Tag Archives: Berlin

Germany summons N. Korean representative amidst missile launch threats

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.

Continue reading Germany summons N. Korean representative amidst missile launch threats


Germany manhunt: ‘IS link’ to bomb suspect Al-Bakr – police

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.

Continue reading Germany manhunt: ‘IS link’ to bomb suspect Al-Bakr – police

Tiny Caravans Replace Rooms at This Berlin Hotel

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.

Continue reading Tiny Caravans Replace Rooms at This Berlin Hotel

Berlin Is Losing Its Cool

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.

berlin skylineSean Pavone / ShutterstockThe Berlin skyline.

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.

17 of the world’s most beautiful clock towers

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.

Clock towers of the world

Equally worthy of our admiration, and with remarkable stonework, is the Rajabhai clock tower, in a university compound in Mumbai, India.

Clock towers of the world

One of the most famous clocks in Europe is the astronomical clock found on the Old City Hall in Prague. The movements of its allegorical mechnical figures always draw a crowd to the Old Town Square. It was installed in 1410 and death, portrayed as a skeleton, strikes the time.

Clock towers of the world

This clock tower, the Zytglogge in Berne, Switzerland, is less lofty but also photogenic. It is found in the old part of the city which is a UNESCO heritage site, and was built between 1218-20.

Clock towers of the world

Clock towers in farther flung destinations bear subtle influences of local architectural styles, such as this one in Bukittinggi, Indonesia, which has a distinct south-Asian flavour.

Clock towers of the world

Or this Islamic-style clock tower in Kuala Lumpur, which is attached to the Sultan Abdul Samad mosque.

Clock towers of the world

This caravanasi in Acre, Israel is known as the Khan Al-Umdan. It was built in 1784, with the clock tower overlooking granite pillars that surround a courtyard.

Clock towers of the world

In Beirut, Lebanon, the elegant Hamidiyyeh Clock Tower, originally built in 1897, was reconstructed following the civil war.

Clock towers of the world

The Mekkah Royal Hotel clock tower is the tallest in the world (601m) and also known as the Abraj Al-Bait Towers. It dominates a government-owned complex of buildings in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The clock face is also the world’s largest, at 43m in diameter.

Clock towers of the world

It may be (much) shorter but this clock tower in Metz, France, has its fair share of admirers.

Clock towers of the world

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.

Clock towers of the world

In Moscow, certainly the reddest clock on the list, the Spasskaya Tower flanks the eastern wall of the Kremlin and is the complex’s main tower, built in 1491 by an Italian architect. The clock appeared later.

Clock towers of the world

This is the Old Kowloon station clock tower, one of Hong Kong‘s most recognisable landmarks. It’s 44m tall and was completed in 1915. Time only stopped ticking during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in the Second World War. The tower is a lone survivor, as the rest of the station was demolished in 1977.

Clock towers of the world

More recently-built clock towers can be found in more modern styles, such as this, in the Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. A policeman used to stand on the top and direct the traffic. Germany’s first traffic lights were installed in 1924.

Clock towers of the world

Also notable is this, the Deira Clock tower, insalubriously sited at a busy roundabout in Dubai. The arms of this Sixties’ concrete structure gracefully arc towards a boxy clock that balances on their tips in the centre.

Clock towers of the world

In America, the Philadelphia City Hall clock tower is not to be sniffed at, completed in 1901.

Clock towers of the world

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.

Russian state TV reporter fired after criticising Vladimir Putin

TV reporter Konstantin Goldenzweig has been sacked after criticising Vladimir Putin

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”.

In a Facebook post about a collection of his reports on NTV, said:

“I apologise for my shameful participation in this disgrace.”

He added: “That’s it, I’m off for a disinfection.”

Germany’s First Minimum Wage Is About To Go Into Effect

A national minimum wage comes into effect in Germany on January 1

Berlin (AFP) – As the New Year approaches, Berlin bakery worker Jessica Arendt is not just looking forward to the fireworks. In 2015, she says, “I’ll be able to afford a few more things”.

A national minimum wage comes into effect in Germany on January 1, and that means an additional one euro ($1.30) an hour for the 23-year-old.

Mathias Moebius, a bakery chain owner, isn’t quite so happy. He says he will have to put up prices in response.

Chancellor Angela Merkel this year signed off on the country’s first national minimum wage, an idea she had long opposed.

In the past, Merkel favoured separate pay deals by industrial sector and region, arguing that a national minimum wage would harm many small- and medium-sized businesses and could force them to lay off workers.

But her coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), were adamant that they would only enter into a power-sharing deal if Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) agreed to the fixed basic wage to help Germany’s growing army of working poor.

So, after long and tortuous negotiations, the two sides finally agreed to start phasing in a minimum wage from January 1.

Arendt will now receive 8.50 euros per hour before tax, one of around 3.7 million people the Federal Labour Agency predicts will see a fatter pay packet.

Merkel thumbs up

Higher prices

For Moebius, whose bakery chain numbers some 45 stores in the eastern German state of Saxony, more than 300 employees will be affected.

Moebius acknowledged that it would be good for his workforce in principle.

“It will bring the financial remuneration for working in a personnel-intensive sector like the food industry more into line with other sectors,” he told AFP.

“It may even improve the image of our industry.”

But for a family-run business like his, it would also mean a 10-percent rise in costs, which he would have to recoup elsewhere, he said.

Economists argue that if there are price rises in other sectors, if taxis and hairdressers also put up their prices, then Arendt and the millions of other low-wage earners will soon find themselves out of pocket as quickly as before.

In Berlin, Ahmet, a 58-year-old taxi driver who is paid per ride, not by the hour, also expressed concern.

“I’ll probably have to pay more taxes and welfare charges. So the effect on my pay will be negative rather than positive,” he said.

According to a poll of 6,300 businesses across all sectors by the Ifo economic think-tank, 26 percent of employers affected by the new minimum wage plan to raise their prices; 23 percent plan to curb employee bonuses; and 22 percent to cut jobs.

Others plan to reduce investment or scale back employees’ working hours.

The effects will be felt more sharply in eastern Germany, where wages have never been able to catch up with those in the west, even a quarter of a century after unification, economists said.

But the minimum wage has many critics around the country, not just in the poorer east of Germany.

“The minimum wage jeopardises thousands of jobs in Bavaria, increases labour costs and weighs on both companies and taxpayers by creating additional bureaucracy,” complained Bertram Brossardt of the regional employers’ federation in the wealthy southern state.

Jobs in danger?

The DIHK federation of chambers of commerce calculates that 200,000 jobs could face the chop nationwide.

But the labour agency’s president Frank-Juergen Weise was less alarmist.

“I don’t believe there will be massive job cuts,” he said recently.

In Saxony, Moebius said he had no immediate plans to slash jobs or shut stores.

But, he warned, “I can’t rule that out in future,” adding that it will probably be unskilled workers who would find it more difficult to find new work.

Many economists agreed, even if the large majority acknowledge that it will take years before the real economic consequences on the minimum can be fully gauged.

Nevertheless, Yen, a 20-year-old who is currently paid 7.0 euros per hour for working on a food stall in a Berlin shopping mall, says it will bring her closer to her dream of one day travelling to Australia.

“I’ll continue to save hard,” she said.

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