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#144: Car vs. Brandenburg Gate, filthy restaurants, CBD or weed?
People used to be able to actually drive through
I’ve been spending some comedy-related time in Hamburg lately and while Kottbusser Tor can sometimes be unsettling, that northern city’s main train station is downright terrifying. When it comes to inner-city dystopia, Hamburg wins hands down.
The dystopia reminded me of the night I knew I’d be spending a decent portion of my life in Berlin. I was in Berlin on business in 1998 with my then-girlfriend and we took a taxi to Oranienburger Straße. Tacheles was at its peak as an art squat and someone was welding giant, fire-breathing dragons on the ground floor.
When we got out of the taxi, we stepped into the midst of a group of drug dealers. Prostitutes were dotted along the street every few meters. My girlfriend was convinced she was about to be the victim of a murder and first tried to jump back into the taxi through an open window before yelling at the driver to wait as he sped off.
Meanwhile I was standing there looking around and thinking: I’ve finally found home. The other night in Hamburg, horrified by the arguments developing around me (someone was digging in a trash can they weren’t supposed/allowed to be digging in), I wondered what the difference between the two nights was. I don’t have an answer but I was glad to arrive back in Berlin two hours later.
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About that weed at the Spätkauf
Ever wondered how Spätis can sell those little packages of what looks like marijuana? Maybe they can’t. Germany’s top court Monday reversed the acquittals on drug dealing charges of five employees of Bunte Blüte, one of the companies that makes the packets, saying a lower court didn’t properly consider whether the workers knew you could potentially get high from their dried plants, Krautinvest reports. German law allows the sale of CBD products — hemp plants and derivatives with just traces of THC (which is what gets you high) — and is the loophole the company used. But an expert said you could process the company’s plants to make edibles with enough THC to have a good time. The question is whether the employees were aware of the method, which Krautinvest says would require €150 worth of its products and hours of effort as well as knowing how to do it. It would be easier, the site said, to just buy real weed. A Berlin court will now have to revisit the earlier acquittal. Eventually.
Speaking of weed arrests
The cops Monday said they confiscated 170kg of cannabis and arrested five people who were apparently operating a drugs supermarket. The Polizei said they had surveilled the group, both in-person and online, before raiding their homes, including one used as storage for the weed as well as magic mushrooms, THC liquid, speed and cocaine. Three of the four men and one woman remain behind bars.
Hygiene grades on restaurants? Not yet.
Restaurants this week are supposed to start displaying signs with a band of color and and an arrow that indicates their cleanliness grade following health department inspections — the band stretches from green for good through yellow for passing and ends with red for awful. But like anything involving Berlin bureaucrats, it probably won’t happen for awhile, RBB24 says. Berlin passed a Saubere-Küchen-Gesetz, or clean kitchen law, in 2021 that cleared the way for the signs but critics say borough health departments lack the manpower and since not all restaurants have been inspected under the program, the signs could also lead to an illegal imbalance in competition. Such signs already exist in NYC, which some see as Berlin’s — albeit ugly — cousin. I fully expect my döner guy to only get about a yellow, and I’d be disappointed if he scored any higher.
The car that hit the Brandenburg Gate
A 26-year-old man from Poland died late Sunday after speeding onto Pariser Platz in his Mercedes, the Berlin fuzz said. He then hit a curb and lost control of the car before it slammed into the Brandenburg Gate and caught on fire. A nearby paramedic tried to save the driver but had to retreat as smoke emerged, according to Morgenpost. The police said the man was going over 100 km/h but it’s unclear why — was he showing off or was it a suicide attempt? Bollards between the gate’s posts would halt any attempt at passing through for social media purposes. Witnesses reportedly said the car wasn’t racing any other vehicles but it’s not like the city’s most famous boulevards have a lack of luxury cars speeding past on their own.
Motorized vehicles were allowed through the Brandenburg Gate from 1998 to 2002, though realistically only from 1998 to 2000 because it was closed to cars when the gate underwent renovation starting in 2000. Here’s a German article from Tagesspiegel with a pic of traffic zooming through the gate.
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