Not long ago, graffiti was little more than an illegal nuisance in most cities. Fast-forward a few short years and, thanks to Banksy and others, the underground artform has quickly become mainstream. Now, Berlin — a city world-renowned for recognizing the value of its subcultures and their many contributions to art, culture, and community — has just opened the world’s largest street art museum.
Germany has summoned North Korea’s emissary for talks in Berlin while Switzerland has offered to play a mediating role in the crisis. Tensions have risen dramatically after Pyongyang staged its largest nuclear test yet.
After North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test to date, Germany’s Foreign Office called for a meeting with Pyongyang’s representative in Berlin on Monday afternoon.
German police say a Syrian man arrested after a two-day manhunt probably had links to so-called Islamic State (IS).
Jaber al-Bakr, who arrived in Germany as a refugee, was detained in a flat in the eastern city of Leipzig early on Monday. He had been tied up there.
He had sought help from another Syrian, who alerted police after letting Mr al-Bakr sleep at his flat, reports say.
Design lovers looking for unique vacation lodging: add this camper hotel in Berlin, Germany to your bucket list, stat. Located in the hip, artsy neighborhood of Neukölln, the Huettenpalast Hotel brings camping indoors with quirky caravans and wooden huts.
The German capital, famous for its edgy urbanity and quality of life, looks tired.
When a magazine proclaims on its cover that a city is the world’s “coolest”, it is often a sign that it has peaked.
Newsweek did it to London in 1996, just as the city was becoming unaffordable for many cool people.
Now it is Berlin’s turn. In October Stern, a German magazine, declared the city the coolest, giving special attention to its many great clubs for partying.
The party scene is thriving, drawing tourists from Tel Aviv to Stockholm who fly in for long insomniac weekends. The most famous venue, Berghain, notorious for its arbitrary bouncers, is a world hub for techno music.
But true cognoscenti are nostalgic for the rougher, anarchic days just after the Berlin Wall fell, when clubs popped up in abandoned spaces along the former no-man’s-land, always several steps ahead of tedious fire regulations. A new book, “Berlin Wonderland”, documents the “wild years between 1990-96” with black-and-white photographs.
Some Berliners’ nostalgia goes further back. The hottest museum exhibition is about West Berlin as a freedom-loving, libertine and yet parochial island surrounded by East Germany. These days, by contrast, locals are annoyed by throngs of expats and westerners gentrifying formerly edgy neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg.
Berlin is still fascinating. Nowhere are the scars of history — holocaust, war, destruction, division — so visible. And rents and prices remain low. A Facebook post by an Israeli expat in Berlin, called Olim le Berlin (“ascend to Berlin”), has launched a small exodus of Israelis who come for affordable fun and find Germany’s dark past more intriguing than repulsive.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
Yet rents have been rising for years, and locals and creative types complain about being priced out (even as they oppose any attempts to build new housing).
Worse, much of the city has been made unusable or ungainly because of construction. The most notorious project of all is Berlin’s new airport, originally due to open in 2011 but repeatedly delayed (to 2017 on the latest estimate). It is now the butt of jokes.
Even more telling is a huge building-site in the city centre, where the former castle of the Prussian kings (damaged in the war, razed by the communists) is being rebuilt to house a cultural forum. After years of controversy, most Berliners have decided that it is boring, retrograde and a missed opportunity. And there may be too little money left to make three of the façades look like the old castle, so the edifice could end up disappointing even its fans.
For Berliners with children, schools are the biggest problem. The centre-left Social Democrats who run Berlin’s government have fiddled about with no fewer than 23 school reforms, most of them ideologically tinged to level down rather than foster excellence. Berlin comes last in the school rankings among Germany’s 16 states.
Now the government is harassing the international (ie, English-taught) schools with new regulations, which will anger many expats and cosmopolitan locals.
It is symbolically fitting that Klaus Wowereit, the gay and flamboyant Berliner who famously described his city as “poor but sexy”, has just retired after 13 years as mayor, to be replaced by a relatively grey protégé, Michael Müller.
