congratulations, you’re in the right country. Germany is the sanest nation in the West, writes Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times. I don’t have a subscription so I didn’t read the article, but the headline alone caused me to almost choke on my vegan currywurst. Sane? Really? I suspect Mr Rachman has never tried to find a Kita for his kids within the Ringbahn or navigate Elster. Besides, I doubt he speaks any German, so how could he even identify German sanity?
As for myself, I try to rein in my embittered expat persona and strive to find signs of sanity and progress in a city the German press relished in calling a “failed state” not too long ago. And this week I indeed have found some green shoots of good news. Somehow, though, the evergreens of Berlin madness keep rearing their heads.
Have a nice week!
PS: If you’re here for the first time, 20 Percent Berlin is a newsletter for international Berliners that goes out every Tuesday and Friday. If you like, share it!
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, October 12
Fully vaccinated: 65.3% (64.8% Friday)
New cases in one day: 667(516 Friday)
Total deaths: 3,655 (+9 over Friday)
🟡 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 79.4 (74.4 Friday)
🟢 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 1.9 (1.3 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 8.9% (7.9% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona information page
Tschüss, free tests!
Berlin authorities upped their efforts to nudge vaccine recalcitrants to get jabbed: Covid-19 rapid tests are no longer free-of-charge for most people. State Secretary for Health Martin Matz (SPD) said people could expect to pay between €12-15 per test. As a result, it’s believed many of the 1,200 privately run but state-subsidized centres will close down. Berlin is maintaining at least one state-run centre per district. Quick tests for pregnant and breastfeeding women, kids under 12 as well as those who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons remain free. Matz also said Berlin was figuring out a way to make tests free for people reliant on state benefits - but was vague on the details.
So about that election…
Nothing spectacular to report. However, CDU chancellor candidate and election loser Armin Laschet has finally bowed out - though not especially gracefully - and his fantasy “Jamaica” coalition ain’t happening. Instead, Germany and the city-state of Berlin are on track for “traffic light” coalitions between SPD, Die Grünen and the FDP, but nothing’s set in stone. The Greens and FDP leaders have been posting band pics all over Instagram like they were 18. We’ll let you know when something actually happens. On a side note: #legalisierung is trending on German Twitter today. All three traffic light parties hope to legalise cannabis, which has already attracted the ire of police union GdP. “It’s time to stop glossing over the dangers of the joint,” said union boss Oliver Malchow in an interview.
As we mentioned last week, it’s the autumn holidays and families were leaving Berlin in droves at the weekend. Meaning, naturally, that chaos broke out at BER, our cursed airport. Reports were grim. Families missed their flights. Lines at security were endless. Freshly arrived passengers waited two hours for their baggage. Welcome to Börlin! The airport said it wasn’t to blame and pointed a finger at the airlines for not providing enough check-in staff and the Federal Police for not making sure security - which was outsourced to private firms years ago - had enough people on shift. In a nutshell, it seems like BER is the latest institution to be slammed by the Great Resignation triggered by the pandemic. “Essential workers” have moved on to other professions and aren’t returning. Meanwhile, Lufthansa advised passengers to show up at BER four hours ahead of their departure time to be sure to catch their flight. Take the train next time?
Hypezig “cooler than Berlin”
Lonely Planet says Leipzig is the best destination in Germany and better than Berlin. Leipzig, that city smack in the middle of AfD country where a week ago a Westin Grand employee told a Jewish guest to remove his star of David pendant. A hotel, it turns out, that hired a local neo-Nazi-run security firm. Hmm. But sure, go to Leipzig, tourists. Like we need more backpackers clogging up Admiralbrücke. Meanwhile, Timeout placed Neukölln 11th in its coolest neighbourhoods in the world ranking this year. The ranking is dumb, but at least Leipzig didn’t make it on there. Ha!
Green tech and wannabe green tech
The city’s eco start-up scene keeps chalking up little victories and attracting international attention. Last week, indoor farming company Infarm co-founder Osnat Michaeli was nominated for the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Awards. Meanwhile, TechCruch reports that Berlin carbon-negative bioplastics start-up Made of Air scored €5 million in seed funding. FYI, both firms were founded by international Berliners. And in yet another Berlin eco-tech success, online solar energy portal Zolar just reported a doubling of demand for its photovoltaic panels in 2020.
Fashion retailer Zalando wants in on the green action and says it’s planning to do something about the horrendous waste in its industry. The online megastore wants to “extend the lifespan of at least 50,000,000 garments” by 2023 and is partnering with a Berlin tailor and sneaker drycleaners Solefresh to help customers get their gear repaired. Greenwashing? Possibly. Maybe just forget about Zalando and get that sweater repaired at the tailor down the street.
Factoid: How Halloween came to Germany
Due to the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991, Karneval was cancelled across Germany. Panicked costume retailers banded together to promote Halloween as a way to keep their businesses afloat. Haribo started making scary candy. German farmers grew pumpkins. Kids learned the phrase “süßes oder saures” - a rather poor substitute for “trick or trick”.
A free exhibition…
In the gallery at the SPD party headquarters, the Willy-Brandt-Haus, you’ll find the World Press Photo Exhibition 2021 - showing exceptional photojournalism from around the globe, including the winner of the annual World Press Photo Award, Mads Nissen’s “The First Embrace”, a shot of a patient’s first hug after five months’ corona lockdown at a care home in Brazil.
Willy-Brandt-Haus, Wilhelmstraße 140, Kreuzberg, through October 24, Tuesday-Sunday, noon-8pm. Free entry. Website.
Also on our radar…
Not really a Berlin thing, but worth a shout out: The European Union is giving away 60,000 free 30-day European youth rail passes in its DiscoverEU programme. You have to be an EU citizen and aged 18-20. Actually, UK citizens can also sign up - one more time. Apply here through October 26.
That’s it for now. See you Friday.
omg i love these news & specially the sass that you put into it 🤣 amazing!
Dear Maurice, the airport and Leipzig paragraphs had me howling, thank you. I absolutely love the snark that these posts have as opposed to the old Zeitung tweets. I posted about the newsletter on Reddit, hopefully your readership continues to grow!