#31: Derailed S-bahn, Berlinale, murder conviction
And we're getting bike garages but not for, like, years.
Hello 20 Percent.
Someone on Twitter once said that Germans aren’t - like the world believes - efficient, they’re thorough. That’s pretty spot on. German news stories are often pointless jaunts because rather than provide a simple update (like this newsletter) they recount an entire saga that everyone already knows. Interactions with mechanics often require a complete reenactment of why my tire is leaking (can we just fix the leak?) and politics seems to take longer than necessary.
Voters gave their opinion on who should run Berlin nearly three months ago and local parties added their opinion in a coalition agreement last month but Franziska Giffey (SPD) still isn’t officially mayor and the coalition isn’t officially governing - because one of the three coalition partners wanted to be thorough - Die Linke. It asked its members to vote on the coalition agreement and that voting ends today. We’ll know how they voted this evening.
The vote isn’t a slam dunk. The coalition seems hesitant to implement something dear to Die Linke - a public referendum that asked the government to force corporate landlords to sell significant numbers of flats to the city (ergo Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen). We’ll see how its members feel. If they don’t approve, Giffey will have to negotiate a different Berlin government, which could take some time.
Especially if she wants to be thorough, though her scandal-plagued career says thoroughness isn’t her strong suit.
Have a good weekend,
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The Berlin corona stats for Friday, December 17
Fully vaccinated: 71.7% (71.3% Tuesday)
New cases in one day: +2,391 (2,579 Tuesday)
Total deaths: 3,944 (+18 over Tuesday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 296.7 (307.8 Tuesday)
🟡 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 4.7 (4.7 Tuesday)
🔴 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 22.4% (23.7% Tuesday)
Source: Berlin’s corona information page
An S-Bahn that derailed early Thursday remains stuck in the Friedrichstrasse station, causing the railway to offer truncated service on the S1, S2, S25 and S26 lines. Fewer trains can traverse the station so they are running on partial routes from Nordbahnhof, Südkreuz and Potsdamer Platz. Check an app if you’re affected. Other lines are also limited as officials try to remove the train. The police are looking for witnesses to the derailment, which adds a note of suspense since the S-Bahn is clueless as to what happened. The derailment apparently occurred between the Oranienburger and Friedrichstrasse stations and wasn’t caused by a switch like many derailments. They expect everything to be back to normal Saturday.
Berlinale is back, for now
The Berlinale film festival Wednesday said it’s planning a mostly normal event from February 10 to 20 in 2022, after cancelling many events and pushing public showtimes to the summer earlier this year. Organizers said they expect to be able to hold the 72nd annual festival under 2G+ conditions but would make any necessary adjustments as the pandemic progresses. The festival denied a Variety report that Omicron-related contingency plans for a June festival are already in place.
The Elsenbrücke bridge near Treptower Park was re-opened Wednesday after officials said the sags detected in the bridge, which led to its closure Monday, weren’t as bad as thought. However, they pledged to open a temporary bridge to the east as quickly as possible - the approaches are being paved and then the city-state just has to do a final review. Stay tuned for reports on the repairs taking longer and being more expensive than forecast.
Bike garages for the future
Berlin is to get at least five bicycle parking garages to encourage mixed commuting but since this is Germany (and Berlin), it’s going to be awhile, according to Tagesspiegel. The first is expected to be complete at U-Bahnhof Haselhorst (ergo, Spandau) in late 2024. One at Mahlsdorf station in northeast Berlin will then open in early 2026 - planners estimate a need for 700 additional bike parking spots. The Ostkreuz garage - planned as the city’s largest with 2,000 spots - won’t welcome bikers until early 2027. S- and U-Bahn stations at Landsberger Allee and Schöneweide will also get one and planners are looking at other possible garages including one at Charlottenburg. At least our children will get to use them.
Life sentence in Tiergarten contract killing
A Berlin court Wednesday sentenced a Russian spy to life in prison for the 2019 murder of a Georgian military officer in Tiergarten. The shooting of 40-year-old Zelimkhan Khangoshvili is seen as revenge by Moscow for the victim’s role in the Chechen war. The judge labeled the murder “government terrorism” and the German government expelled two diplomats following the verdict - in addition to the two it expelled after details of the hit emerged. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (Die Grüne) said she brought up the case with her Russian counterpart a day earlier and the Russian ambassador in Berlin was called into the foreign ministry for a talking to, according to widespread reports. The ambassador hinted that outside forces were trying to drive a wedge between Germany and Russia.
Ever notice the green tower with a clock face on each of its five sides that stands on Potsdamer Platz? The eight-meter-high structure is a replica of the first traffic lights to be installed in Berlin in 1924. The tower was so successful in controlling the thousands of cars, trams and buses that passed through the intersection every day that it remained in operation until 1936. It took rather longer to rein in the city’s famously bolshy pedestrians, but that’s another (colorful) story. - Andrew Blackman
A bit of culture
Finally, tonight refugees read their own poetry in German, English, Arabic and Farsi at Poems of longing and arrival at a villa in West End organised by The Poetry Project. It’s 2G. Get the info and register for free here.
See you Tuesday!