After decades of being subsidized by Germany’s richer states, Berlin now balances its budget. It is like an adolescent who has grown up and wants to prove he’s responsible. Hence its bid to host the Olympics in either 2024 or 2028. Within Germany and even Europe it is still hard to find a more exciting city. And yet, as the new nostalgia suggests, Berlin’s best days may already be behind it.
The clock is of course better known as Big Ben, which is actually the name of the bell inside, which was installed in the tower in 1859. The tower itself is called Elizabeth Tower.
It may be (much) shorter but this clock tower in Metz, France, has its fair share of admirers.
Another grand, European clock tower is found at the city hall in Munich, Germany. It’s gothic style is reminiscent of Big Ben, but it was built much later, in 1908.
San Francisco‘s, at the Ferry Building Marketplace, strikes a pose in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. It survived two major earthquakes in 1906 and 1989.
Konstantin Goldenzweig says he is ashamed of taking part in Kremlin ‘propaganda madness’. A Russian state television reporter has broken ranks and apologised for taking part in “propaganda madness” after being sacked for criticising Vladimir Putin.
Konstantin Goldenzweig, the former Berlin correspondent of the NTV channel, lost his job after giving an interview to a German station in which he referred to the Russian president’s “well-known cynicism” and suggested it was advantageous to the Kremlin that the war in eastern Ukraine was prolonged.
The journalist now says he is ashamed at having take part in what he called Russia’s “general propaganda madness” since the beginning last year of the war in Ukraine, where combined Russian and rebel forces are fighting government troops.
State television in Russia dominates broadcast media and produces highly politicised and biased reports which often refer to Ukraine’s government as the “Kiev junta”. Some dispatches have been shown to be fabricated.
There have been some controversial departures from the state-run English-language channel RT in recent years but this is the first time since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis that a high-profile correspondent from a major terrestrial channel has criticised his employer so publicly.
In an interview with the independent news site, Meduza, Mr Goldenzweig said he was ousted from NTV shortly after giving the interview on June 8 to the Phoenix channel, in which he said that Mr Putin felt “insulted” for being excluded from the G7 meeting of leading states in Bavaria.
He said he had already decided to leave NTV at the end of July after becoming disillusioned with his work, but he was forced out early after the general director of the channel became enraged at his interview comments.
Vladimir Putin speaking in Milan this month
“I am truly ashamed of what I have been doing for the last year and a half,” he told Meduza.
Before autumn last year Mr Goldenzweig had managed to avoid politicising his reporting, producing frequent dispatches about German culture, but he then started to get frequent orders for crude propaganda from Moscow, he said.
He was told to report that anti-homophobia activists who criticised Mr Putin in Europe were part of a “dirty campaign against the tsar-daddy” and that Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, was a puppet of the US, Mr Goldenzweig explained.
Another task was to report on demonstrations in Germany of what the reporter called “some freaks” who supported Novorossiya, the word Mr Putin has used to describe areas of Ukraine he believes are Russian.
Russian state television reports that have been dismissed as false include one that said Ukrainian officials crucified a three-year-old boy, and another that claimed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down last year by a Ukrainian jet.
Mr Goldenzweig said an objective report he filed about Germany offering compensation to former Soviet prisoners of war was changed to say German officials had deliberately delayed the initiative so that the people concerned died out and there would be less to pay.
He said that he had gradually learned to compromise with himself over producing propaganda but that, “eventually a firm conviction appeared that I was doing something that was not right”.
“It was not just a question of conscience,” he told Meduza. “It’s simply that you were trained for one trade – journalism – and you find yourself at times doing something completely different. And you realise that the longer you do this rubbish, the harder it will be to get out of this rut.”
Mr Goldenzweig said that he had been left with 352 euros in his bank account after losing his job and expected he would now be unofficially banned from Russian television. But he said he was glad to have “cleansed my karma”.
“I apologise for my shameful participation in this disgrace.”
He added: “That’s it, I’m off for a disinfection.”