A few days ago, my colleague Sören Kittel documented two cases that I find independently symptomatic of Berlin, of a somewhat strange atmosphere that is now perceived by a lot of people around me. In one case, a man gave the Hitler salute in front of the Hotel Adlon, unmolested by passers-by taking pictures, until the police arrived. The 26-year-old man admitted to performing the Nazi salute. But: He didn’t even know that it was forbidden. So far, so stupid.
In the other case, a FreeNow driver and cyclist got into such an argument that the altercation ends up in the hospital, at least for the cyclist. In both cases you might shrug your shoulders and dismiss them as just the way it is in a big city. There are idiots everywhere and the fact that motorists and other road users work themselves off one another is not an exclusive Berlin problem.
Perceived security, lack of cleanliness
That’s how I would usually do it: read and forget or file it under obscure things. But lately it’s not that easy for me. It may be because I too have become thin-skinned during the pandemic. Or else: All these cases are piling up. The strife, the riots, the dirt and the frustration in this city have increased. I’ve often written about the traffic in Berlin, about the problems of different road users, about the self-important behavior of cargo bike drivers and the aggressiveness between car drivers and cyclists. But I don’t feel like anything has improved. On the contrary.
A listicle of things that really annoy me about Berlin:
If you only take it once tourism. I think that Berlin is now a holiday destination for hostel visitors, club tourists and beer bike jokers. The main thing is that you leave money here. Anyone who has been out on the streets in Mitte for an evening knows what I’m talking about: roaring bachelor parties, pub crawlers and Ballermann gangs dominate the party scene on a weekend in many corners. Superficially there is a good atmosphere, subliminally you can feel aggression, which can tip over at any time.
This results in two further aspects that make Berlin a strenuous city: security and pollution. On the one hand, the feeling of moving in an area that is not very safe, in a metropolis where the outbreaks of violence against those who think differently and feel differently have increased in recent years. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that these groups are emancipating themselves and claiming more space in this city, which is definitely desirable. The other aspect is the increasing pollution in Berlin, which is certainly not due to companies like BSR or Grün Berlin.
The great ditch
It’s just an increasing “don’t give a fuck” attitude by the people of this city. Be it the visitors, be it the residents. Many people treat this city like some kind of open-air dump for which they bear no responsibility whatsoever. A bit like middle-class teenagers who rely on mom to clean up after them. The ones where they go and stand, just drop everything. Someone is already clearing the crap away. Which is of course a mistake, because the “cleaning up” costs the city a huge sum every year, which of course is recovered elsewhere. Too short-sighted.
Another problem that Berlin has been struggling with for years and which is currently one of the most difficult to deal with is traffic. The city is in a brutal traffic turnaroundaway from the car powered by fossil fuels towards alternative means of transport, electric cars, more powerful public transport and of course the bicycle, the ecological alternative to everything.
Unfortunately, and the case mentioned above shows this as an example, there is a big gap, a big misunderstanding about who owns the public space first and foremost: car drivers versus cyclists versus pedestrians and so on. All three groups claim the city as their own and all three assume that their respective type of mobility is the right one. In other words: those for whom everyone else has to make room.
At least that’s how it often feels when you observe the sovereignty with which these groups behave towards one another on the streets and sidewalks. The law of the strongest applies here, in the end the pedestrian is the one who suffers compared to the bikes and cars. And cyclists, logically, to cars of any kind.
What would do this city good, one can only repeat it, would be a rethinking of its citizens, its visitors towards more respect and respect, towards a friendlier coexistence in everyday life. Otherwise Berlin will not be able to maintain its supposed status as a cosmopolitan metropolis.