Saturday 28 June 2014

Berlin: Pictures that tell other stories

Bottling money
Germany has a way with issues and one I have observed and only just captured a good picture of is the consequence of the Container Deposit Legislation.
Anytime there is a big outdoor event there are people with bags or suitcases, sometimes on foot or wheeling bicycles or even with supermarket trolleys collecting containers.
These are for single use containers as cans, plastic bottles and glass bottles, the empty bottles cost €0.25 each at the returns point and all affected containers are labelled pfand.
What makes this legislation quite bizarre is a black market created by reason of people not necessarily caring about returning their containers to reclaim their pfand deposits. At first, people had to return the containers to their original point-of-purchase; that was eventually eased for them to be returned to any place where the refunds can be made.
So, picking on bottles, riffling through bins and at night peering in with a torchlight, collectors have made a trade that could yield a free €25 for 100 bottles and when a festival is in town, beyond the jostling for the bottle when there is competition, it could be a health sum in these hard times.
The police are your friends
In the past 12 years, I think I attended every Berlin CSD bar one, besides Berlin in June being warm, sunny and fun, there are too many museums to visit, old friends to meet, decent Nigerian restaurants to visit, the main one for me being Ebe-Ano after Fifty-Fifty closed early last year.
Ebe-Ano is central too and quite easy to get to. Ebe Ano, Pohlstraße 52, D-10785 Berlin, +49 30 609 69 627.
However, what is more striking about CSD parades is the presence of the police who act as bookends to the march, in their cars and as outriders before the street sweepers take up the rear cleaning up as if nothing happened.
The Landespolizei are your friends even though they man war-like tanks on football match days and can be quite fierce looking, armed to the teeth, they are rarely, at least not to my knowledge even found in acts of abuse of power as the Sichersheitdienst (SD) or Gestapo of the Nazi era were wont to demonstrate.
The right to be protected
In many other countries, especially to the East of Germany, the police would probably be testing the strength of their truncheons and their preparedness for riot management on demonstrations of great diversity as a Pride march. Here in Berlin, major arteries of traffic and business roads are closed off for the safe celebration of the CSD.
It is not only a celebration of our diverse humanity, but it sounds out the voice of acceptance and the community that Gay Rights are Human Rights too.
Along with the crowds that gather to watch the parades, most of whom are straight with generations of their families, a society at ease with all that inhabit it regardless of persuasion is one destined to thrive.
For many other countries where the state apparatus is used to harass and persecute those that are different, in that picture is a long story from oppression and extermination in the Nazi Concentration Camps to respectful and celebratory co-existence – that is civilisation.
Not just a manhole cover
I could remember when we moved to our new home in Isolo, Lagos in September 1980, the grills on the gutters of the main road were made in Kaiserlautern, Germany.
Nothing could be so distant from the heartland of Nigeria than to have products of other countries cover the dregs and waste of our people, a significant story of what has always been the unrealised potential of Nigeria. The tragedy of our steel industry is best left untold.
Yet, after all these years of visiting Berlin, I looked down at a manhole cover and noticed there was something quite significant about it.
It was no ordinary lid covering the waterworks distribution infrastructure, but a celebration of the City of Berlin with images of the major Berlin landmarks as the Brandenburg Gate, the Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz, the Reichstag parliament building, the Siegessäule (Victory Column) and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church of the structures I can recognise.
All of these places are worth a visit when in Berlin amongst other historic places that represent ancient, imperial, Nazi, post-War and united Berlin. They even had an exhibition of manhole covers in 2011.
Just one of the many quirky things that one sees, innocuous but still significant. I love Berlin.

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