Inspired by the Fairy Tale Days festival taking place in Berlin, DW columnist Gero Schliess ponders life and politics in the German capital. Is it all just a land of make-believe?
Hm. The Fairy Tale Days in Berlin. Isn't that actually a festival that takes place throughout the year?
Think of Angela Merkel's fairy tale classics. The one she's repeated the most ended with the famous punchline, "We'll make it" — in response to the one million refugees who had arrived in the country — and which almost cost her the federal election in September.
By now, even the most tolerant of Germans doesn't have faith in make-believe — especially after news came out that, despite all promises of better security and surveillance, the German government has no clue as to the whereabouts of at least 30,000 asylum seekers.
Yet another German fairy tale is the one told by Berlin's governing mayor, Michael Müller, who promised a "Mietpreisbremse," or cap on rent prices in the German capital. Berliners have lost faith in him and his "red-red-green" coalition in the Berlin Senate, the three political parties seen by critics as an accumulation of leftist parties, namely the Social Democrats (SPD), the Left and the Greens. Despite Müller's fantastic promises, rents in Berlin continue to rise to unheard-of heights. What other fairy can be spun?
That remains to be seen.
Berlin's Fairy Tale Days celebrate love
Yet, Berlin politicians are in good company. After all, the capital's Fairy Tale Days are underway from November 9 to 26, with the hope of turning the German capital into a city of love. Recalling the hippie era, the festival slogan of "Make love, not war" aims to bring some Gemütlichkeit into this place that's horribly gray and cold right now. Theaters, churches, schools, libraries and bookstores are among the locations resounding with stories starting with "Once upon a time."
What immediately springs to mind are the bedtime stories my mother once told us as children. She mostly relayed stories to us based on famous tales by the Brothers Grimm. Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and, alas, wicked witches once populated our nursery, and also our dreams and nightmares.
Read more: Berlin 24/7: Naked in Berlin
The Brothers Grimm at the Berlin Academy
Who'd have thunk it! Once again, the famous brothers Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm have returned to Berlin, where they moved in 1740 from the city of Göttingen after then Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm IV invited them to join the Academy of Sciences. They continue to rest in peace in the St. Matthew Church Cemetery in the district of Schöneberg.
But the Brothers Grimm are not the only ones to contribute to Berlin's Fairy Tale Days. After all, we are in Berlin. And Berliners cherish their own local tales, among them "Der Hase im Schloss-Keller," a red-eyed and three-legged hare, or "Die weiße Frau im Berliner Schloss," an evil white woman in Berlin's castle who was believed to turn up whenever the royal family was facing adversity or danger.
Here's a little excerpt: "When the castle was built anew in 1709, a female skeleton was found in a wall, which was believed to be the remains of the White Woman. Subsequently, the skeleton was buried in the church cemetery with the hope that the woman would never return." But, stubborn as she was, the wicked hag did come back.
So you see, Berlin fairy tales do not always have a happy ending.
The "marmelade granny" and her grandson Janik claim their stories are true - do some politicans follow their example?
Merkel and the marmelade granny
I assume that Chancellor Merkel is aware of the risks involved in telling fairy tales, and in her aims in building a government coalition, for instance.
But, perhaps she can learn a lesson from a true fairy tale master — the "Marmeladenoma." The marmelade granny enjoys the confidence of her audiences as she only tells allegedly "true" stories, among them the "Princess and the Pea." Here, the marmelade granny does not sit in the government, or, like my mother, at her children's bedside, but on the Internet. That's where more than 185,000 fans are avidly listening to her, including me. While the 85-year-old lady reads her stories, her grandson Janik takes care of the technology. During Berlin's Fairy Tale Days, the two of them will be honored for their work. They are to receive the "Golden Pea," the Oscar of the fairy tale world, so to speak, in their aim to adhere to the slogan of "Make fairy tales, not war."