Get your dose of Multi-Kulti at the Karneval der Kulturen

Started in 1966, the Carnival of Cultures has been one of the most popular and largest open air festivals Berlin has to offer. In a city known for its open-air awesomness, how does this one stand out?

The Carnival of Cultures sheer amount of participants dwarfs many other of the city’s festivals. With over 4,700 performers from over 80 countries, the parade and street fair is massive. The festival attracts about 1. 5 million people every year.

The vibrancy and energy of the festivals is also unmatched. Berlin’s extrodiary diversity is on display in the form of Brazilian costumes and African drum beats. Berlin is the most international city in Germany and the mixture of cultures make for an extraordinary 4 day festival.

With the recent European Parliament elections showing a backlash against immigrants in the EU, this year’s carnival is even more important. The Carnival of Culture lets the cornucopia of differing nationalities put their best foot forward and celebrate cultural differences, rather than trying to mute them.

This year’s festivities start on June 6th and end on the 9th. The street parade on June 8th begins at Hermanplatz at 12:30, travel across Hansenheide and end at Mehringdamm at 21:00.

The street festivals run from Friday (16:00-24:00), Saturday and Sunday (11:00-24:00) and Monday (11:00-19:00) in Blucherplatz. Be there and soak in all that Berlin has to offer.

 

News for Ampelmann… a Green for AmpelFrau?

(Main Picture: Ampelmädchen © gheeke on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

If the Social Democratic Party gets its way, Ampelmann will be sharing crossing duties with an Ampel-lady. The group pushed for a motion on May 12th to include a “modern and self-confident” Ampelfrau to the streets of Berlin. “Women need to be more present in the appearances of our capital’s streets,” said Martina Matischok-Yesilcimen, the SPD district leader who signed the motion; “We’re a diverse city and that deserves to be seen.”

Ampelmann © Frank M. Rafik on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Ampelmann made his début in 1969 in East Berlin. Created by Karl Peglau, a psychologist in the GDR’s transport services, the iconic (ironic?) lovable green civil servant of the oppressive regime was made to be more human like so people could identify and trust in him.

This tactic seemed to work even after the demise of the GDR. After the reunification of East and West Berlin, citizens fought to keep the Ampelmann instead of replacing him with a more standard shape. Some parts of western Berlin have even hired the Ampelmann to patrol their streets. Today, the Ampelmann is a symbol of Berlin and a testament to the city’s history. With six Ampelmann themed shops across the city, selling everything from Ampelmann t-shirts to Ampelmann noodles, he is also a huge tourist attraction. Perhaps an Ampelfrau would boost the Gruenemann’s already widespread appeal.

Cities in Germany have already starting introducing the Ampelfrau to the public. The east German town of Zwickau was the first to use the Ampelfrau in 2004 and other cities have followed suit such as Dresden and Fürstenwalde.

Ampelmädchen © Tobin on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

However, the Berlin Ampelfrau will be different than her older counterparts. The SPD says the Berlin Ampelfrau will not have the ponytail and wide skirt like the other Ampelfrau in Germany. Instead, Berlin’s Ampelfrau will be more “modern”. No design, however, has been published to what this new Berlin-style Ampelfrau will look like. . Will this traffic Mädchen be sporting a Skrillix haircut and a Club Mate in hand, perhaps?

Germany’s immigration boom! 2nd place after USA.

(Main Picture:  German Immigration © marcmo on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In 2013, the Federal Statistacal Offices (Destatis) reported that 1,226,000 people arrived in Germany while 789,000 left, leading to a net increase of 437,000. With a 38% increase in immigration in 2012, Germany is experiencing unparalleled immigration influx. Thomas Liebig, an expert on international migration calls the new movement, “a boom – without any exaggeration….no other OECD country experienced such a rise”. 

In 2009, Germany ranked 8th as a migrant destination. Germany’s booming economy compared to the recessions many other EU countries experienced propelled Germany into the top spot for immigration.

