Thursday, September 04, 2003

First we take Manhattan

I am in Berlin. I was last here in 1992, and since then there have been lots and lots of stories about the immense amount of construction that has taken place here in the last decade. And when you look at it, this both is and isn't true. An immense amount has been built in two areas, both of which were desolate wastelands in 1992 because they had either been underneath or very close to the wall. The two areas are the administrative centre around the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate, and a retail/commercial/entertainment development around and at Potsdammer Place. (The Holocaust memoral is being constructed in between these two areas. This will mean that the two areas will in some ways be permanently disconnected, which is perhaps the point). These areas join on to the historic heart of the city, that runs down Unter den Linden to Alexanderplatz, the showcase centre of the former east Berlin. The showcase centre of the former West Berlin is still largely disconnected from all this, so in some ways Berlin is a rather disjointed city.

Important news is that Berlin has been clusterbombed. As well as in many other places, there are Starbucks outlets just next to the Brandenburg Gate, and a couple of blocks from Checkpoint Charlie. In both cases they are on the Eastern side. That certainly makes it clear about who won the cold war.

Seemingly as lacking in Latin European style cafe culture as Britain, Germany seems to be following Britain down the line into Starbucks style coffee. As well as the authentic version of Starbucks, there are at least a couple of large, seemingly country wide chains of Starbucks clones, and the Germans seem to be taking to this kind of cofee with enthusiasm. Plus, there is also the real thing. This seems to be happening about five years after almost exactly the same thing happened in the UK. Interestingly enough, none of the British chains of Starbucks clones have seen to expand here. This seems a shame. One would think they have the expertise to get this right.

Also, the Starbucks world can be divided into two subworlds: those countries that get short, tall, and grande; and those countries that get tall, grande, and venti. Britain is in the second category with the US. Germany for now is in the first category with Australia. Heaven knows what this means.

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