It’s just the latest in a growing trend of good-natured “Berlin-bashing,” which can focus on anything from inefficient suburban S-Bahn trains to massive construction failures. Ever since the scandal over the opening of a new airport in Berlin broke, hobby historians have been compiling examples of other wash-outs in the city.
One literal wash-out dates back to 1892, when Kasier Wilhelm II refused to host a trade fair in the city, proclaiming “An exhibition will not be, as the Berliners themselves would say.” He was proven wrong however when the show arrived anyway, complete with an enormous fake pyramid. But it rained for 120 out of 165 days and the show flopped.
According to the author of Ach du dickes B. Eine Berliner Pleitengeschichte (Oh you, Berlin, a story of going bust) “bankruptcies, bubbles and disgraces are a part of Berlin’s lifeblood.”
Echoing Kaiser Wilhelm, Tomerius offers a modern-day evaluation: “The airport will not be, the Olympics will not be, the Ferris wheel will not be.”
One amusing example of “Berlin-bashing” is former chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s comparison of the roof of the city’s main train station to a sausage that was too short. Add to that the spectacular financial failure of the high-rise building known as the “Steglitzer Kreisel” and the flopped plans for a magnetic levitation train near the Postdamer Platz square and you have some golden “Berlin-bashing” material.
There are stories of perversity too. According to his mother, Berlin brothel owner Otto Schwanz, whose name translates as “Otto Penis,” refused point blank to change his name, despite his involvement in a construction project scandal.
Critics have described Tomerius’ book as showcasing the “beauty of failure.” It would make a perfect airport read, if only the massive Berlin-Brandenburg project hadn’t flopped so spectacularly…