‘Nope, no joke’: Berlin Transport Authority applies for World Heritage status

The Berlin Transport Authority (BVG) wants to be included in a list which includes the Taj Mahal in India and Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes mountains: UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

'Nope, no joke': Berlin Transport Authority applies for World Heritage status
A tram in Berlin. Could this be the newest UNESCO World Heritage Site? Photo: DPA

On Monday, the capital’s transport company posted a video on YouTube asking viewers to vote for its inclusion in the list, which in Germany includes such cultural landmarks as the Cologne Cathedral and Bamberg’s old town.

So why should UNESCO's newest cultural contender be the BVG, a company notorious for overcrowding and rude service?

The company humourosly acknowledges its faults in its promotional video but points out that, in a rapidly changing city, the U-Bahn, trams and buses are the only places “where Berlin is still Berlin.”

READ ALSO: 10 must-see UNESCO World Heritage Sites in eastern Germany

‘No other city has changed as much as Berlin’

When the BVG announces its application in the video, an elderly woman immediately asks if the transport company is “komplett bescheuert” (completely stupid) to submit an application for UNESCO-status. 

“Yes,” the video’s host says matter-of-factly. “But we’re doing it anyways.”

That’s why company has called on supporters to vote for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list, which has existed since 1975 to fund unique cultural landmarks around the globe, or to provide their own arguments on social media.

“No other city has changed as much as Berlin,” the host of the promotional video states. 

It gives a run-down of examples. More and more cafes have servers who can only engage with their customers in English.

There is “a new trend” everyday, it states, as mouthwash is poured into shot glasses, and people of all ages strut through the streets donning quirky fashion.

“Yet there is one place where Berlin is still Berlin,” states the video. Of course that would be the BVG.

In a self-ironic fashion, it shows there are still delays, drivers who tell off passengers with a thick Berliner dialect for eating donor kebabs on the bus, commuters who curse at the closing doors as they narrowly miss their ride, and cramped quarters. 

Up to now, only a few users have taken to Twitter and Instagram under the Hashtags #weltkulturerbebvg (#worldcultureheritagebvg) and under their own motto of #weilwirdichlieben (#becauseweloveyou). 

While some social media users mocked the move to apply, praised the public transport company. “I wholeheartedly support that,” tweeted one.

On Instagram, one user says that nowhere in the world could smell as good as the BVG – despite kebab, beer and bad weather – and that it must therefore become a World Cultural Heritage Site. 

Others posted pictures of themselves with the photo filter developed to match the campaign.  

To further promote the campaign, the BVG is offering merchandise items such as T-shirts or totes bags with “Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal & BVG” on them.

‘Of course this is meant seriously’

According to the BVG, the application procedure would take three years, and the state company itself considers its chances to be low.

“Obviously this is meant seriously,” said Petra Nelken from the BVG when asked by the Berliner Morgenpost if the entry was just a publicity stunt. “Of course the BVG should become a World Heritage Site.”

“Nope, no joke,” the company tweeted with the video.

The company has set up a website asking public transport users how they feel.

“You have the choice: Do you want that we become a Cultural Heritage Site?” they ask site visitors, with yes or no as the only two options.

As of 5 pm Tuesday, close to 45,000 people had voted “yes” on the website. 

Why does Berlin’s U-Bahn also deserve the title? Said speaker Markus Falkner:  “That’s for everyone to decide for themselves.”

The transport company says it has already fulfilled the two points needed for UNESCO.

Firstly, it is, an “interface of human values in relation to technology,” it states. Secondly, it symbolizes “sections of human history”. 

Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe – (die) Berlin Transportation Authority 
World Heritage Cultural Site – Weltkulturerbe 

wholeheartedly/thoroughly – voll und ganz

joke – (der) Witz

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.