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Berlin facts – 23 things you never knew about the German capital

Berlin is full of surprises. With its ever-changing life it's hard to keep up with even a fraction of what is going on in the city. These 23 facts are sure to teach you things you never knew.

Berlin facts - 23 things you never knew about the German capital
Photo: DPA

The online holiday rental company Wimdu have looked into the weirdest facts and figures about Germany’s quirky and eccentric capital. Of the 50 they found, we present 23 of the best.

1. More museums than rainy days per year 

There are 180 museums in Berlin and on average 106 rainy days. So even if you tried to use the bad weather for cultural enrichment you’d have a hard time getting through them all in a year (and that’s if you had nothing else to do.)

The Bode Museum in central Berlin. Photo: DPA

2. 2.9 billion fag ends

In 1848, Berlin proved itself to be way ahead of its time by banning smoking in the street. Now it is one of the few cities in western Europe where smoking in bars is still the norm. Today 2.9 billion fag ends litter the capital’s streets every year.

3. There are 1,000 ways to buy cheap bear at all hours

What would Berliners do without the chance to replenish depleted cigarette and beer supplies at 4 am? With 1,000 Spätis (late night stores) in the city, we all live safely in the knowledge that our saviour lies just around the next corner.

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Photo: DPA

4. 1906 – the year sea safety was invented

At the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention in Berlin in 1906, the SOS emergency signal was agreed upon as the standard signal for Morse code. The sequence of three dits, followed by three dahs, followed by three dits remained the maritime distress signal until 1999.

5. 110,00 dogs

For those of us whose stomachs churn as we tip-toe through the dog poo on our morning walk to work, this one is bad news. In 2013 there were 110,000 dogs in Berlin – or 12,000 more than three years earlier.

Photo: DPA

6. Half of Berliners are lonely hearts

One in every two Berliners is single. Or at least they’re not married. A study released in 2015 showed that in the city that hates Spiessigkeit (squareness) people refuse to settle down into a bourgeois, coupled-up life.

7. 18 people move every hour

It seems that Berliners aren’t very settled people either. It could be that they are constantly on the search for the next ‘in’ Kiez (neighbourhood). Whatever the reason, every hour 18 people move from one district of the city to another, making the Robben & Wientjes removal vans as integral to the city's fabric as the Fernsehturm.

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8. Millionaires are (not quite) ten a penny

Its ex-mayor might have described Berlin as “poor but sexy”, but that is slowly changing. A luxury apartment in the centre of the town recently sold for €5.7 million, smashing the previous record by €700,000. Every 5,840th inhabitant of Berlin is a millionaire – there are 585 in the city.

9. Graffiti costs the city €35 million

If Berlin were a modern day Hades (as some more traditional country folk no doubt believe), Sisyphus would be condemned to life as a street cleaner. Every year the city spends €35 million on cleaning graffiti off its walls. Yet, like magic, the city’s distinctive paintwork always seems to reappear.

Photo: DPA

10. People partying in the clubs could fill a small town 

Between 40,000 and 50,000 people dance every weekend in Berlin’s clubs. So it’s just as well there are plenty of them. This useful map shows that almost every single station on Berlin’s inner city train network has a nightclub nearby.

11. 250 grams of gold

The 'gold ATM' at Galeries Lafayette. Photo: DPA.
 
At the Galeries Lafayette in Berlin's posh shopping district off of Friedrichstrasse, you can actually receive gold right out of a “gold ATM”.
 
The precious metal comes in bars weighing up to 250 grams.
 
And if you ever find yourself shoeless on one of those typically endless Berlin nights out, have no fear! A vending machine in Fritzclub by Postbahnhof sells ballet flat shoes for €9 from a vending machine of their own.
 
 
12. 60 tonnes of döner
 
Photo: DPA.
 
On an average day 950 Döner spits are eaten in the city, and with each spit holding 63 kg, that’s 60 tonnes of meat a day.
 
They also scarf down 70 million currywursts a year. It’s a miracle that Berliners seem to look so gaunt!
 
But do you really know what is in your Döner kebab?
 
