as yet unclear – which in itself is a little worrying coming so soon after the suspected sabotage of Deutsche Bahn trains across northern Germany on Saturday. Could another saboteur have come for the Ampelmann? Surely not, but we don’t know yet how long the disruption will last. Oh well, at least we’ve got the €29 ticket.

Meanwhile, in Friedrichshain, initial construction has finished on the controversial “Amazon tower”, which when it is complete will be Berlin’s tallest building – if only until December 2024 when the Estrel tower in Neukölln is expected to overtake it.

A 40-ton wrecked tank will be installed in Berlin, outside the Russian embassy. Photo: IMAGO / VXimages.com

Wednesday 12, October

On Wednesday, there were 4,314 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 469.0 cases per 100,000 people.

Wrecked Russian tank to be placed outside Russian embassy, Germany to lose crucial Mars pipeline

After initially rejecting the application, Berlin-Mitte has now reversed course and approved a proposal to place a wrecked Russian tank opposite the Russian embassy in Berlin, a provocative memorial to the ongoing war in Ukraine. At first, the district rejected the application, stating that it was inappropriate given that people had “probably died” in the wreck, stating furthermore that the installation was about art and could affect Germany’s diplomatic relations. Now, they have reversed course and deemed those concerns irrelevant, approving the idea on the grounds of freedom of expression. The vehicle cannot be placed directly outside the embassy, because the street cannot support the full 40-ton weight, but will be placed opposite on a blocked-off section of Schadowstraße.

Elsewhere, on top of the various food shortages and price increases already this year, Germany faces winter deprived of another crucial resource: Mars bars. Talks have broken down between the US group which supplies Mars products (whose range includes animal feed) and several German supermarkets. The issue is a disagreement over prices, with the German companies finding recent price increases unacceptable. Mars products – which include not just Mars bars but also Milky Way, M&Ms, Skittles, Snickers and Twix – will no longer be found on the shelves of Rewe or Edeka, nor their subsidiaries like Penny, Netto and Marktkauf. And just before Halloween, too.

So, that’s where we left the cash. It’s always in the last place you look. Photo: IMAGO / foto2press

Tuesday 11, October

On Tuesday, there were 3,983 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 457.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Germany to pay your December gas bills? Cracks appear in the walls of the U2 U-Bahn tunnel

On Monday morning, an expert commission to Germany’s federal government presented their plan of how the proposed gas price cap might be implemented – and the results were quite interesting. The commission recommended a one-off payment to all households and commercial customers to cover their gas bills for December, followed by a gas price cap to come into effect next year – potentially running from March 2023 to April 2024. The government must now decide whether to follow their recommendations.

Meanwhile, the U2 line of Berlin’s U-Bahn will be blocked for the foreseeable future between Senefelderplatz and Klosterstraße due to slightly alarming sounding “cracks in the wall” which have appeared in the tunnel. The foundation pit for a new high-rise building is being dug out of the ground at Alexanderplatz, and it seems to have impacted the structural integrity of the railway line. “We measured that the tunnel.. moved slightly,” said BVG spokesman Jannes Schwentu. Over the next few weeks, a team of engineers will examine the tunnel and determine if repairs need to be made. A shuttle service will replace the interrupted route.

AfD supporters march past the Reichstag in Berlin. Photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire / Dan Herrick

Monday 10, October

On Monday, there were 3,345 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 357.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Railway lines sabotaged on Saturday, while more than join 10,000 right-wing protests

Deutsche Bahn communication systems were attacked on Saturday morning, disrupting almost all long-distance train travel across northern Germany – and the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces, say we should expect more similar attacks. It’s still unknown who exactly was behind the attack, but two simultaneous incidents saw important Deutsche Bahn communication cables cut in two places: in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen and in North-Rhine Westphalia. Something like normal service was able to resume over course of the day on Saturday, but these types of hybrid attacks may become more common, according to Bundeswehr General Carsten Breuer: “Every substation, every power plant, every pipeline can be attacked.”

Among those who had their journey disrupted on Saturday were many Germans coming to Berlin to join protests: more than 10,000 people attended the AfD demonstration on Saturday, far exceeding the 4,000 officially registered. About 1,400 people joined counter-demos. The AfD is seeking to take advantage of the interlocking crises of the Russian war in Ukraine, energy costs and inflation – and it’s hard to imagine any other major party being able to mobilise such crowds right now. During the course of the protests, 31 people were arrested, including an 18 year old who was detained on Leipziger Platz for performing the Hitler salute, which is banned under German law.

