If you’re an expat like me, you’ll probably agree that while living in Berlin might equal a lot of things, becoming a part of the German community definitely isn’t one of them. Quite the contrary – it is actually quite likely to live surrounded by the members of international or maybe even your native community, shifting every day from your WG to a foreign startup you work in, and not having to speak a word of German. Ultimately, the only considerable encounters with the culture of the country you presumably chose to live in might be limited to YouTube ads and an occasional Tinder date.
Another fact you might acknowledge when you’re an expat is that one should try to broaden their horizon, venture somewhere off your usual paths and beyond the reach of the basic Spati vocabulary. At iHeartBerlin, we’ve always been trying to help on that quest, offering advice on both the linguistic and cultural issues.
Today we’re back with a combined force: brush up your Berlin trivia and hear some of the most endearing German attempts at being funny with the 70s short film: Rundflug über West-Berlin (flight over West Berlin)!
The short production, assumably supposed to attract German tourists to visit the capital, features some very characteristic 70s tunes and a totally cheesy narration. In my independent ranking, the worst joke of all can be heard already in the 4th minute (the whole video takes up 12): “The Wannsee beach is Europe’s biggest outdoor swimming pool. Of course apart from the seas!”
It’s always interesting to compare how people’s expectations are later verified by the history. The video starts with the some footage of the Steglitzer Kreisel, a 118,5 meters high skyscraper which isn’t acknowledged as a success, but at least as a great architectural venture and which you still might have never even heard of. It’s not that the Fernsehturm wasn’t there at the time of the flight – it was just on the wrong side of the wall. Not even mentioned by the brilliant narrator, it’s shown briefly in the background from around 9:10.
Steglitz has generally been given a lot of attention compared to its not really astonishing popularity today. Another building that’s been mentioned, the Bierpinsel, has actually a pretty bizarre form that would sooner match the soviet Wohnblocks on Kottbusser Tor than the lovely residential Altbau houses from the Walther-Schreiber Platz area. Resembling an observation tower or, if you’re looking long enough, maybe even a tree, it’s currently closed and has had a rather unfortunate past of bankruptcies, even though the space inside comprises three floors usually equipped with restaurants and a night club.
On the other hand, the Kongresshalle, quite humbly described as the “cheapest”, and a “gift from the Americans”, then a symbol for the German-American friendship, has since established itself as an important landmark, with the contribution of many inter-culturally oriented events at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt.
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
I’m not quite sure what to say about the comment accompanying the footage of Charité’s Benjamin Franklin Campus, but one thing’s for sure: although Berlin could seriously boast about this research-intensive medical institution, that project’s copywriter for some reason chose not to. “Of the 1.3 million patients that were in the clinic throughout 6 years, most made it out alive”. Hilarious.
Still, there’s something to these lame jokes about the streets that I only got to know after they’ve evolved so much. It’s as if some of them saw the “poor but sexy” spirit coming. I mean those like “Kurfurstendamm was modeled after the great Paris boulevard, but turned out to be no Champs-Élysées” or “we have over one hundred museums and a few dozens of galleries; no way to know for sure, they’re opening and closing again all the time”. Berlin is eventually appropriately summed up as the city where there’s continuously something going on, which is even more true with no wall around.