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Berliner Beach Blanket Bingo

June 21, 2003

Berlin may be landlocked, but that won’t keep the denizens of Germany’s largest concrete jungle from having a beach party this summer, as sand and beach chairs have sprung up along the banks of the river Spree.

The 'Federal Press Beach' is wedged between Germany's national press building and the Spree.Image: presse

With the closest ocean hundreds of kilometers away, Berliners have long made use of the numerous lakes surrounding the city to cool off when the mercury starts rising in July and August. Now, for either the extremely busy or extremely lazy, getting the beach vibe has gotten even easier.

Entrepreneurs have carted tons of sand to couple of different locations along the Spree to bring the beach to the city folk. Add some lounge chairs, chill-out music and some cold fruity beverages and even the most hardened Berliner could begin to feel like he was not far from the palm-lined beaches of Hawaii or Majorca.

One of the most prominent of Berlin's new "beaches" is the Bundespressestrand, or 'Federal Press Beach', which is at the heart of the government quarter, wedged in between the national press building and the German parliamentary offices.

Opened amid much fanfare last week, the 150-meter stretch on the river bank is made up of 60 tons of Baltic Sea sand. Hip-swaying music, a barbecue and a selection of cocktails are supposed to help overworked politicians, bureaucrats and journalist relax.

"Imagine being in southern France"

"It's wonderful here -- right in the middle of Berlin -- a sunny beach,” a spokeswoman for the company behind the Bundespressestrand told Deutsche Welle. “You can almost imagine being somewhere in southern France or Italy – of course you need good weather."

The Bundespressestrand is merely the latest endeavour trying to tap into Berliners love for carefree beach attitudes at a time when the city government is broke, unemployment is rising and the economy has stalled. Adding to the lure of surf and sand is the fact that fees at Berlin’s public swimming pools have been raised dramatically in recent years and several have shut down completely because the city can no longer afford them.

But at the Bundespressestrand and the nearby Strandbar, which means Beach Bar, the troubled citizens of Berlin can slip on their sunglasses and forget their troubles for a while. The sand is free and even the caipirinhas aren’t too expensive. The Strandbar even has a cold shower for those who want to cool off after a sizzling day in the sun. Best of all, customers doesn’t have to rent the traditional Baltic Sea beach baskets to sit in.

Sandburgenbauen ganz groß
International sand sculpture festivalImage: AP

As if that weren’t enough for even the most die-hard beach fan, Berlin this week is also hosting Germany’s first international sand sculpture festival. Artists from 10 countries are busy carving out gigantic sand sculptures near a segment of the old Berlin War.

"We wanted to specifically do the event in a large European metropolis that doesn't lie on the coast. Berlin seemed to fit the bill perfectly," said organizers Johanna Börmeister. Hopefully no one will tell her that the city these days actually does have plenty of beach.