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Discussion: To stay sexy, must the German capital remain poor?

  1. #1
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    Par défaut To stay sexy, must the German capital remain poor?

    To stay sexy, must the German capital remain poor?


    Sep 17th 2011 | BERLIN | from the print edition

    Still on the edge
    CLOUD clamps on to the rooftops in October and stays until April. The language seems equally forbidding to many. Berlin’s streetscapes and restaurants dazzle less than those of Paris or London. Apart from that, it is hard to find fault with the city. Berlin has music, art and nightlife to rival Europe’s more established capitals, but not their high costs and hellish commutes. It is a metropolis with the lazy charm of the countryside.

    It took a while for people to notice. After the brief euphoria of unification in 1990, the West’s subsidised industry and the East’s socialist enterprise collapsed alongside each other. On measures like employment, public debt and school performance, Berlin ranks at or near the bottom among Germany’s 16 states (it is one of three city-states). Klaus Wowereit, who hopes to be re-elected to a third term as mayor on September 18th, memorably branded the city “poor but sexy”.

    That is its magnetism. The federal government’s move to Berlin from Bonn in 1999 was a political decision. “Creative” folk are drawn from across Europe and America by cheap studios and frontier-like freedoms. Berlin’s centre still has voids to be built on and argued about. “Easyjetsetters” infest clubs and bars at weekends. More than 1m newcomers have replaced Berliners who have died or left the city since the 1990s.

    Effervescence pulls in investors. Google plans an “institute for the internet and society”. Industrial clusters have formed in health, transport and green technology. Parts of the media have relocated from Hamburg. Germany will never be as centralised as Britain or France, but if people have something to say to a national audience they tend increasingly to say it in Berlin.

    Since 2004 Berlin has created jobs at a faster pace than the German average. It leads the country in business start-ups. But the city is defined as much by its inertia as by its energy. A fifth of Berliners live off social transfers. Unemployment is still close to double the national rate because the workforce has recently expanded almost as quickly as the number of jobs. In Berlin “aspiration can be a negative word,” says Philipp Rode of the London School of Economics. Much of its energy comes from outsiders. Even the aspiring are often thwarted: 29% of social scientists and 40% of artists are jobless, according to DIW, a Berlin think-tank.

    Mr Wowereit, a Social Democrat, strives to channel the city’s edginess while reassuring Berliners weary of change. That is one reason why he is likely to win re-election. (The main suspense involves the Greens, which could replace the ex-communist Left Party as Mr Wowereit’s coalition partner, and the open-source-inspired Pirate Party, which might enter a German state legislature for the first time.) But the straddle is becoming harder. Rents, although still low, have jumped by 30% since 1999. The Swabian yuppie, with multiple offspring and a fondness for coffee bars, is a widely despised figure. “Berlin’s drama”, wrote Berliner Zeitung, a local newspaper, is that its “creative richness is inseparable from its economic poverty.” That will be Mr Wowereit’s puzzle, if he wins
    "Everything in life is somewhere else, and you get there in car." - E.B. White

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    Citation Envoyé par Cataclaw Voir le message
    The only reason ... is the free indoor parking. Free.. indoor.. parking. No hassles. Blizzard 50cm snow? No problem.

  2. #2
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    Short answer: no! Let us take a quick look at what makes it 1) "poor" and 2) "sexy".

    1) Berlin is considered "poor" because on the one hand a significant % of population is made up of persons who have smallish or no earned income, and on the other hand has few individuals earning top money. The first group is made up primarily of young people who feel just fine as they are--they are not like impoverished/unemployed older persons with dependent. The second group--which is "abnormaly" small, is usually found among top executives in large financial or industrial companies, which in Germany are headquartered in Frankfurt, Munich, Duesseldorf, Stuttgart and Hamburg, but not in Berlin anymore since the end of WW2. (Berlin had been the largest industrial city in Europe). Furthermore, while the city has regained its title of Capital City, note that it is a federal state, not centralized like France, and on top of that virtually 50% of federal ministries/agencies are located elsewhere (Bonn etc.) So the net effect of the capital transfer has been minimal (also taking into account the loss of the capital function of the former GDR in the east). Finally, bear in mind that when the former mayor coined that term ("Poor but...) he must have had in mind a kind of tactics to attract sympathy, and thus money... from the rest of the country.

    2) "Sexy" because of all the young peoples who were attracted to a place which combined low rents AND a vigourous art scene, combined with 1) generous state subsidies, 2) housing in central areas (of former East Berlin) with a great potential for "experiments", etc: once the movement was set, it had acquired a momentum of its own, now attracting more "yuppie" types.

