We have spent a few days in the German capital and I have noticed a few idiosyncrasies worth sharing. There is a lot of graffiti here, almost on every available surface. It is colourful but it seems like it is everywhere. There is also a great deal of construction going on in and around the city at the moment. The German language is a lot more difficult to get the gist of, compared to French, and it sounds harsher and more aggressive to the ear. Despite that, all the German people we have dealt with have been quite helpful and lovely.
Again, there are no buttons to press to activate the pedestrian light sequence, which is still pretty disconcerting as it was in Paris, but the main difference in the crossing the road experience here is that no one will attempt to cross until the green figure is shown. In France, the lights were more of a suggestion to follow. In Berlin absolute obedience is noted.
The figure of the crossing lights is called Ampelmännchen (Amplemann), and he is quite distinctive and a cult figure here. There are many, many different products you can purchase with his image on it and at first it was completely mystifying to me.
David loved it and was quite enamoured with the t-shirts, mugs, gummy lollies, notebooks, pens, magnets, jewellery, pasta, towels, rain ponchos, signs, sponges and anything else that could possibly be logo-ed. These are not only available in souvenir shops, but in shops completely dedicated to these images, and called Amplemann stores.
After a little research we learned that he was the figure used in Eastern Germany for pedestrian lights while the segregation was in effect and it is one of the few things that has been embraced by the West in the reunification process. This figure is a symbol of the two becoming one, and as I consider this my tolerance and understanding for his popularity grows. Every time the traffic lights are used by people in this city they are reminded of the freedom they have now, compared to recent history.
We leave this interesting place tomorrow morning and I am pleased to have been able to visit and experience what Berlin has to offer. And our cases are a little heavier with some Ampelmann merchandise so we can be reminded of this quirky place too.