#130: Spree-swimming, deportations, gas deal, dad time
And a new "climate-killing" art museum
As my comrade-in-arms Andrew likes to say: why can’t we have nice things in Berlin? Like proper bike lanes everywhere? Or trash cans that work? Or ticket checkers that don’t beat people to a pulp? Or functioning elections? Okay, the last two aren’t nice things, they’re just a characteristic of a civilised, functioning society — but you know what I mean.
In Berlin nice-thing projects often fail because they are deemed too expensive or the nice things sink in a mire of incompetence and corruption.
Flussbad Berlin, a scheme to build a swimming area in the Spree near the Humboldt Forum, looks like it might fall victim to all three. Back in 2017, the non-profit used a government subsidy to hire Mitte studio realities:united to produce fancy PR materials about the project. They failed to solicit offers from other agencies so the Senat says the association has to pay back 25% of the sum, €10,500. The project has already received €6 million in public funding.
To build the actual bathing facility would cost a projected €77 million — which is why the influential federation of taxpayers is calling for it to be cancelled. That cash could go to renovating public swimming pools instead, they say.
A utopian vision of swimming in the centre of the city looks like it’s going up in smoke. Understandable, I guess, in an era of war, inflation and all-round crisis.
And yet: if one thinks of all the other extravagant things the state pours millions into (like the silly barn-shaped museum planned near Potsdamer Platz, see below) the Flussbad is an original and fun way of injecting some energy and life into the rather dull and stuffy Museumsinsel.
More news below.
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Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, November 29
New cases in one day: 2,067 (998 Friday)
Total deaths: 5,135 (+12 over Friday)
➡️ 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 173.2 (157.2 Friday)
➡️ 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 12.2 (12.6 Friday)
➡️ Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 4.6% (4.3% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Two weeks paid leave for dad
German family minister Lisa Paus (Greens) said Monday that from 2024 new fathers would be eligible for two weeks paid time off following the birth of their children. Why only 2024? Because the government doesn’t want to burden companies more during the current energy crisis. This is of course in addition to parental leave (here’s a good English explainer of Elternzeit) which can be taken by both parents for up to a total of three years (not all paid, mind you). Currently many dads dip into their regular vacation time directly after their kids are born.
Deport refugees to make room for others?
Berlin’s interior affairs chief Iris Spranger (SPD) said Monday she wants to deport 600 refugees back to Moldova before Christmas — to open up beds in refugee housing for fleeing Ukrainians. “Our humanitarian concern is the war refugees from Ukraine,” she said. Spranger justified the decision by saying that Moldova would accept the immigrants and that the German government had given Moldova €32 million to cope with repatriation. She said there were 3,200 Moldovans illegally residing in Berlin.
Qatar and Germany sign gas contract
German-Qatari relations were not evidently shaken by the German football team’s protests against a ban on rainbow armbands. The two nations have inked a deal ensuring Germany up to two million tonnes of Qatari natural gas in the form of LPG per year for 15 years, with deliveries starting 2026.
We’re going to need plenty of that gas — to heat Berlin’s new “Museum of the 20th Century”. Our answer to New York’s Moma or London’s Tate Modern is sprouting out of the ground at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz and designed by Swiss “starchitects” Herzog & de Meuron. Stefan Simon, a specialist on ecological museums, estimates that the building will gobble up 450 kilowatt hours of energy per square metre a year, four times as much energy per square metre as the Altes Museum, which was built in 1830. The Guardian has the full story.
A less glamourous, but more essential kind of shed burned to the ground Monday night, reports Berliner Zeitung. A hundred firefighters fought to save a 1,000 square metre Netto supermarket in Müggelsee but to little avail. The roof collapsed but no one was injured, according to the fire department. The cause of the blaze is unknown.
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Festival: Around the world in 14 films
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Prices in German supermarkets went up by 15.1% between January and November according to the federal statistics office. To calculate inflation, they take a “typical basket” of items. RBB did its own calculation, based on different shopper preferences and found that a vegetarian shopper’s bill went up by an average of 15.6% over the same period. A “regional and organic” basket cost 14.3% more. A shopper buying “fast and easy” food (I’m picturing canned potato soup) spent “only” 12.7% more this month than at the beginning of the year.
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