Knowing what we have now that it's gone

The past week has been overshadowed by corona but there's been some good and goofy news. Night trains. Club testing centres and a bunker for mice.

The first time everyone in line at KitKat got in.
The first time everyone in line at KitKat got in.dpa

Berlin-In the desperate search for a way to define this year, it may be the old saying about not knowing what you have until it’s gone. Even in good years I’ve been a critic of the weeks and weeks of German Christmas, but this year nostalgia may be winning out.

Call me a grinch but Weihnachten always just drags on too long. The first, second, third and fourth Advent. Sunday shopping. Nikolaus. Adventkalenders and then, finally, Christmas Eve. As a parent, every one of those days is a reason for kids to get too hyped up and upset about something. It's exhausting and, on top of everything else, we always seemed to end up with too many pointless plastic toys that would be spun once and then were too precious to be discarded (or never bought in the first place, but Adventkalenders must have 24 doors).

Ok, Christmas markets I love, because they’re basically Oktoberfest for people who hate Oktoberfest.

So I was happy that in our most-read article of the past week, Christmas wasn’t an issue. One of our co-workers from the German side sat down with pop (or is it punk? or should I just eschew adjectives?) Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek to talk about the pandemic. It’s well worth a read but he reminds us of one thing politicians haven’t yet realised they have that may soon be gone: a habitable planet. Corona, he says, is just a dress rehearsal.

The cabin I almost booked for my family. 
The cabin I almost booked for my family. Snälltaget
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A piece about a new network of night trains also proved popular, with tourists and politicians bringing back something they regretted losing. I’m sceptical if all the routes in a post-corona world can (finally) become profitable, or at least make enough money to justify subsidising. But some should – after the first lockdown I nearly booked a sleeper to Stockholm for the family for €400 until I remembered Stockholm is in … Sweden.

Global media made a big deal out of KitKatClub re-opening Friday as a corona testing centre but we only included it in our daily corona update. I happened to ride past on the first day and I initially thought, “Oh, still a line on Monday morning” until I realised what was up. Security looked just like at 4am on a Saturday but seemed disappointed they couldn’t turn anyone away – their own version of missing something once it’s gone. Lines, I realised, are a part of my Berlin Stadtbild.

And right next door Berlin police were setting up a gag that, like so many police gags, wasn’t a gag at all. Over the weekend before last, the Polizei found drugs and weapons in the Melancholie II Späti, which is that Späti just south of KitKat’s outdoor pool. There’s a faux fridge door that leads to a sometimes-club that the po-po took to social media to claim they discovered and that was being used to hide the contraband.

The mouse bunker, a former animal testing facility and a brutalist relic of West Berlin, is facing the wrecking ball but has won a brief reprieve, thanks to architecture fans who know what we would lose. The building pops up on social media regularly because of its odd, tank-like aesthetic. If we can rebuild the ridiculous Mitte palace, then we should keep the mouse bunker. I still miss the Palast der Republik.

Missing my Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market hangover.
Missing my Gendarmenmarkt Christmas market hangover.imago

In the notable mentions this week are a piece by freelance writer Jennifer Levin about how she experienced lockdowns in Germany and New York (the city that brought us Giuliani and Trump) and a controversial rant by editor Maurice Frank about how it would be better to adopt local identity politics rather than importing your own. And Ixthys, a Korean eatery in Schöneberg won't face incitement charges for its homophobic bible verse

With a serious lockdown looming, I find myself really missing those meetings with acquaintances at random Christmas markets. Old co-workers. Peripheral friends from circles that no longer exist. An ex. As the month and the disease progress, more things to miss will surely appear.

But on the plus side, a vaccine won’t be one of them.

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Andrew Bulkeley is an editor at the English Edition.