Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

'Where Angels Fear To Tread` or: Berlin's Building Sites - Uhrgh!

Britta Huegel

Dear You, 
actually I wanted to write a post about a wonderful discovery I made on Monday - I give you a hint: Italy here, around the corner - but I can't do that now: it is too loud. 
Almost everybody - at least in Germany - knows that Berlin is a permanent building site. They dig up the roads and tunnels, they build new houses, renovate the old ones - and the symbol for all this might be the Airport Schönefeld - a billion-dollar grave, that will not come to an end, and those that are responsible get even more money instead of social condemnation or prison - and the news even reached other countries and they have a good laugh about this play from the madhouse. 
But I can live with that. 
More disturbing - because they are very, very near - is the renovation of a house at the end of our street - can you imagine that they stick on to the facade all the stucco ornaments that a mad city council paid to be destructed in the early decades of the 20th century - to make the buildings more "modern" and easier to paint (I believed that the masses and masses of these 'modern' houses were the sad relicts from World War II, but no: these houses had survived the bombs, and then the city paid (!) for 'modernisation'.  
An example: both houses are built in the same year. 

Britta Huegel

But more awful (for us) is the drainage that 2 (!) building labourers are giving to our neighbour's house (all the houses in the street, though very posh, are joint by a wall). 
The 2 (!) building labours (though I hesitate to use the word "labour") are the typical and perfect impersonators of building labourers. 
They arrive between 6:30 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. 
They turn on their radio. Having often worked with a pneumatic hammer, they are deaf as - a nut. So they need LOUD music - and they SHOUT. Why should other people sleep when they have to work? They discuss this important question before they start to - "work". And because Law allows to start this "work" not before 7 a.m., they use the time before to playfully test their jackhammers - at the wall between the two houses. When the baby of the neighbours starts to cry, they stop and bang on their big big basins - to clean them a bit - better to be done in the morning... more attention... 
But the worst thing are their cellphones. I put "Work" into quotation marks to hint at a certain mistrust on my side: half of the time (at least!) they do not work - after the big overture in the morning they rest for an hour, smoke and shout into their cell phones - (nobody told them that a cellphone is a sort of telephone that enables you to talk with a person at normal pitch - but no, not them -- Shout, Shout, Shout! You might hear them easily at the Alexander Platz). 
By working very slowly they manage to prolong their "work" till doomsday - this wonderful hot summer is definitely spoilt for those who intended to enjoy their balcony (I flee to other beautiful parts of the city, but the old people can't). 
To make it even worse: in our house the landlady has engaged craftsmen to renovate the flat on the groundfloor: wall breakthroughs (we are in Berlin :), floorboard abrasion and varnishing (smell!) and polishing and, and, and - the full monty. 
And when I looked out into the Hinterhof (backyard) I saw another couple of workmen (though they finished after three days). 

Britta Huegel

The rents in Berlin soar, because Arabs and Russians and Italians etc buy houses or flats like mad. Sometimes it is merciful that they see only the "new" flats they buy. Since last year a clever salesman let this house beside the KaDeWe be renovated (I only heard Polish sounds at the building site - I think they are good workers, but often are treated and paid not much better than modern slaves). These flats (of about 110 square meters) cost over 1 million Euros each - but with that goes the privilege to look at really sordid houses on the other side of the street, hear the suppliers for the KaDeWe in the very early morning bring tons of flour or lobsters etc - and look into the "patio" which leads to the car park of the KaDeWe. 
Sometimes it is very good to have not seen your "bargain" before in its original state... 
I'll show you the photos of "before" and "after" in another post. 
Till then we'll book a holiday on an island... I think we'll give up... 

Britta Huegel



24 comments:

  1. That's a lot to take in! I do agree about the shouting phone-calls, especially when the caller does not bother to walk away from his neighbours.

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    1. Dear Tom,
      yes, it is a bit much. I appreciate when things become more beautiful, and know it doesn't happen over night - but these two men are very --- special.

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  2. Work men must be the same the world over - loud music, shouting, and mess. We also have the same problems in London with house prices going through the roof because of overseas purchasers. The problem is very acute as essential workers e.g. doctors, nurses, teachers, firemen etc just cannot afford to buy in the city anymore.

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    1. Dear Rosemary,
      I saw it in London: the house in Battersea (almost Clapham) - and the whole street - went up into (seemingly) unrealistic prices over 1 million Pounds for a tiny house - walled to two others in a row, nice little garden, but old windows, old waterpipes, old charm - I say...
      In Munich people on a low salary as postmen or salespersons have to ride a long way as commuters, rents are too high in the city - now it starts here in Berlin too, though you can still find big flats, but gentrification sets in relentlessly.