13. 2.2 kilometres of beer
 
Just a glimpse of the brew-guzzling at Berlin's annual beer festival. Photo: DPA.
 
The longest beer garden in the world is actually not in Bavaria, but in the northern capital city. The annual International Berlin Beer Festival runs 2.2 kilometres, making it the longest worldwide.
 
Take that, Munich!
 
14. Half a million foreigners
 
Berlin is certainly as 'Multikulti' as people say: there are just under 500,000 foreigners in the city who hail from 185 countries.
 
That means roughly 14 percent are from somewhere other than Germany, so no need to feel alone.
 
15. One in four Berliners are Berliners
 
Photo: DPA.
 
If you think that's a lot of Ausländer, it probably doesn't surprise you to hear older folks grumbling about Scheiße Amis when you're speaking English.
 
But you might actually raise your eyebrows to hear that only one in four Berliners are actually considered “real” Berliners, meaning born and bred in the capital city.
 
Sorry, but John F. Kennedy just didn't cut it, no matter what he said.
 
16. 8.7 times around the Earth every day
 
Photo: DPA/Nasa.
 
Berlin's public transit system (BVG) actually travels the equivalent distance of 8.7 times around the Earth each day, including all the U-Bahn and buses together – even though you might sometimes doubt the existence of buses as they always seem to run a bothersome five minutes late.
 
But then again this isn't like normal Germany. This is Berlin.
 
17. One in three prisoners are fare-dodgers
 
It might not seem like it because of the strange sort of 'honesty policy' Berlin (and most of Germany) has about checking tickets, but the capital actually does take fare-dodging quite seriously.
 
You'll know what we mean if you've ever encountered a particularly gruff Berliner Schnauze of a controller who has absolutely no sympathy for you trying to get by with an AB ticket one station into the C zone.
 
So is it really that surprising that one-third of those sitting in a Berlin jail are there for not buying a ticket?
 
 
18. Eleven night bus lines to your door
 
But even if you're a notorious fare-dodger yourself, you might consider changing your habits to take advantage of the 11 BVG night bus lines that will literally take you right to your door.
 
The buses that offer this are: N35, N39, N53, N60, N62, N64, N68, N69, N91, N95 and N97.
 
19. The Ringbahn is the shape of a basset hound
 
Photo: Robert Aehnelt/Wikimedia Commons.
 
There's really not much more to say here, other than once you see it, you can never un-see it. 
 
Image: Wimdu.
 
20. One in five underground station escalators don't work because: idiots
 
Berlin isn't exactly the best city in terms of accessibility for disabled people, so it might irk you just a bit to know that one in five of those annoying times when the U-Bahn escalators are broken, it's because some jerk decided to push the emergency stop button for funnsies.
 
Yea, real clever prank. The little girl in crutches really laughed at that one.
 
21. 100 more people move into the city than leave it each day
 
Every day, 435 people move into Berlin while 327 leave, so it's no surprise why you've been having trouble scoring an apartment here: not enough people want to get the hell out.
 
 
22. 1916 – year of the seamless condom
 
Left: Konrad Zuse with one of his first computers (DPA). Right: A condom vending machine (Stefan Kühn/Wikimedia Commons).
 
Berlin-born tinkerer Konrad Zuse invented the world's first programmable computer in 1941, making him the father of the modern computer.
 
And while Zuse's work controversially was supported by the Nazis, Jewish Berliner and inventor Julius Fromm basically had his work taken over by Adolf Hitler's cronies.
 
Fromm was the inventor of modern, seamless condoms in 1916, and his company even set up the first condom vending machines. The name Fromms was at one point a synonym for condom in Germany.
 
In 1938, the Nazis forced the inventor to sell his company to the aristocratic godmother of Hitler's right-hand man, Hermann Göring. Fromm left his hometown for London not long after.
 

23. Your own museum for €8,000
 
If Berlin's existing party halls don't quite suit your tastes, you actually have the option of renting out an entire museum for an epic night of debauchery – just for a mere €8,000-€20,000.
 
The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin promise an “unforgettable evening in an utterly unique atmosphere” that will be certain to “enchant and amaze your guests”. Find out more here.
 

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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