Poor but Sexy; Germany's Capital Has Fallen on Hard Economic Times. Berliners like It That Way

Newsweek International, September 18, 2006 | Go to article overview

Poor but Sexy; Germany's Capital Has Fallen on Hard Economic Times. Berliners like It That Way


Byline: Stefan Theil

Berlin's coolest new club, Kubik, hides behind an unmarked gate across from a crumbling house full of squatters in a derelict downtown lot on the river Spree. It's built entirely from refashioned industrial containers emanating a translucent green light. If they seem to be almost alive, it's no accident; thanks to an edgy software interface, they pulsate to DJ Bobby Frohlich's smooth post-techno beats. Amid the occasional sweet scent of cannabis, crowds of twentysomethings party until dawn. Sic transit Gloria Mundi . This weekend the cubes will be taken down and, poof, Kubik will be no more.

Quirky, creative and outrageously cheap--the cover charge is but a single euro, and beers cost [euro]2--Kubik is a perfect metaphor for the new Berlin. Remember all that post-unification speculation that the city, as a rising Germany's new capital, would metamorphose from a gritty outpost of the cold war into yet another homogenized, prosperous Eurotropolis? Forget it. The post-unity boom has fizzled--and most Berliners are perfectly happy about it.

Once again, their city is both Germany's undisputed lifestyle capital--and worst economic laggard. Judging by the bustling cafes, thriving art galleries and ubiquitous club scene (think Kubik, squared), you'd never know that Berlin suffers from nearly 20 percent unemployment. Per capita income is the lowest of any major German city. The economy has shrunk by 10 percent over the last decade, and the city's public debt, amounting to some [euro]80 billion, is more than that of Peru, Ecuador and Guatemala combined. Kubik is a symbol of all this, too. After all, the lot on which it stands, free of charge, has been on the market for nearly 15 years--prime downtown riverside real estate that can't find takers at one fifth what it would cost in London.

All this would be a cause of outrage in most world cities. Yet Berliners are at ease. Most were tickled when Klaus Wowereit, their popular partygoing mayor, dubbed the town "poor but sexy" late last year. A Social Democrat governing in coalition with the communists, the openly gay 52-year-old is a shoo-in to win Berlin's Sept. 17 election. His opponent, a sober-suited conservative, gets zero traction. Why? Because Wowi, as he's called, has managed to finesse the mess. Though nearly bankrupt, the city has kept budget cutbacks small enough to avoid angering voters. That's important, given that a whopping 41 percent of Berliners live off government subsidies--pensions, welfare, unemployment--and that the city's 200,000 civil servants make up one of the municipality's biggest voting blocs. And so what if that Kafkaesque bureaucracy is infamous for harassing entrepreneurs and stifling development? In this, Berlin reflects Germany's broader electoral and economic conundrum: how to reform when a growing majority of voters directly benefit from the old yet unsustainable order?

As most Berliners see it, Wowereit has done well merely by keeping things from getting worse. And in time, it may well be that Berlin's poor-but-sexy cachet turns out to be an advantage. Tourist numbers are up 22 percent this year--driven, officials say, mainly by young Europeans coming to play in the city's ever-cool club scene. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Poor but Sexy; Germany's Capital Has Fallen on Hard Economic Times. Berliners like It That Way
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.