Joni Mitchell may have said it best: You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. Or going.
When news first surfaced in November of last year that the Frohnau radio tower in northern Berlin was to be demolished, a few nostalgic residents spared owner and Deutsche Telekom subsidiary Deutsche Funkturm GmbH (DFMG) no critical words. But the gathering of thousands of spectators for Sunday’s demolition painted a much more accurate picture of the emotional significance of Berlin’s second-tallest man-made structure.
The blustery day only enhanced the impending drama of the scene: like devotees to a great pilgrimage, observers streamed into the yellowy no-man’s land behind Frohnau where the Berlin Wall once stood, plodding through muck and mud, weaving past dirt piles and dead reeds. Look-out points gradually formed: ridges in fields, mounds and trenches filled with people in colourful winter jackets, hats, hoods, gloves. Bikes and cameras. All eyes slowly settled on the 358-metre tower which, for many, had always stood there.
Construction on the Frohnau radio tower first began in 1977. Upon completion, the mast would host a radio transmission system to facilitate communication between West Berlin and West Germany. The first transmission to Gartow, Lower Saxony was sent on June 1 1979. The 20-square-metre room near the tower’s top became the highest closed man-made space in the EU.
That was a title it held up until Sunday. At 1:10 pm against a grey-padded sky, an explosion could be seen toward the base of the tower, then the sway of its pinnacle as the lower section of the structure twisted out beneath the greater 200 metres of metal and wood it had supported for the last 30 years. Within eight seconds, the gaunt, red-and-white-striped mast disappeared into the wooded landscape below.
For many, it was the execution of an icon – an object many West Berliners remember as the first sign of home on a trip from the north. A symbol of independence and pride, if for no one else, then for Frohnauers. But like most executions, while some observed in discomfort, others watched in eager anticipation. The Frohnau radio tower had stood as one more tired relic of the Cold War – a sometimes painful reminder of the historical divide that existed within the country.
With operational costs set around €50,000 a year, however, the tower’s fate was more a product of pragmatism than politics. And if nothing else, nostalgic mourners of the Frohnauer Funkturm have myriads of photos and YouTube video to help them remember just how it all went down.
Berlin, we are led to believe, is spellbound by the arrival of Hollywood glamour in the form of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The couple are enjoying an extended stay in the capital while Pitt films a new Quentin Tarantino movie, Inglorious Bastards, which is set in the Second World War.
If you’re desperate to get a glimpse of movie royalty, the International Herald Tribune has put together a little guide to the Pitts’ new ‘hood, Wannsee. Apparently, the couple’s new 30,000-square-foot home has 20 rooms, but there’s much more to do there than just gawping at celebrity homes. Read the article here.
Berlin: September 18th, 2008 by JS
With the anniversary of German reunification just round the corner, newspapers in Germany and abroad are taking their annual look at how the wounds of separation are healing, nearly two decades on. According to Britain’s Independent the divisions are becoming less distinct – but slowly. The paper speaks to, among others, Simone Matern of Berlin’s famous Trabant safari tours. For her, West and East Berliners still maintain an invisible wall in their minds:
Matern admits that West Berliners don’t move too much around East Berlin. “They’d rather leave the city than move to East Berlin, and East Berliners don’t really move to West Berlin. There are very few marriages between East and West Berliners. It’s amazing.”
In mid-June The Local wrote about how Berlin police chief Dieter Glietsch has sparked a storm of criticism by warning the owners of fancy cars not to park overnight in the city’s Kreuzberg district after a rash of auto arson.
Now we’ve discovered a website that chronicles the left-wing anarchist attacks on evil yuppie scum and their decadent rides. The site features a Google map of incidents reported by Berlin police and keeps a tally of attacks by date, automaker, and address.
Mercedes Benz seems to be the top choice for Berlin’s anarchists out to heat things up lately – though the last victim of the cause, torched just this Sunday, was an ordinary Peugot.
The site organizers claim they don’t wish to glorify the attacks, and simply want to provide a service for concerned citizens after experiencing a car burning in their Kreuzberg neighborhood.
Germany’s Jewish community is being seen as a growing threat – not by Germans, but by Israelis, according to a report by Harry de Quetteville in the Daily Telegraph.
In 2005, more Jewish people moved to Germany than to Israel. Indeed, many of the Jews moving to Germany were actually born in Israel. For some Israelis, this threatens the very foundations of the Jewish state.
With a Jewish renaissance, even in places where it was nearly erased by the Holocaust, they say Zionism’s raison d’etre is being challenged.
“Israel is in a really difficult position with immigration now, because people ask ‘what is the role of Zionism today?’,” said Rabbi Homolka, principal of the Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin.
“The Jewish community in Berlin makes the argument that it is valid to stay here, in Germany.”
Never mind the museums, restaurants, concerts, bars and clubs – what every capital city needs is a slogan.
Berlin has brought in the branding experts, reports the IHT. And for the small fee of €10 million, they have come up with the following:
Nice. According to Carola Bluhm, head of the Left Party’s parliamentary group in the city council, “the ‘Be Berlin’ campaign is designed to create associations with the city’s lively present rather than the dark, if fascinating, role it played in the 20th century”.
But the tourists are not impressed.
“I don’t want to be Berlin. I wanted to come here to see the galleries,” said Victoria Gilardi, an American tourist. “And why do they need a slogan anyway? It makes the place seem a little desperate.”
Tell that to Stockholm, the Capital of Scandinavia.
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