    THUS (very briefly) Conditions are in place for further development in the arts, tourism, and to some extent scientific research, but there will be no serious return of big business. At the same time, the more marginal components-- often deemed "poor" of the population might (with some resistance) move away from the centre towards more welcoming (for them) settings in the March of Brandenburg...

  3. #3
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    sex... Berlin... ewwwww!!!!
    So live this day that you can look every damn man straight in the eye and tell him to go to hell.

  4. #4
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    février 2007
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    I hope Montreal never turns into Berlin.

    In Berlin “aspiration can be a negative word,” says Philipp Rode of the London School of Economics. Much of its energy comes from outsiders. Even the aspiring are often thwarted: 29% of social scientists and 40% of artists are jobless
    EEshh!! No thanks, not for my city!
    Daddy Likes It Dirty!
    Veni, vidi, vici!
    Faith is belief in the absence of evidence.
    GO HABS GO

  5. #5
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    Citation Envoyé par Habsfan Voir le message
    I hope Montreal never turns into Berlin.



    EEshh!! No thanks, not for my city!
    It is more surprising that Berlin even exists. This is a city that at one time was a premier global metropolis, and in its centre, the crossroads of Europe - Potsdamer Platz. Then, the Nazis murdered or imprisoned all its most interesting citizens, the Allies bombed everything, and the Soviets turned it into a Communist gulag outpost, with only a small enclave of relative freedom, an enclave that was subjected to blockades and sieges and even in the good years, substantial restrictions especially in freedom of movement, and this, for many decades. Berlin was home to that greatest symbol of tyranny, the infamous wall where thousands of people were murdered for the simple basic human desire for liberty.

    It has only been 20 years since the Mauerfall, Berlin has redeveloped its scars, and yet, has some issues. But, can you blame it? That Berlin even exists today, as anything but a bomb-scarred crater, is testament to the persistence and greatness of the human spirit.
    So live this day that you can look every damn man straight in the eye and tell him to go to hell.

  6. #6
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    mars 2008
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    Montréal-Rosemont
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    Berlin may be poor by German standards but you certainly don't get that impression when you're there. The infrastructure is absolutely first-rate. The sidewalks and roads are beautiful. Outside of where I was staying, a water pipe broke and the neighbourhood was without water. A crew arrived immediately and instead of tearing apart the sidewalk, they carefully removed each section of squares and piled them neatly on top of each other. They assessed the problem and within an hour they had posted notices on all of the affected residences and businesses. The notice apologised for the inconvenience and gave an estimated time that the repair would take (5 hours). Five hours later, the water was back on, they filled the hole, replaced all of the sidewalk sections and power washed the the entire area. You wouldn't have known that there was ever any work done!

    The transport system is AMAZING, even by European standards. 10 U-Bahn lines, 23 tram lines (that run on their own ROW's with full signal priority so that they're unaffected by traffic), 15 S-Bahn lines, 150 bus routes plus 17 Metrobus (limited stops), 13 Express bus and 54 night bus. Then there are regional and intercity trains as well as ICE high speed trains. The entire system runs 24 hours on weekends and limited service 24 hours during the week. You can go anywhere in the city anytime, even the most distant suburbs, and all the vehicles (except buses) are Bombardier! Hauptbahnhof is like an airport with dozens of trains coming and going at all hours. The stations are full of little shops, bars and food stands. Incredible.

    There are over 170 museums and attractions listed in the guidebook. I probably hit up about 40 or so in 2 months and still I left hungering for more and was angry because I missed so many. There are over 600 galleries of all sorts, bars can stay open 24 hours (Berghain! Opens Thursday night, closes Monday around noon), liquor can be sold 24 hours from virtually any store (you can by beer or liquor on the subway platforms!) and there are no restrictions on where you can drink. Bars or restaurants can choose to be smoking or non-smoking so customers can choose whether or not they want to enter beforehand. Prostitution is legal and the hookers are beautiful (80 Euro- I have to admit that I was tempted!).

    The degree of technical innovation is very impressive. There are about 100 free internet terminals called Blue Spot in many of the busier areas of the city-right on the street. You can surf for free for 15 minutes or so. There are 100's of fully automated, self-cleaning public toilets in parks and busy areas that cost 50 cents. All U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations have pay toilets with attendants that cost 80 cents and they are SPOTLESS clean. In the inter city transfer stations they even have shower facillites where you can buy soap, shampoo etc. There are urinals that use no water yet somehow manage to be odour-free. I even found public video pay phones that you could skype from.

