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Berlin in the Corona Crisis: A City Trip on Day Number 88

On the 88th day after the first Coronavirus case was confirmed in Germany, a month into the contact restrictions, and on the first Friday with open shops since March, some surreal scenes could be witnessed in Berlin.

There was not too much going on in one of Berlin’s finest malls. Located close to Potsdamer Platz, Mall of Berlin, a rather posh place that would have been crammed in a normal world, was almost empty. Hardly anyone was seen in the early afternoon. Nobody wanted high quality shirts, pants, dresses or anything.

Waiting in Boxes

But things did look different in a less expensive mall, namely the Neukölln Arcaden. Here, security staffers controlled the number of people who were going in, by counting those who were coming out. When two people left, two more were allowed to enter. They visited Kaufland, a huge supermarket, went to buy consumer electronics or to visit the post office.

Mall of Berlin has seen busier days. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Because of the distance rules, post office employees used adhesive tape to mark a long line of little boxes people could stand in. Those who did automatically kept their distance to everyone else. The whole thing looked like a giant board game. Only the dice were missing. Getting into the post office or the consumer electronics store took about half an hour.

Tiergarten park is about the size of Denmark. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

Bees and Cherry Blossoms

Exactly 8 kilometers (5 miles) west, at Berlin’s giant Tiergarten park, it was the opposite picture. This particular park is so huge, distance was not an issue at all. At about 2 p.m., couples and families were sitting in the shade provided by big trees and enjoying life. Even the bees that were invading the cherry blossoms kept their distance to each other.

This vending machine offers masks for prices from 5.50 to 30 Euro. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

A bit further north, a vending machine at the Turmstrasse U-Bahn station (underground, tube, subway, metro) caught the interest of passengers because it offered exactly what people want these days: Protective masks made out of cloth. The most inexpensive ones are 5.50 Euro (5.94 Dollars or 4.81 Pounds) and look like they are usable, maybe with a paper towel inside. That way the masks will not be wet within minutes.

Out of Place

While there was little traffic in Berlin’s western city center, there was a lot in the artsy-fartsy Kreuzberg district. On Mehringdamm, a major street that connects Platz der Luftbrücke (‘Airlift Square’) to the Spree river, an actual traffic jam surprised people. Somehow it seemed completely out of place. Those who were stuck in it probably felt they were back in a pre-Corona world, at least for a little while.

A traffic jam in Corona times? Well, yes. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

The most surreal scene could be seen at Brandenburg Gate. Dozens of empty chairs were lined up in front of it. They were part of a protest entitled #LeereStuehle (‘#EmptyChairs’) which was staged by owners of restaurants and pubs. It was their way of saying they want to be back in business. Yesterday.

By the way: The publication you are reading, The Berlin Spectator, was established in January of 2019. We have worked a whole lot, as you can see. But there has hardly been any income. This is something we urgently need to change. Would you consider contributing? We would be very thankful. Our donations page can be found here.