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#164: Climate donut, Pergamon closing, king in town, tropical island
When Potsdamer Platz was a flea market
Dear 20 %,
I’m not much of a monarchist, but I still feel obliged to mention that King Charles III and his spouse Camilla will be town Wednesday and Thursday, in case you’re wondering about the high prevalence of traffic, sirens and starry-eyed Germans in Union Jack garb.
Charles gets military honours at the Brandenburg Gate, a banquet at the president’s palace and will meet some Ukrainian refugees. Lame duck Franziska Giffey (SPD) must be stoked that she gets to hang with the royals at the Adlon Hotel just because she’s still mayor.
Germans affectionately referred to Queen Elizabeth II as “Die Queen” but “Der King” hasn’t caught on yet. And Berlin still has an inferiority complex as world capitals go so we’re on Cloud Nine when anyone famous shows up but I wonder whether Charles will ever manage to warm the cockles of Berliners’ hearts as his mother did. Time will tell!
Actual news below!
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Pergamon Museum closing till 2037 (sort of)
It feels like the Pergamon Museum has been under construction since shortly after Pergamon crumbled in 133 BC. The museum will close entirely on October 23 to complete renovations to the building, which will only partially re-open three-and-a-half years later. That’s a lifetime in Berlin years. The foundation that oversees Berlin landmarks wants to renovate the southern wing, as it has already the middle and northern wings, which could be re-opened in 2025 but won’t until 2027. The southern wing will remain closed until 2037. The problem, RBB reported, is that the popular displays are so massive that they can’t be removed so workers have to work around them, which takes a lot of time. 14 years, to be exact.
Transport strike over
Monday’s wide-reaching industrial action in the transport sector was the largest of its kind in 30 years, says RBB. Nationwide, airports, train and bus travel were largely shut down all day Monday. In Berlin, regional trains and the S-Bahn meant thousands stayed in their “home office”. The BVG was unaffected by the strike. Transport union EVG is demanding 12% more pay or a raise of at least €650 per month per worker — the labour unrest is part of a greater campaign by unions to improve the pay of 2.5 million public sector workers. EVG said it won’t be striking over the upcoming Easter break, while mega public sector union Verdi has not ruled out that possibility.
Climate referendum fail
Although 50.9% of participating voters said yes to carbon neutrality by 2030 in Sunday’s climate referendum, it wasn’t enough to get the motion passed; 442,000 voted for, 423,000 voted against. The familiar donut shape emerged on the map of Berlin: residents of the outer boroughs voted mostly against, while a majority of inner-city dwellers were in favour. To pass, the referendum needed the support of 25% of Berlin’s 2.4 million eligible voters.
High-profile climate activist Louisa Neubauer was understandably bummed and sounded apocalyptic: “This election has made it clear: there are forces in this city that will give anything to summon the last spark of climate destruction.” She’s probably referring to the fact that the Giffey government didn’t allow the referendum to take place on February 12 with the regular election, which would probably have meant higher participation. The organizers of the “Berlin 2030 klimaneutral” Volksentscheid (referendum) found solace in the fact that more people said “yes” to the 2030 climate target than voted for the CDU (428,000) in February. Meanwhile, Berlin’s chamber of commerce said, in essence, “Phew, we dodged a bullet, that whole 2030 thing was utopian.”
Meanwhile, in Brandenburg, there’s a tropical paradise
Tropical Islands, the giant indoor waterpark southeast of Berlin, proudly announced that more than 1 million guests visited the converted airship hangar last year, according to Tagesspiegel (paywall). Yes, a spokesperson said, they do use a shit tonne of energy, about the equivalent of 4,000 households. Even though energy is really, really expensive. In short, a climate nightmare, right? Not so fast. Visiting the place is still surely less destructive to the atmosphere than flying to Thailand or even Spain. There is some really cringe stuff there, though. When I visited around a decade ago, I watched a questionable stage show with dancers singing that “Malaysia, truly Asia” song that used to run on CNN.
E-motorcycles from out there
E-motorbike start-up eROCKIT, located in Hennigsdorf, just north of Spandau, has attracted €1 million in capital from Indian e-bike maker Motovolt, Tagesspiegel writes. There is also a plan to begin producing the bikes in India. The eROCKIT is an e-bike on steroids: its top speed is 90kph and a class B driving license is required to operate it. The company claims the vehicle’s range-per-charge is 120km. The bike isn’t available yet, but they’re taking pre-orders.
On this day in 1993, the last ever “Kremplmarkt am Reichpietschufer” took place in the wasteland between Potsdamer Platz and the Landwehrkanal. The vast flea market took place every weekend on the western side of the Wall thoroughout the 1980s. When Polish sellers began showing up in 1989 thanks to looser travel rules, it gained the nickname “Polenmarkt”. It had to close to make way for the gargantuan Potdamer Platz construction site. In hindsight, maybe they should have just kept the market.