Sometimes you realise you're in Germany

We are all aware of the following stereotype about Germans: they follow regulations with a rigidity that only a deep-seated fear of chaos can engendre. Or, you know, they like following rules. This turns out to be true, but since I'm not an Italian or a Southern Californian, I don't usually notice it or find it in any way problematic. But then sometimes I do...

The first recent (or semi-recent) instance was at our Fourth-of-July barbecue. We set up on the bank of a river in Kreuzberg, get the charcoal burning (after a mighty struggle) and proceed to grill some delicious American-style burgers. Just as the second batch is coming off the grill, we see two people from the Ordnungsamt (literally, the "Office of Order"). They are going around to every group in the park, writing things on little slips of paper, and then tranferring ownership of the slips of paper to the poor innocents relaxing in the park. We brace ourselves. Sure enough, they come to us and ask "Who is responsible for this grill." Jeremy Lin fesses up, and gets his own little slip of paper. Apparently the riverbank is a "geschützte Grünanlage," or a "protected green space," in which, as you can see on the sign to the left, grilling is prohibited, along with loose dogs and all manner of other things. Seriously, this was the sign at the entrance to the park, which probably had something to do with EVERYONE IN THE PARK incurring some penalty for violation of the rules. Anyway, we transported the grill, still burning, to another park about half a mile away, and Jeremy got a 20€ fine later by mail (instead of the 50-100€ promised by the Ornungsamt people). In America, I think the authorities would take notice of the fact that no one in the whole park knew the rules, and let everyone off with a warning...but this isn't America. This is Germany.

Our next item is not really a big deal to me, but in the scheme of things it is a much bigger deal than the grill incident. In a sudden fit of pique, the agency governing rail safety in Germany seems to have issued some new regulations for how many miles trains are allowed to travel before undergoing some sort of maintenance procedure (with whose nature I am unacquainted.) The Berlin S-Bahn (a mostly-elevated rail network), which is a major part of the public transit system of Berlin (with 1.1 million riders anually, compared to 1.4 million for the subway), was apparently taken completely unawares by this new regulation. Therefore, starting yesterday, a full two-thirds of their trains are out of service. Regular service will not be restored until at least December, during which time the not-in-any-visible-way-defective trains will presumably just be hanging around waiting to be maintained. The main S-Bahn line through the center of the city has gone completely out of service, and every other line is running at half-capacity or less. I feel that, if this were America, we would take perhaps the worst 10% of trains out of service, fix them, and then begin with the second-worst 10%, causing mild interruptions in service for a period of several months. In Germany, they are doing things so insanely that mayor Klaus Wowereit actually called on all Berliners to show solidarity. Like it's war, or something. Ridiculous. To be fair, Jeremy reports that taking the subway to work instead of the S-Bahn is actually quite pleasant, but I think he's just putting on a brave face at the urging of Mr. Wowereit.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not lying when I say it's more pleasant. The annoying thing is that I no longer have any access to the center of the city.