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  3. Oh, Britta, how lousy. Especially, I think, the crazy early hours. To have the circus begin before 7 am does press one into making plans for a holiday! Mornings should be a gentle easing into the day, a gift. Wrong to have that ripped away. :(

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    1. Dear Suze,
      thank you for your compassion! I enjoy silent mornings with a cup of strong tea on the balcony (I am a lark - husband an owl). If they would work the time they are here, it would be all over in a while - but digging the earth with a teaspoon in one hand and a cellphone in the other - that will take long...

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  4. That's not exactly the sweet sound of birdsong awakening you in the morning, eh? I suspect the "work" habits of many people in the construction and renovation business is the same worldwide. (But couldn't they at least wait until 9 AM or so to start...?)

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    1. Dear Susan,
      I even would be - sort of - happy if they'd wait till 8 AM. I think that inside of them is a big aggression against their work - and those bourgeois sleeping people - so they make the scales come 'right' a bit. The worst thing is: one can't even take a nap around noon - of course at that time they increase their output of hammering again...

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  5. I hope you gave those workmen a wolf whistle Britta. x

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    2. They were quicker than I, dear Paul!

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  6. Oh, you remind me of so many examples of this hazard of urban living! I won't bore you with them, but I sympathize totally. Enjoy your oasis on an island. It's the best thing to do!

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    1. Dear Sue,
      yes - the hazards and the amenities... :)
      Soon the island will be waiting (but only one week for us - husband is in an important project).

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  7. I sympathize. It is my personal opinion that these "workmen" have only one purpose in life... to drive me insane. They are always loud and become louder when they are taking a break, usually right under the window of the spot in my house that I wish to be. As you said, they arrive early, do little during the day except to make noise, and try to stay as late as possible to disrupt my life as much as possible. The dust seeps into my house and I have to clean it. I could go on. Your island is the best bet.

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    1. Dear Emma,
      you speak out of my heart! The dirt - Berlin is the city in Germany with the highest fine particulates in the air, they found out (and that is not healthy..) - is a real nuisance too. On the island the wind will sweep our lungs, and the gulls will be trying to outdo the song of the waves.

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  8. Dear You,
    I want to add a word from the blog-author: normally I am glad that there are craftsmen and handimen etc - and believe that in every profession there are a great many people who are average work-doers, some are downright lousy, and some are very good.
    I see the Polish workers a few houses up the street: they work really, really hard. We were unlucky to get those German specimens of sloth and brassiness here right beside our dwellings.

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  9. Dear Brigitta,
    Noise and inertia appear to be universal constants of nearby construction. My sympathies.

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    1. Dear Geo.,
      thank you! We fled - as announced - for a week to an island - now we are strengthened again. Hopefully.

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  10. 5 years ago I lived in the Tiergarten, near the park. I love Berlin, I miss it to this day. Before that, I lived in Bayern, in Bad Kissengen for a year. What a change.

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    1. So you lived very near to our Bavarian Quarter in Berlin! See: we've got the best of two world's: Berlin AND the Bavarian Quarter (and son&dil in Munich). Bad Kissingen to Berlin: a very big change indeed!

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  11. Demolition, construction, renovations - three urban plagues of this century. Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in the world - certainly the most expensive in Canada. There is a huge influx of Chinese money, and many apartments sit empty, having been purchased sight-unseen from across the globe. Of course, in the rest of the country, where winters are cold, the summer is spent in finding ways to avoid the road repair crews - all that cold makes the roads heave and repairs are eternal.

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    1. Dear Pondside,
      so Vancouver gets the Chinese money - we (hahaha: 'we' isn't the right word) get Arabian and Russian money. Apartments are often empty for 11 months. As to the roads: the government didn't put even the vehicle-tax-money into them... and the bridges become sometimes dangerous...
      If I find those photographs, I'll show you what some people buy ('After'), but I've seen it 'Before', shudder...

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  12. Hi Britta,
    I agree that the noise from workman can be very wearing but, I guess it has to be done { although, they could be a little quieter whilst they are doing it !!!! }. … and, I commend them for working such a long day but cannot believe that they start at 6.30 a.m. !!!! How long do you think that it will go on for ?
    I love Berlin. We were there about 15 years ago when our son spent a year there as part of his degree and, there was a lot of building going on then. They always say about London that, when the cranes are no more in London then London is no more. XXXX

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  13. Dear Jacqui,
    in one comment above I said too that the craftsmen are necessary - what I cannot stand is bone-idleness, they are really, really cheating (fault of the architect, I think: if he would control more often, he would see). No end in sight... :(
    If you ever come to Berlin: tell me before and we'll meet! And as London: Berlin IS very much -- cranes, growing, regenerating, vibrating.

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