Berlin versus tourists
Tourists take a photo with the Buddy Bear sculptures on Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm Boulevard. The bears are on display through 3 October to mark the 125th anniversary of the city’s most famous shopping street. (Reuters)
In a disused theme park in Halensee, locals met and moaned. “If tourism is Berlin’s biggest growth industry”, pouted their literature, “where will those who provide the fun for the guests relax?”
Community meetings in Kreuzberg – a working class area to the west with a large Turkish population, favoured by visitors on weekend breaks – flew banners reading, “Help! The tourists are coming!” One alternative magazine urged its readers to “steal their mobile phones and wallets as you walk by their café tables, burn their cars, smash their hotel windows, drop rubbish, throw stuff at tourist buses”.
The grievances are varied: tourists rattle their wheelie cases over the cobblestones early in the morning, and change the nature of clubs by taking pictures of each other on mobile phones.
The resentment springs from an enduring counter-culture. During the Cold War, West Berlin attracted dissidents because the government exempted citizens from military service. It duly became a pressure cooker of politics. The fall of the Wall meant two very different cultures – and sets of incomes – were thrown together. In the old East, there is resentment as yuppies move in.
And there’s likely to be more to moan about. Berlin had over nine million visitors in 2010, a 10% increase on the previous year. But the city needs them. The destruction and division of Berlin left it with virtually no industry. Companies like Siemens relocated to Bavaria. Berlin needs the money – your money.
City bloggers nominate tourists’ most annoying habits
London: “Trying to touch in on London’s Oyster system using a paper ticket.” -- Matt Brown, Londonist.com
Barcelona: “Tourists on [pedestrian mall] Las Ramblas and the surrounding parts wearing only what they had on in the sea.” -- David Brydon, barcelonasights. blogspot.com
Copenhagen: “Tourists show up at The Little Mermaid statue and are disappointed at how small it is. Given that she’s called The Little Mermaid, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise.” -- Timothy Anderson, thecopenhagenreport. blogspot.com
Mumbai: “Calling the Gateway of India ‘India Gate’, which is a different monument, in Delhi. Mumbai already resents Delhi because it gets more government funding. To take our iconic monument and call it by a Delhi name, sacrilege!” -- Deepa Krishnan, mumbaimagic.com
Moscow: “Tourists are easily seen because of their smiles. It annoys most Muscovites.” -- Olga Borte, see-you-in-moscow.com
Rome: “They forget it’s a modern city. While looking for the ‘authentic Roman’ experience, tourists accept poor service and bad manners when they should say ‘basta’ [enough]!” -- Erica Firpa, moscerina.com
Stephen Evans, Berlin correspondent for the BBC, lives in Prenzlauer Berg, a yuppifying part of the old East Berlin.
This article was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.