    What really struck me though was the quantity and quality of construction. There are cranes everywhere and so much is being built or restored. The materials used are first class- they don't build cheapo shit over there- and the design standards are incredible. There is some resentment over gentrification as formerly affordable neighbourhoods become too expensive for their inhabitants but there are still plenty of affordable areas, particularly in the former eastern zones. Since transportation is not an issue, you don't need a car and that frees up a lot of income.

    I think that the unemployment problem is made worse by the vast number of young, creative people that flock to Berlin from all over the world. I was told that of a population of 3.4 million, only 700,000 are native born Berliners. Many arrive full of hope only to have to leave because there are simply too many for the city to accommodate and not enough jobs.

    All in all a fantastic city that has a similar easy going spirit of freedom and creativity as Montreal. I wish that we would look more to places like Berlin for inspiration instead of always looking to relatively backwards North American cities and getting into ridiculous 'hight wars'.

  7. #7
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    mars 2008
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    Montréal-Rosemont
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    Citation Envoyé par Cyrus Voir le message
    sex... Berlin... ewwwww!!!!
    lol! Berlin women are beautiful and really 'free-spirited'.. if you catch my drift

  8. #8
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    mars 2008
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    Citation Envoyé par Né entre les rapides Voir le message
    Short answer: no! Let us take a quick look at what makes it 1) "poor" and 2) "sexy".

    1) Berlin is considered "poor" because on the one hand a significant % of population is made up of persons who have smallish or no earned income, and on the other hand has few individuals earning top money. The first group is made up primarily of young people who feel just fine as they are--they are not like impoverished/unemployed older persons with dependent. The second group--which is "abnormaly" small, is usually found among top executives in large financial or industrial companies, which in Germany are headquartered in Frankfurt, Munich, Duesseldorf, Stuttgart and Hamburg, but not in Berlin anymore since the end of WW2. (Berlin had been the largest industrial city in Europe). Furthermore, while the city has regained its title of Capital City, note that it is a federal state, not centralized like France, and on top of that virtually 50% of federal ministries/agencies are located elsewhere (Bonn etc.) So the net effect of the capital transfer has been minimal (also taking into account the loss of the capital function of the former GDR in the east). Finally, bear in mind that when the former mayor coined that term ("Poor but...) he must have had in mind a kind of tactics to attract sympathy, and thus money... from the rest of the country.

    2) "Sexy" because of all the young peoples who were attracted to a place which combined low rents AND a vigourous art scene, combined with 1) generous state subsidies, 2) housing in central areas (of former East Berlin) with a great potential for "experiments", etc: once the movement was set, it had acquired a momentum of its own, now attracting more "yuppie" types.

    THUS (very briefly) Conditions are in place for further development in the arts, tourism, and to some extent scientific research, but there will be no serious return of big business. At the same time, the more marginal components-- often deemed "poor" of the population might (with some resistance) move away from the centre towards more welcoming (for them) settings in the March of Brandenburg...
    Great explanation! If I might add, the costs of reunification must have been enormous. All of the factories in the East had to be closed as they were so outdated. One half of the city administration became redundant overnight. Infrastructure had to be brought up to West standards and hundreds of slab apartments in the East had to be renovated or torn down. Plus the wall itself had to be torn down, transportation links reestablished, the vast swathes of vacant land surrounding it remediated, communication infrastructure brought up to standard...

    As I was walking around I couldn't help but admire just how much had been accomplished in so short a timeframe. In many ways, I think that Germany may be the only country in the world that could accomplish such a monumental task. If the same thing were to happen in Canada, I can only imagine the monumental fuck up that would ensue and how little would be accomplished after years of petty bickering and thousands of studies and inaction. It would be scary!

  9. #9
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    avril 2010
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    I don't know, there are plenty inaction and political fuckups in Berlin too. Stadtring Autobahn 100 still doesn't go into the East for example, but they did make the grosser "Berliner Ring" A 10 but that thing is way way way out in the fields.
    So live this day that you can look every damn man straight in the eye and tell him to go to hell.

  10. #10
    Date d'inscription
    mars 2008
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    Montréal-Rosemont
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    263

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    There are plenty of fuckups everywhere but that doesn't change the fact that Berlin- and cities like it- are about 50 years ahead of where we are here, in North America.

    The fact that a highway isn't connected in Berlin is surely a sign that it is not high on their agenda- given that most people there don't rely on highways to get around.

    Returning to North America from Asia or Europe is, in many ways, like returning to the third world.

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