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The Urbanist’s Berlin: Talking Points

Germany’s Weiners
The men (and one woman) whose private indiscretions have become national punch lines.


The Men of Hamburg-Mannheimer
In May, it emerged that one of Germany’s largest insurance firms, Hamburg-Mannheimer (now Ergo), had organized a wild sex party in Budapest’s historic Gellért thermal baths for 100 of its top representatives. The twenty prostitutes hired as “entertainment” were made to wear color-­coded ribbons, with white-ribboned girls designated for the top salesmen.








Political Plagiarists
Earlier this year, popular defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was forced to resign after it was discovered that the castle-living aristocrat (he is descended from Leopold II) had plagiarized much of his doctoral thesis. Then, in May, the vice-president of the European Parliament, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, was ousted for the same reason.







Boris Becker
Reports recently surfaced that the retired tennis champ (and tabloid mainstay) has had his 265,000-square-foot villa in Mallorca seized after failing to pay €276,000 in gardening bills. The villa, with its Olympic-size pool and tennis and basketball courts, is worth a reported €15 million. Becker has been trying to sell it since 2007.






Jörg Kachelmann
After a 44-day trial that ended on May 31, the German-speaking world’s most famous meteorologist was acquitted of raping his girlfriend after threatening her with a kitchen knife. Germans were riveted by the trial, as Kachelmann’s numerous lovers lined up to testify on the weatherman’s robust sex life.






Green Gone Wild
Berlin’s muscular environmentalism, by the numbers.

6: varieties of recycling Dumpsters (for green, white, and colored glass; paper; composite packaging; and compost) found in the courtyard of a typical residential building

1: Dumpsters typically reserved for the disdainfully labeled, unrecyclable Restmüll—in essence, the trash among trash

10: cost in euro cents of small plastic bag at a grocery store

1 million: number of residents, out of 3.4 million, who live inside the central Environmental Zone, where only cars with low-emission badges are permitted

$4.37: total taxes on a gallon of German gasoline

950: acres of airfield at the shuttered Tempelhof Airport that recently were reopened as a feral, no-frills park


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