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The ABCs of fun facts about Berlin

From A like Ampelmännchen to Z like Zoologischer Garten

Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall © iStock.com, Foto: Franckreporter

Berlin is wonderful and sometimes a little bit crazy. From the Wannsee in the south-west to Pankow in the north, the cit is home to 3.5 million who are proud of the East Side Gallery, currywurst, and Spätis. Anyone who's ever spent a few days in the capital knows how entertaining Berlin can be. For a little insight into the unique life in Berlin, we have compiled 26 fun facts about Berlin in this small abecedary.

A is for the Ampelmännchen

Berliner Ampel
Ampel in Berlin © iStock.com/Chris Schmidt

After reunification, there were plans to replace East Berlin's popular Ampelmännchen with its Western counterparts. However, Berliners didn't want to give up the hat-wearing men found at the city's zebra crossings (crosswalks). Indeed, there were even protests. And they worked: the city added the Ampelmännchen to its approved traffic light symbols so that they could continue to show pedestrians the way across the city.

B is for the Berlin bear

United Buddy Bears am Kurfürstendamm
Buddy Bears am Kurfürstendamm Berlin © visitBerlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

Touristen fotografieren United Buddy Bären am Kurfürstendamm

The bear is found on Berlin's coat of arms and almost on every other corner in the city. Historians think it was Margrave Albrecht I, the founder of the Mark Brandenburg and known as "Albrecht the Bear", who lent the city its name in 1280. (By the way, the "bear" is also a pun, reflecting how Germans pronounce the name of the city: Bear-lin.)

C is for currywurst

Pressekonferenz im Pop-up-Store in Wien
Currywurst © visitBerlin, Foto: Phillip Hutter

Pressekonferenz im Pop-up-Store in Wien

Berliners like things that are down to earth. So it's no wonder that the currywurst has become a traditional snack for the city's resident. The recipe: take a sausage, fry it in hot fat, cut it into bite-sized pieces, douse it with curry sauce, and sprinkle with plenty of curry powder. 70 million currywurst are consumed each year in Berlin.

D is for döner kebab

Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap
Mustafa's Gemüse Kebab © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Kreuzberg

The kebab is not Turkish, but, so legend has it, a Berlin invention. In 1972, the first kebabs began to show up on Berlin's streets. Today, the döner kebab is so popular among residents and tourists that an average of 400.000 kebabs ( 950 spits) are eaten each day in the city.

E is for the East Side Gallery

"Bruderkuss" at East Side Gallery Berlin
East Side Gallery "Sozialistischer Bruderkuss": Dimitri Vrubel "Mein Gott hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben" © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

For 28 years, the Berlin Wall divided East and West. Today, the East Side Gallery, painted by artists after the Wall fell, is the longest open-air gallery in the world. More than half a million visitors a year admire the 1,316 metres of colourful art.

F is for Friedrichshain

Restaurants and Bars in Simon-Dach-Street in Berlin
Restaurants in Simon-Dach-Street © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

Friedrichshain is the smallest of Berlin's twelve districts in terms of area, but it a very popular area to hang out in. The district has the highest population density in the city!

G is for graffiti

Streetart von Herakut
Graffiti Herakut Mural © Aurelio Schrey

Whether in Kreuzberg, Mitte, or Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin is full of colourful graffiti. But not all of it is pretty, plus: not all of it is legal. The city administration spends €35 million a year trying to restore the (more beautiful?) grey façades of the city. But the graffiti keeps making its way back into the cityscape, increasingly with permission, such as on Bülowstraße in Schöneberg. There are metre-high murals next to Berlin's unique Street Art Museum that invite you to stop and be amazed.

H is for Hertha BSC

01.10.2017 Fussball Hertha vs Bayern
Hertha BSC im Olympiastadion © Camera4

A fun fact for sports fans: Hertha BSC is Berlin's most successful football team. The name Hertha, by the way, comes from a steamboat on which the co-founder of the club, Fritz Lindner, had once taken a trip with his father.

I is for "Ich bin ein Berliner"

Rathaus Schöneberg
John F. Kennedy vor dem Rathauss Schoeneberg © Landesarchiv Berlin

It's been more than 50 years and it still has the same effect: John F. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech just after the Wall was built. When the American president visited Berlin on 26 June 1963, he spoke on Berlin's status as a divided city. The one sentence he spoke in German was remained unforgotten and received thunderous applause.

J is for "Juten Tach!"

Whether it's the owner of small corner shop, a bus driver, or bank employee, the Berlin dialect is an integral part of everyday life in the city. It used to be that the pronunciation of Berlin was so funny that the dialect was for a long time considered to be a spoof of High German. As the city became increasingly international, the local language has continually adopted words and phrases from other cultures. Influences from Flemish, French, and Hebrew have all made their way into the local dialect.

K is for "Kulturen" (cultures)

Bite Club Berlin an der Hoppetosse
Bite Club © visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

The fun fact that Berlin is home to more than 190 nationalities is not really that surprising, but the fact that only one in four Berliners was born and grew up in the city is rather astonishing.

