#204: Air Berlin, Wall memorial, bank break-in
And the disappearance of another Berlin brand
Hey 20 Percent!
Did y’all get as little sleep as I did? That thunderstorm was wahnsinnig!
Sunday was the anniversary of the construction of the Berlin wall 62 years ago. I used to get emotional about the date and loved reading about the various events around the city. As a child, the wall was in many ways the end of the world I lived in, and news reports treated it as such.
But this year I saw the news on my Sunday morning news trawl and thought — I can’t be bothered. More and more I get the sense that for younger generations in Berlin, they understand it was once significant but it’s not visceral any more. The wall was never a part of their lives, just a historical footnote. Indeed, for many, the wall memorials are better used as bike racks than remembrances.
Its overnight disappearance was thanks to a bureaucratic snafu that at the time seemed an anomaly but as we all know is more common than bureaucratic competence in this capital city. That event shaped much of what I consider to be Berlin but I often wonder what Berlin means to those coming now. Ironically, for many I think it’s work — when I moved here very little of us actually had a day job. Let me know in an email or in the comments, if you’re so inclined.
But it’s not just me suffering a little Mauer-malaise. Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) sent his wall memorial greetings on Friday via press release and then headed out on vacation. He wasn’t around on Sunday. Tagesspiegel wanted to take him to task but, really, you could probably attend a memorial event every day in this history-rich city. Of all the things to get outraged about Wegner, that isn’t one of them.
Have a good weekend!
Their brand was a seal because “Robbe” is “seal” auf Deutsch
Moving van rental company Robben & Wientjes was an unavoidable component of Berlin for my 20+ years here. Their sketchy vehicles, cheap prices and unbelievably bad customer service (No foreign drivers licenses! You have to have been driving for at least five years!) were a part of the city’s background noise. Heading into various illegal parties in former factories you would bump into one of their yards and remind yourself to reserve one for that apartment move next month. But, alas, they are no more. Both of their rental sites (Kreuzberg and Pankow) are now buildings, which is why the partners sold out to rival Buchbinder in 2017 — the real estate beneath the sites became very valuable. Buchbinder, Morgenpost reports, was bought by Europcar, which this month unpacked the last moving box and double-parked a Robben & Wientjes cargo van for the last time. Like the wall, the brand is now just a part of Berlin history.
Bank break-in bandits in court
Berlin’s more recent history is sometimes marked by extravagant crimes, like the theft of an absurdly large Canadian coin from the Bode Museum or the €49 million theft of watches, jewelry and cash from a Charlottenburg safe deposit box company in November 2022. Five men are in court this week for pulling off the safe deposit caper — none of the booty has yet been recovered, according to Tagesspiegel. But we now know how they pulled it off — the 52-year-old manager of the site linked up with the bandits and switched off the security system the night of the raid. He’s now in Germany’s witness protection program (are you then forced to live in Bavaria?) and won’t be charged in exchange for testimony. Online watch marketplace Watchmaster sought bankruptcy protection because of the number of its watches pilfered in the robbery.
Could have been a Dalek for all we knew
Speaking of bureaucratic buffoonery: Officials in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg were tired of noise complaints from the popular Admiralsbrücke hang and installed a Lärm-o-mat (noise-o-mat) that turns red when the Sterni drinkers with Bluetooth speakers get too loud. Friday and Saturday, Tagesspiegel reports, the pointless piece of urban furniture turned red but nothing happened so, as in the past, the police had to come out. They told people to be quiet and then left. The Lärm-o-mat presumably remained on red.
And yet another piece of Berlin history ascended into the news this week: The rights to the Air Berlin name were recently sold to discount airline and travel software company Air 41 for €120,190, according to aerotelegraph. Air Berlin went belly up in 2017 and was just as important — if not more — to the city’s fabric as Robben & Wientjes, giving the Hauptstadt its own discount flyer in the era of Easyjet. I still miss their heart-shaped chocolates and cheap trans-Atlantic fees. The new owner says he has some ideas for the name but no concrete plans. Yet.