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Living in Germany: Why bus drivers are striking and fun ways to brush up on history

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Living in Germany: Why bus drivers are striking and fun ways to brush up on history
A sign about the public transport in Berlin this week. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

This week we get into a Berlin bus driver's perspective on the strikes, paying to pee in German public toilets, early cherry blossoms and a cool way to learn about German history.

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Living in Germany is our weekly look at some of the news and talking points in Germany that you might not have heard about. Members can receive it directly to their inbox on Saturday.

Why are transport workers striking?

Not a week goes by in Germany at the moment without strikes being called. This week, the Verdi union urged its members who work in public transport to walk out, causing disruption in many parts of the country. In Berlin on Thursday and part of Friday, buses, U-Bahn services and trams were shut down. It’s easy to feel annoyed by this kind of action - it makes getting around more difficult, leaving many people having to cancel their plans. So it was interesting to read Paul Krantz’s interview with a bus driver in Berlin about the reasons he is striking along with colleagues. 

Mathias Kurreck, a bus driver and Verdi union member working for Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), said driving a bus in Berlin is a high pressure job with a lack of proper rest time. He said it was difficult to spend time with family and enjoy downtime. The union is asking for an extended minimum rest period at the end of journeys. “The driver has so little time to turn around that he has to decide whether to go to the toilet or take a bite of sandwich, both of which are not possible,” said Mathias. Drivers are also campaigning for the rest period between their shifts to be extended from 11 hours to 12, and want to increase their holiday allowance to 33 days per year. 

When the Local asked for BVG’s perspective on the demands, they declined to comment on the ongoing dispute. However, in a press release published ahead of this week’s strikes, the company called the action “completely disproportionate and irresponsible with regard to our passengers”. Will the drivers get their way? That remains to be seen. But reading Mathias’ account sure made me think about the hard work of our bus drivers. 

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Tweet of the week

Having to pay to pee in German public toilets, such as in shopping malls, is a pet peeve of The Local team too. Is it something you’ve noticed more of in Germany?

Germany in Focus podcast 

In this week’s episode, we get into the new cannabis law, the anti-Semitism accusations at the Berlinale, the 'Red Army Faction' arrest, changes in March including to immigration rules, visas and events in Germany this March.

Check it out here or wherever you get your podcasts. Please leave a review and a rating or let us know your feedback. You can email the team directly at [email protected]

Where is this?

Cherry blossoms


Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Christoph Reichwein

Officially, spring doesn’t start in Germany until March 20th. But since it’s been such a mild February, we’re already seeing the start of cherry blossoms, as shown here in Nordsternpark in Gelsenkirchen. With temperatures close to 20C expected in some parts of Germany, Sunday will feel spring-like. 

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Did you know?

If you’re looking to build up your knowledge about German history, we suggest checking out the Deutschlandmuseum in Berlin. This new addition to the capital's museum scene is located just a stone's throw from Potsdamer Platz and the Mall of Berlin and promises to take visitors on a whirlwind tour through 2,000 years of German history. Starting in the ancient world and ending in the present day, the museum covers 12 major epochs, including the Reformation, Enlightenment, Hilter's Third Reich and the post-war division of Germany.

Along the way, you can test your knowledge with pop quizzes, but the sights and sounds of each fascinating era are what truly makes the experience memorable.The whole thing can be done in a single hour, though the atmospheric scenery and interactive exhibits that transport you back in time may inspire you to linger a little longer. Check out some more fun and interesting ways to learn about Germany here. 

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