L is for dogs, the "Lieblingstier" (favourite animal) of Berliners

Travelling to Berlin with a dog
Travelling to Berlin with a dog © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

When Berliners aren't eating their currywurst, they're probably out walking their four-legged friends. At least you might think so, given that there are 110,000 dogs registered in the city.

M is for Müggelsee

Summer mood: teenagers at the beach at Müggelsee in Berlin
On the beach at the Müggelsee © visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

Berlin is home to so many lakes that it's often hard to decide where to head to cool off on a summer's day. The largest lake in Berlin is the Müggelsee, with an impressive 7.5 km² of water for the perfect holiday atmosphere.

N is for "Nicht bezahlt" (unpaid).

Anyone's who's ever gotten into an argument with a public transport official over the validity of their ticket knows that these ladies and gentlemen are not to be taken for a ride. So it's not really surprising that every third person sitting in a Berlin jail is there because they didn't pay to ride the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram, or bus.

O is for "öffentliche Verkehrsmittel" (public transport)

U-Bahn Linie 1
U1 in Berlin © Getty Images, Foto: Emilja Manevska

U-Bahn Linie 1 überquert die Oberbaumbrücke

Public transport services in Berlin cover enough miles each day to circumnavigate the global 8.7 times . Maybe that helps make it more understandable that it occasionally runs a few minutes behind schedule.

P is for parks

The Schlosspark in Charlottenburg
Palace and park Charlottenburg © visitBerlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien

Berlin is a green oasis: more than 44% of the city consists of waterways, forests, rivers, and green areas. Berlin even has more bridges than Venice. More than 1,700 bridges adorn the cityscape.

Q is for "Quadratkilometer" (square kilometres)

Berlin television tower at sunset as panorama
Television tower in Berlin © iStock.com

With 3.5 million inhabitants, Berlin not only has the largest population of any city in Germany, but, at 891,68², it also has the largest area.

R is for rainy days

U-Bahnhof Warschauer Strasse
Warschauer Strasse mit Ubahn © (c) visumate

U-Bahnhof Warschauer Straße

With 180 museums  and only 106 rainy days, you'll never run out of museums to check out when the weather prevents you from catching up on some rays.

S is for Späti

Shopping und Sehesnwürdigkeiten am Kurfürstendamm
Alter Kiosk am Kurfürstendamm © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

A "Späti" is what Berliners call the little corner shops that sell magazines, candy, etc. because they're open late ("spät"). These are clearly popular with locals and tourists, since there are at least 1,000 across the city. 70% are owned by people of Turkish descent.

T is for theatre

Maxim Gorki Theater
Maxim Gorki Theater © visitBerlin, Foto: Wolfgang Scholvien
Maxim Gorki Theater

Berlin is the cultural centre of Germany. This is evident not only in the high number of museums and galleries found here, but also in the more than 150 theatres and three opera houses in the city.

U is for "Umzug" (moving)

Wohnungsumzug
© Getty Images, Foto: Westend61

Berlin is always on the move and moving house is an everyday occurrence in the city. On average, 18 people change residence in Berlin every hour!

V is for "Vermögen" (wealth)

Galeries Lafayette Berlin mit Eifelturm
Galeries Lafayette Berlin mit Eifelturm © visitberlin, Foto: Philip Koschel

If you're doing exceptionally well for yourself, you might want to go to the machine at Galeries Lafayette which spits out 250 gram gold bars instead of cash. Each bar was worth €9,000 at the time this was written.

W is for "Wiedervereinigung" (reunification)

The Berlin landmark Brandenburg Gate in sunlight
Brandenburg Gate © visitBerlin, Foto: Dagmar Schwelle

In 1990, the two German states decided to rejoin forces and become a united country, formally ending more than forty years of post-war division that had started to end with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.

X is for XXL schnitzel

Schnitzel
Schnitzel © Löwenbräu

Despite the rumours, Berliners don't just eat currywurst and döner kebab. Sometimes they're in the mood for an oversized breaded and fried meat cutlet (schnitzel), which can be had at Schnitzelkönig on Greifswalder Straße for example. There you will find oversized schnitzels in different variations, including the spicy Mexicoschnitzel or the classic Wienerschnitzel.

Y is for Yak

Yak on green grass
Yak on green grass © Getty Images, Foto: Jasmin Kämmerer / EyeEm

"What is that?" is a sentence you'll hear over and over as you check out the animals such as the yak at either of Berlin's two zoos. This rare bovine species from the Himalayan mountains is a favourite of visitors.

Z as in Zoologischer Garten

Berlin attraction Zoological Garden
Zoological Garden Berlin © Zoo Berlin

The Zoologischer Garten in former West Berlin is truly something special. It is home to about 19,400 creatures representing 1,400 different species, the greatest number of species in any zoo in the world.

 

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