Mark Espiner : Hot in the City

It depends where you live in this city of course, but wherever you are you can’t deny it’s meltingly hot. Whoever told me Berlin had two seaons was right. But this isn’t a summer like I know.

Mark Espiner
Blick in die neue Heimat. Der Brite Mark Espiner erkundet Berlin.
Blick in die neue Heimat. Der Brite Mark Espiner erkundet Berlin.Foto: Thilo Rückeis

In some weird kind of metereological quirk (you could even call it an inversion of the Cold War) it was hotter in Charlottenburg (40 degrees) than in Prenzlauer Berg (37 degrees) at the weekend. I stayed put in Alexanderplatz, where it was a scorching 38. Still, if felt like Athens. And the unusual demands from some quarters for octopus on the menu only added to that mediterranean feel.

What can you do in such heat? Well, if you’re a Berliner, evidently, you go on a street demonstration. One of the “benefits” of living on Alexanderplatz and next to the Rote Rathaus is that most demos end up there. And as the sound of pumping loud music rose up off the street and through my window I thought I’d better investigate what the fuss was all about despite the temperature.

Down at the barricades I asked a policeman what was going on. After he’d got over the shock of being asked a question and stopped looking like he was going to hit me, he told me it was organised by Die Linke (wrong) and against Mediaspree (correct, although to my shame, I didn’t know what that was).

So I dug around a bit and talked to a few people and scoured the internet about this Mediaspree. Oh no. Another building planning disaster that will make a few people rich and rip out the heart and emotions of an area. And it seems to be supported by the politicians who would normally oppose it.

It reminded me of London, its vicious property business and particularly of the news that the wonderful old buildings in the stables at Camden market were going to be knocked down and replaced by glass chain stores. A chain store massacre, so to speak. Residents fought hard to keep the character of that place, but only partially succeeded. When you go to Camden market now you might think you’re getting the real thing, but it’s only a shadow of its former self.

But this Mediaspree issue is worse because it plans to make Berliners Spreeless and deprive them of their riverbank. Walking along the water should almost be a citizen’s right. You can do it for the whole length of the Thames pretty much, even in front of the top-secret MI6. So the anti-Mediaspree cause was worth fighting for, I thought. Just not in a 38-degree heat. I managed to convince myself that it was OK to wait for the next demo to show my support. Clearly, I’m not a die-hard demo dedicated Berliner quite yet.

And I still needed to cool down.

I’ve been complaining for a while that the Berlin parks just aren’t open spaces. Too many trees. You can’t see the sky. They feel closed in. Now I know why. The shade. Thank you post-war park planners for planting those trees and giving some shadows to walk in in this unforgiving sunshine. I decided to cool off with a stroll in Tiergarten’s Englischer Garten to see, out of curiosity, how English it really was. It did, actually, remind me of home. As I later meandered through the Hansaviertel nearby, I stopped to talk to an elderly couple cutting their roses and watering their garden. How English! They loved living there and then told me with a smile that said everything that Kevin Costner had just bought the house down the road. Oh no. Even more gentrification. You can’t get away from it. I’m clearly becoming allergic to it, like the rest of you. And then I thought: am I and my fleet of fellow Englishmen and women a part of that problem too?

That was another question that was just too much to deal with in this heat. I needed an ice cream. Any recommendations about where to get a good one in this city? I’ve yet to find one...

You can email Mark Espiner at mark@espiner.com or follow him on Twitter @deutschmarkUK.

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