You know Berlin like the inside of your pocket? No one can fool you when it comes to facts about the German capital? We dare to try and present you ten curious things that you might not have known at all. And with which you can shine during the next visit of non-Berliners. Whether it’s a historical event, statistics on animal excrement or genuine (and not so genuine) Berlin biographies – these items show that Berlin can still surprise us in 2023.
Always on the safe side
In 1912, rubber dyebrikant Julius Fromm enables the sexual revolution from Berlin-Mitte: He dips a glass bulb into a latex solution – and thus invents the first ultra-thin and seamless branded condom. Under the company name “Fromms Act”, he marketed the condom as “Fromms” or “Frommser” – advertising slogans such as “If it grabs you, take Fromms Act” ensured that within a very short time the terms became commonly used as synonyms for condoms.
One return, please!
When you pay someone back, you typically call it Retourkutsche (payback). But did you know that in the Berlin dialect, the probably most famous “Retourkutsche” is more than just a proverb? The term also serves as a nickname for the Quadriga of the Brandenburg Gate. In 1806, Napoleon took it to Paris as booty from his victory march over the German city. And there it stood packed in crates for years until it was finally transported back after France’s failure at the Battle of the Nations in 1814. The designation of the Quadriga as a literal “retourkutsche” has since been a reminder of its triumphant return to Berlin.
Other beautiful victories
A different kind of victory was achieved by 20-year-old Gertrud Dopieralski in 1909 at the first European pageants. These took place in Hamburg, but Dopieralski was the winner, who henceforth gave herself the stage name Gerda Sieg and became “Miss Universum”. Years later, the first official “Miss Germany” was not a Berliner, but she was elected in Berlin.
Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin – isn’t it all the same?
For many people, Berlin is unique. For an employee of the telephone directory publishing house, however, that’s probably not the case: In 2008, shortly before the editorial deadline, he mixed up two image files. And so, the next day, Munich’s city hall graced the cover of the Berlin telephone directory. An edition of 700,000 thus had the wrong cover picture – but in the meantime certainly also cult status.
Sound on in little Hollywood
Berlin and film have not just belonged together since the annual Berlinale. This is proven by the fact that the world premiere of the first sound film took place on September 17, 1922 in Berlin’s Alhambra cinema. At that time just opened as “Alhambra-Lichtspiel-Theater”, about 1000 spectators could see and hear “Der Brandstifter” with integrated soundtrack during a matinee in the morning. The leading actor of the feature film, Erwin Baron from the USA, played seven of the nine roles. The screenplay was by the playwright Hermann Heyermann. Although sound technology was radically new to the art of film at the time, the talkies did not catch on until 1927. Incidentally, the foundations for a functioning soundtrack were also laid in Germany’s present-day capital: Oscar Meßter of Berlin invented the “biophone” in 1903, a device to synchronize silent films with sound from the gramophone. Due to the poor sound quality, however, production of the device was discontinued in 1912.
While we’re on the subject of sound: The hard rubber vinyl record was developed by a German emigrant named Emil Berliner in the United States in 1888. A year earlier, he had already patented his invention, which many before him had tried their hand at. By the way, Emil Berliner is a Berliner only by his last name. He was actually from Hanover.
And speaking of names: It is actually officially forbidden to name one’s own child after the capital city. A couple nevertheless gave their daughter, born on October 12, 2012, the first name “Berlin.” Initially, the Berlin registry office declared the name inadmissible on the grounds that “Berlin” could not be clearly assigned to male or female. However, the parents’ lawyer countered with the argument that a German couple was allowed to name their child “London.” The Berlin registry office then relented – and Berlin was allowed to keep her name.
No matter if you’re on the way to the subway, in public places or right under the roof edges: The pigeon and its excrement are a nemesis of the animal kind for many. Especially in Berlin, it sometimes seems as if there are more pigeons than people. However, there are only about 10,000, which means that for every 380 people there is only one bird. By the way, these pigeons leave behind about 27 tons of dry droppings per year. Sounds like a lot? Berlin’s dogs produce twice that amount – every day.
A light goes on!
Almost 100 years ago, traffic lights were switched on for the first time in Germany: In 1924, a traffic light tower was put into operation in Berlin on Potsdamer Platz, which regulated all traffic with the help of a policeman. There was already a gas lantern with red and green light in London in 1868, whose color fields were also changed by hand. However, it exploded after a short time and proved to be unsuitable.
Number-wise, Berlin leads the way when it comes to bridging: Though one might first think of the countless photos of Venetian bridges upon hearing the word. Looking at pictures of Venice, one could easily believe that the water crossings in the Italian lakeside city are like sand on the beach. Yet Berlin is the true bridge city, with almost 1,000 bridges – at least in comparison to Venice, which only has between four and five hundred. Which of these bridges prove to be the most beautiful is a question we’d rather leave unanswered.
We were inspired to this post by this listing.
Stock images: Wikimedia Commons (Jorge Saturno (CC BY-SA 4.0), Alan D. Wilson (CC BY-SA 2.5), Dori (CC BY-SA 3.0), W. Bulach (CC BY-SA 4.0), Duden D. (CC BY-SA 4.0), Metoc (CC BY-SA 2.5), Bundesarchiv (CC BY-SA 3.0)), ullstein bild, WorthPoint, Library of Congress (PD)