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The Urbanist’s Berlin

Drinking, dancing, and tank-driving where little is verboten.


Lounging by the River Spree at the Deutschland Beach Bar on Museum Island   

To judge by the headlines in the international press, you’d think Berliners spent most of their time debating Greek ­sovereign-debt levels and protesting Germany’s secret sale of 200 tanks to Saudi Arabia. But in ­Berlin, too, all politics is local. Topics currently dominating inevitably beer-fueled debate include whether the ambitious Media­ Spree development project—which has already added a glittering sports-and-concert arena, offices for MTV and Universal Music, and high-rise hotels to the banks of the River Spree in Friedrichshain—will displace the club life that has long represented the beating heart of the city; which Western neighborhood, Wedding or Moabit, will follow Neukölln as the next hot spot for artists; and whether the Green Party can leverage its recent success in pushing conservative chancellor Angela Merkel to ban nuclear power into a victory in September’s mayoral election. Locals still warm to current mayor Klaus Wowereit’s famous description of their home as “poor but sexy,” which is why the city’s latest accolade has sent chills through some quarters: Berlin recently overtook Rome as Europe’s third-most-visited city, behind only London and Paris.

Reporting by Rachel B. Doyle and Tim Mohr


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