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Minimal notes from Berlin

Di Antonio Caneva, 19 Marzo 2004

Those who complained about the cost of the ticket to visit BIT in Milan can definitely be opposed with the amount charged to business operators who went to ITB in Berlin: 38.50 euros (12 euros was the cost for visitors). At the Milan event it was (rightly) objected that, in order to visit all the stands, it was necessary to get out of the overheated pavilions and walk a distance outdoors, with the very concrete risk to catch a cold in the process: Well, the same applies to the huge pavilions of the Berlin Fair, and Berlin is notoriously not warmer than Milan.
Being lazy, when I get out of the Milan subway I choose to ride on the escalators, but they are often out of order and refusing to escalate anywhere. During my recent visit to Germany I experienced the very same thing: it felt like being in Milan. In the subway I thought I was missing the presence of street musicians, gypsies and beggars, but I hardly had time to form the thought in my mind, and – albeit with an extra bit of caution – the very same people appeared in the Berlin subway, too. The trains of the Milan subway are covered with graffiti… well, I am going to disappoint you in this respect: in Berlin they are nice and clean (it shows they do a serious cleaning job), but the windows and door panes are all scratched, so much so that prominent notices are displayed promising up to 600 euros to anybody who will allow to identify the vandals, because – and here comes the essential difference – the notice warns that public transport, like everything that is public, belongs to the community, and must be protected by the community.
Berlin is a beautiful city, as Germany is beautiful, and I think that this sense of belonging is revealed in the way people face up to problems, which – here too – are many. A taxi driver told me: “For the citizens of East Berlin, the fall of the wall has brought wellbeing for the young who had a profession and now have a chance to benefit from their skills, and the pensioners whose income has been appreciated by the deutsche mark parity, but those who were civil servants, as I was (he worked in education) suddenly found themselves without a job because of employment downsizing, and now I drive a taxi (with great dignity, I would add). People like me have lost twice: after the war we were included in the East, and now we suffer from the end of a historic era”. As he was finishing his story, I arrived at the Adlon Kempiski Hotel of Unten den Linden, a hotel of great charm which reflects what a young friend of mine once said: “You can build hotels as luxurious as you wish, but history you cannot invent”.
Berlin is fantastic.

Translation of the Italian
editorial by Paola Praloran

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