17 November 2008

Hot off the press

Some stories that made an impression on me from Berliner Zeitung of 14th November.

Many young people are turning towards the army, not out of any patriotic fervour or out of a desire to become career soldiers, but because it will get them off the dole queue. Many new recruits come from the eastern states and place all their hopes in the army providing them with a secure job and a living wage. Recruiting officers, however, stress that whoever sees the armed forces as a last straw is doomed to failure.

BVG are trying to keep one step ahead of the vandals – they are in the process of covering all windows in underground trains with protective plastic film, which makes it difficult for juvenile scribes to scratch gangland mottos on the glass. The sticking point is that the film is not plain but printed with etchings of the Brandenburg Gate. Vandals are left with very little blank space in which to scratch their inanities. A similar tack has been adopted on the trams, but instead of the Brandenburg Gate, the film is dark green (useful for keeping out the strong rays of summer sunshine in a city where the clouds are permanent residents). BVG had to fork out nearly €9 MILLION last year to repair damage caused by vandals: inevitably these costs end up being passed on to the traveller. You would think that anything that could reduce this figure of €9 million would be welcome, but instead passenger associations are complaining that the patterned/coloured film obstructs their clear view out of the windows and they don’t like it! In all of Germany, the extent of this problem of vandalised trains is worst in Berlin.
p.s. Ticket prices will be raised 2% in the New Year.

I am tempted to suspect that the newspaper scans other local publications, looking for ideas for new material. (Those of you who follow the themes featured in English-language periodicals of Berlin will pick up on the innuendo). Perhaps it is only coincidence that they have a “puffer” article on the Undertakers Guild: half a page of adverts for bespoke funeral parlours (who would actually cut out the page to keep for future reference??) together with a half-page article lamenting the fact that there are too many cemeteries in Berlin and not enough funerals (i.e. deaths). The two go together – too many businesses, not enough customers.

This development is logical, since the population of the city is not growing in leaps and bounds and the numbers have never returned to the peak reached in past decades. A bit sad for the capital of the world’s biggest exporter.

[p.s. Judging by the preponderance of articles/features on death, funerals, hospices etc. in other local papers in recent days, I am more than inclined to believe that such appropriation of ideas for stories continues on a wholesale basis. I shall follow future developments with renewed interest!]

Amongst the mundane police reports of stabbings, raids on drug dealers and flats set on fire by burning candles, one report stuck out. Chicco the police dog singlehandedly apprehended three teenage youths who broke into a youth centre. They tried to hide in a store room but the German Shepherd sniffed them out. They were so frightened of the dog that they surrendered immediately. Chicco’s photo appeared in the report, as a warning to any other would-be miscreants.

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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.