Tourism in Berlin is booming. But not everybody is happy about it. Too many parties, too much waste, people groan. Nobody is shouting for a cutoff yet, but DW columnist Gero Schliess recommends prompt action.
The governing coalition partners in Berlin's parliament want to revive the concept of roundtable discussions. That used to exist in Berlin, but it was during a highly dramatic period: the East German Communist Party and the opposition were negotiating at a roundtable during the peaceful revolution in 1989, at the end of the GDR.
Now a roundtable discussion on tourism in Berlin is in the works. The idea is to make tourism "more compatible with the city and more sustainable." I wonder what that means. Here's a fact: Berlin's tourism branch is going from one record to the next: 6.2 million tourists visited the city in the first half of 2017, with 14.7 million overnight stays. Berlin is flooded with tourists, and that's the problem. There's simply too much flow – even the bars' and clubs' beer taps can't serve thirsty tourists quickly enough.
Public urination in Berlin
That liquid comes flowing back in the city, mainly though male urethras: not in public restrooms, but rather in overrun green spaces or directly into Berlin's rivers and canals. That's why the Germans came up with the lovely expression "wild peeing."
It's true. Some tourists take Berlin's official marketing slogan, "City of freedom," a little too literally – and overdo it while they're at it. The hipper districts of the city, such as Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Neukölln, are the ones suffering the most from this phenomenon. In those areas, some Berliners feel they are guests in their own city. And they feel abandoned. When noise disturbs them at night, the responsible regulatory authorities aren't the ones who will help. They have long gone to bed.
But dear Berliners, let's be honest: don't be so whiny! First of all, you party until dawn too. And then you've obtained exactly what you've asked for. If you sell yourself as a non-stop 365/24 party location, you can't complain when the partiers come join the fun. Of course, many tourists also come to Berlin to hear the Philharmonic Orchestra or visit Museum Island. Still the party people, who actually only make up 15 percent of all tourists in the city according to experts, are obviously louder and brasher.
And after all, didn't Berlin always want to be sexy? And hasn't it presented itself as lascivious and hedonistic? At least that is how many people see the city – the very same people who come to visit. Some disappear in the dark maw of Berlin's hot Berghain techno club for a weekend. Which places them in a sound-absorbing environment, without them getting on citizens' nerves. Others don't do annoyed Berliners that favor, they don't stay "underground" but instead dare to dance all over Berlin — above ground.
Crash course upon arrival
So what can we do? I'm sure the roundtable for tourism embraces unbidden advice. To keep the city clean, really clever people are demanding more public toilets and urban seating accommodation (they must be referring to sitting, Western-style toilets).
I'd say you have to start educating people upon arrival. Send them straight to a crash course on "tourism compatible with the city." Apart from briefing visitors on typical Berlin behavior (cutting in line to grab a beer at the bar) that should include handing out a map of the city pinpointing public toilets.
Berlin authorities also want to get a grip on the visitors' deplorable habit to flock to sites like the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie in great numbers. They plan to increase marketing activities to promote the beauty of far-flung districts like Köpenick and Marzahn. I'd say they can even do better than that, either by relocating the Brandenburg Gate to Köpenick — or removing it from guidebooks.
Time is short. Activists in Barcelona and Mallorca have already begun to stop tourist buses or block tourism offices. Berliners have shied away from that effort, still patiently waiting for the local government to come up with a tourism concept. But what if demands for an upper limit emerge, and actually become established — not for refugees, but for tourists? Madness is underway and it might not even give the roundtable a wide berth.