The bulk of new migrants come from EU countries, totaling 727,000 people. Poland is the top country of origin with 189,000 migrants living in Germany. The addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU also bolstered immigration numbers.

Youth of the World © Torsten Schulz on Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Youth of the World © Torsten Schulz on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Backlash

With this new spike in immigration, Germany makes moves to discourage migrants moving to Germany without work. A new draft proposal could give Germany the ability to deport foreigners, including EU citizens, within 3 months if they do not find a job. “The EU is not a social-welfare union” Angel Merkel reported to Passauer Neue Presse. “We do not want to pay Hartz IV (social welfare paymernts) to EU citizens who are residing in Germany solely for the purpose of looking for work,” she added.

The recent European Parliament elections echo this sentiment. In France, the anti-immigration party The Front Nation, took 25% of the votes. Denmark’s Danish People’s party took 27%, running on platform to curb EU benefits to foreigners and to tighten border control. Germany itself elected its first neo-Nazi member of the European Parliament.

However, there seems to be people who still embrace immigration as a means to keep the Germany economy booming. By 2050, a third of Germany’s population will be above the age of 65, according to government data. The population is expected to shrink a quarter as a result. With Germany’s aging and shrinking population, migrants will need to fill the gaps in the German economy.

Prominent politicians in Germany are also looking to create more tolerance to foreigners in Germany. President Joachim Gauck explains “… how bizarre it is that some people cling to the idea that there could be such a thing as a homogenous, closed, single-colored Germanyit’s not easy to grasp what it is to be German – and it keeps changing.”

Tempelhof – Beloved and Historic Park’s fate up for Debate

(Main Picture: Former airport Tempelhof © Jurjen van Enter on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Any given Saturday at Tempelhof field, you will find an eclectic mix of Berliners, ranging from families out for a stroll to extreme kite skateboarders cruising down abandoned runways. This historic site has become an attraction for people across all walks of life in Berlin. However, growing demands for housing in Berlin makes Tempelhof an ideal spot to develop. With moves to build up parts of the field into apartment blocks and a library, locals are fighting to keep the park they love

Tempelhof facade © Michael on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Tempelhof facade © Michael on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Developers and city officials claim that Tempelhof needs to be developed because of the need for housing in the city. Last year alone, 50,000 people moved to Berlin and another quarter million are expected to arrive by 2030. With Tempelhof’s location within the city and its considerable size, it is a prime spot to address this housing crises. Berlin’s City Development minister, Michael Müller, explains, “we need to build and to build here because it is exactly here that we need affordable housing”. As much as half of the homes set to be built in Tempelhof would be affordable, according to city spokesman. Martin Pallgen.

Opponents to development and supporters of the “100% Tempelhofer Field” referendum, don’t see Tempelhof field as the answer to the housing shortage. Margarete Heitmuller, on of the referendums initiators, voices, “as Berlin is getting more and more densely build up, we desperately need green spaces like (Tempelhof)”.

Flughafen Tempelhof
Flughafen Tempelhof © Gertrud K. on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The park, which is larger than Central Park, also draws a lot of comparisons to its New York relative. Christoph Breit, who helped gather signatures for the referendum asks, “would anyone try and transform central park into a housing complex”? For the residents of Neukölln and Kreuzberg, the borough neighboring the giant park, there are better place to build than their beloved Tempelhof.

The referendum to keep Tempelhof from being developed, “100% Tempelhofer Field”, received 185,328 valid signatures, enough to make it an issues that requires a vote. This petition received support from roughly 7% of the city population while it will need 25% of the electorate to vote. Voter will be able to cast their opinion on May 25th, the same date as the European Parliament elections. Holding the referendum the same day as the European Parliament elections will hopefully increase notoriously low voter turn out for the issue.

It is now up to German voters whether or not to use Tempelhof as a new site for affordable housing or keep it as the funky park it is today.