The title is compliments of my sister.

Mom brought my attention to an article in the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (apparently this is a Hardin joint-effort post–fun for the whole family!) about Willi Brandt Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. If you’ve ever flown into Germany, you almost certainly flew into Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, or Munich. Other than (actually, closely related to) the fact that Berlin spent most of the 20th century in a tourist dead zone and only recently became a hot destination, there’s one reason why that’s the case: the airports are a joke. Until recently there were three of them, all little bitty: Schönefeld in the south; Tempelhof smack in the middle, in the former American sector; and Tegel in the north. Tempelhof, which is known for its use in the Berlin Airlift, closed in 2008 and was converted into Tempelhofer Freedom, a public park that is over twice the size of several European countries (no joke–look it up).


The community garden at Tempelhofer Feld is a great place for a picnic.


The runway is where I practiced longboarding before I got proficient enough to go on the sidewalks in public.


Around (in fact, sometimes on) Nathan’s birthday (mid-September) there is an annual DragonFest, which, though enjoyable, is somewhat underwhelming given the name: dragon (well, Drachen), is German for “kite.”

Suddenly I’m having deja vu– have I already written about Tempelhofer Feld? If so, then my apologies. Let’s move on.

The remaining airports are laughably small, to the point that when checking in for my flight to the States a few months ago, the representative told me not to bother even getting in line for security until 10 minutes before my flight was scheduled to board. Of course, there’s sometimes a high price for this convenience. Air travel in Berlin is best summarized in the words of Mother Goose: When it is good, it is very, very good, and when it is bad, it is horrid.

In an effort to level out that fluctuation and bring to Berlin the same dependable mediocrity we’ve come to expect from the world’s airports, planning started on a new airport that should have replaced all three. The grand opening was set for 2012. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

The thing is, the airport is built. The buildings are in place; the trains run daily to prevent rusting on the tracks; shops and restaurants have signed their leases. It’s just that the contractors just forgot a few little things like, you know, building to code. Fire safety. Labeling the electrical wires. That sort of thing. It could happen to anyone, right?


Berlin’s race to join the modern era ends with a dull thud.

On the bright side, BER gives Berliners lots of material for the local pastime of petty complaining. The distress call of a defeated Berliner is the phrase, “Da kann ikke nicht meckan:” “I see nothing to complain about there.” Fortunately for Berliners, there is plenty to meckan! In fact, you may be furrowing your brow, certain that you’ve seen the word “meckern” before (in standard spelling/pronunciation; above it’s written in Berlinerisch). And you have–in a previous post about the S-Bahn strikes (the 10th strike since September, by the way, ended on Wednesday).  While I commend you for your sharp observation skills, dear reader, you are not the only one to have made this connection: in fact, I bought this postcard just a few days ago:


Berlin: We can do anything, except…

Now, perhaps all of this Meckern is doing more harm than good. After all, the contractors are hard at work fixing the problems, and the projected opening date is in 2017, just five short years late and over budget by a mere factor of ten.


Hundreds of workers slave away night and day to correct code violations and maintain the facilities until the airport can be opened.

If you want to check whether BER is ready, you have two options:

a) Shout “NO,” and then get on with your day
b) Check this handy dandy website, provided by the Berliner Morgenpost and entitled, “Is the BER finished yet?” As an added bonus, you can see some footage of the new airport (including the above gif) and count all the checked-off items on the “to do” list (spoiler alert: one).  There’s even a nifty counter to keep track of the number of days since the airport’s non-opening. Currently we’re at 1087. You can also put in a vote for when you think it will finally open–I, along with 48 other people, guessed October 2020. So far, 1336 disillusioned Berliners have voted “never.”

By now, you should have a good sense of the word “meckern” and its many applications to daily Berlin life. But while the Berliners have refined it to an art form, all Germans can, and do, meckern. And if you ever want to get your ear meckered off, ask a Bavarian about the so-called Solisteuer, the “solidarity tax” that all of former West Germany has been paying since the 90s to help fund the rebuilding and modernization of the East, including the new airport. Even with the funds from this tax, Berlin has been in the red since, oh, forever, and with projects like the airport ongoing, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. Da können wir ganz gut meckern–there we can complain quite nicely.