Who watches the watchmen? Image: IMAGO / Christian Spicker

Friday 07, October

On Friday, there were 3,165 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 330.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Bad lieutenant Berlin; Steglitz double decker bus crash

A Berlin policeman has been arrested by his colleagues after he was found using a “coke-taxi” on Unter den Linden on Wednesday evening. Police officers were observing a vehicle which they suspected of dealing drugs when the 47-year-old man got in and made his purchase. When they stopped him shortly afterwards, he was discovered to be an employee of the Berlin State Criminal Police Office. Following news of the case, the police union made this statement: “You can be a drug user, or a police officer. Both together doesn’t work.”

Yesterday evening in Steglitz, a bus smashed into a double decker bridge, injuring five people, two seriously. The upper deck of the bus was completely destroyed. The accident happened at around 10pm in Bergstrasse. It’s unclear why the bus had left its regular route – but it’s not going anywhere in a hurry: engineers will need to check the bridge to see whether it remains structurally sound before the bus that is wedged underneath it can be removed.

Andreas Geisel and Franziska Giffey inspect some housing. Photo: IMAGO / Emmanuele Contini

Thursday 06, October

On Thursday, there were 1,448 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 289.0 cases per 100,000 people.

Botched election, “unlawful” referendum delay: Will Berlin Senator Andreas Giesel resign?

The Berlin constitutional court came to the conclusion last week that the elections held last year were a mess because of poor planning – and the CDU and AfD are blaming the then-head of the interior administration, Andreas Geisel (SPD), for the situation which could see 300 districts in Berlin re-run their elections.

“Trust in Senator Geisel has been lost,” stated the CDU in a written motion, continuing that if Geisel refuses to resign, the Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) must “fire him immediately”.

And the CDU and AfD now have an unlikely ally calling for Geisel’s resignation.

Remember that referendum where Berlin voted to expropriate the big landlords? The one they’re still “looking into” how to implement? Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen, the activist group who called for the referendum, claim they’ve also got grounds for Giesel to resign after obtaining internal government emails that prove he deliberately delayed calls for the referendum in the first place. In one, the government’s own lawyer writes: “Geisel knowingly acted unlawfully in delaying the petition for a referendum in 2020… Should the lawsuit be admissible, we would have no chance.

Endstation S7 Ahrensfelde Die S7 wartet an ihrer Endstation im S-Bahnhof Ahrensfelde Berlin Berlin Deutschland *** Final stop S7 Ahrensfelde The S7 is waiting at its final stop in the S station Ahrensfelde Berlin Berlin Germany

Wednesday 05, October

On Wednesday, there were 3,599 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 248.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin to get new train stations – but where?

Berlin’s train system can be a bit confusing at times: the central train station is weirdly out of the way, and the doubled system still contains remnants of the division into East and West. But now Berlin’s red-red-green government has plans to resurrect some former train stations and routes in order to improve the city’s accessibility. First of all, Marzahn (currently only accessible via S-Bahn) could get a regional train station again. It had one, after all, for 80 years – from 1898 to 1981 – and a connection via regional train would give residents of Marzahn-Hellersdorf a fast, direct connection to the city.

What’s more, Berlin’s first ever railway line, which ran from the city through Zehlendorf to Potsdam, is set to be resurrected. A regional train would once again run this route – though where it makes stops along the way is yet to be determined: potential new stations include Zehlendorf, Steglitz, Schöneberg, Südkreuz, Neukölln or Hermannstraße. These last three stations are located on Berlin’s Ringbahn, which is also set to be electrified and expanded. A final decision is expected in the first half of 2023.

Steffen Kotré, poet. Photo: IMAGO / Christian Spicker

Tuesday 04, October

On Tuesday, there were 2,554 new Covid-19 infections reported in Berlin. The seven-day incidence currently stands at 289.6 cases per 100,000 people.

Berlin demonstrations, Nazi literature in the Bundestag, Gas prices 

A number of protests took place in Berlin yesterday, mainly concerned with high-energy prices, the war in Ukraine and corona policy. The largest demonstration saw more than 1,400 people march from Potsdamer Platz to Bebelsplatz in Mitte, and was organised under the motto: “Bread, peace and heating: protest instead of freezing!” 

Elsewhere, reports have emerged that member of the Bundestag for Brandenburg Steffen Kotré (AfD) spent the early 2000s publishing right-wing extremist poetry on several websites with neo-Nazi ties. In a story that feels lifted from Roberto Bolaño,  one website Deutschherrenklub even had a separate section called Kotrés World in which the budding poet penned lines like: “Stir, like a drum, our Nordic blood” and “melt the black iron in the white embers”. Quite a few of the poems refer back to the black, white and red colours of the imperial flag, others celebrate the violence of the Freikorps, the proto-fascist paramilitary groups who murdered Rosa Luxembourg. It was also reported recently that Kotré was among the signatories for a 2004 declaration of solidarity with Holocaust denier Horst Mahler. 

Finally, there will be talks today as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) returns from an enforced break with coronavirus. Germany’s state and federal governments are set to discuss relief measures, including the implementation of the gas price cap.