Wednesday, August 11, 2004

King of Sauerkraut, Tourist Division

Hey, you think I indulge in sauerkraut, get a load of this guy. Thing is, he's almost 100% on the money with this. Berlin is a monolingual city, even in its tourist attractions. There are no bus maps. People do want all foreigners, particularly tourists, go to away.

He screwed up badly twice, though. First, he should have bought the Time Out Guide, and this is coming from someone who contributed to five editions of it only to be visited by the editor, whom he thought an old friend, and told flat-out that he wasn't going to be contributing to the next one because his writing simply wasn't good enough. (The editor wound up having to write a significant part of it himself, apparently, since there just aren't that many English-speaking writers here willing to work for what Time Out pays, and he's alienated several of us). This is the only guidebook in English that I know of that bothers to update every two years -- and actually does so. Rough Guide doesn't seem to have updated any of their German stuff for five years, a significant failure .

Second, the superb Falk Plan (on which the Stadtplandienst website linked over there on the right is based) is available for I think €7 everywhere in town, even at newspaper kiosks. It's the best city map of Berlin which exists, super easy to read, and totally up to date. The natives use it. 'Nuff said.

His failure to find the Zoo is also very peculiar. It's at the extreme west end of the huge Tiergarten park, right next to the mammoth train station called, believe it or not, Zoologischer Garten, and, although it only has two gates, it's surrounded by a fence through which can be seen ostriches, camels, rhinos, and the occasional secretary bird, all clues that you might be getting warm if you follow the fence by the convenient footpath. And, in this weather, there's another way to find it. I'm reminded of a friend who lived in an architecturally significant house on the Zoo's periphery. "It's a lovely neighborhood," he said, "but in the summertime you get way too familiar with the smell of lion shit."

Still, read it and weep.

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