An Ode to the U-Bahn

It’s been a quiet month here in “See” (Lake) Wobegon as I have applied myself diligently to my Germany language class (five hours a day plus homework will do that for you). But as the last class concluded yesterday (I passed! 12 points higher than last time!), I decided I would share with you a little of what is actually a pretty significant and important part of my daily life here in Berlin, and that is the public transportation system.

TripAdvisor tells us that “Berlin’s efficient public transportation system is affordable, straightforward, usually punctual and very comprehensive. ” No sh*t, Sherlock. You’ve got your U-Bahn (the underground), the S-Bahn (above-ground – heads further out of town), the trams, and the buses. At night, there is a separate schedule, but basically you can get around Berlin’s nearly 1000 square kilometers anytime and anywhere, and relatively quickly to boot. Passage, with the exception of the buses where you have to show a ticket, is on the honor system. I buy a monthly pass, but since I’ve been here (just over four weeks so far this time), I’ve only been checked once. People are polite, for the most part, even when they’re drinking beer (!), or doing whatever else their little hearts desire (usually checking their handys, aka cell phones, but often begging, sleeping, or petting their pooches). Here’s a great video that basically says, “We love you and we don’t give a flying hornet for who you are or what you do…” The narrator is a local famous Turkish German dude and his lingo is local dialect, if your high school German is failing you. “Is mir egal” basically translates as “I don’t care, it’s all the same to me.”

So since I currently live in the southeastern part of town and my school is in the northeastern part of town and my closest friends are in the southwestern part of town, I spend a good deal of time navigating this system. It is truly amazing. For the most part, you can get anywhere you want either directly or with only one change of trains (if you’re clever, and of course I try to be) in roughly a half hour or less. And the scenery is fascinating and constantly changing.

But what is enchanting me these days, besides just the sheer joy of having a system like this at my disposal 24/7, is all the wonderful advertising that is found in these subterranean bowels of transport. Berlin, as I keep suggesting, is a funky edgy space in many ways, and this is frequently reflected in what is plastered on the walls to entertain us as we wait the 3-4 minutes between trains. I’ve shared a few of these before, but I wanted to offer some of the newest ones, particularly because finally *I am able to read them.*

Here’s the one I saw yesterday (just after my exam) that made me flush with pride. I could not only read it, I could explain the grammar in it as well:

"When a little bit simply is not enough."

“When a little bite simply is not enough.”

Oooh, how intriguing. A little bite of what, precisely? But I knew all the words! Huzzah!

Berlin has always had a reputation for being “poor but sexy,” and sometimes it’s all about the sexy. Here’s an advert for an event that sadly I managed to miss:

Note the, er, tattoo...

Note the, er, tattoo…

Even the transport system itself (BVG) gets into the edgy act by advertising the two-for-one special on the all-day pass:

No charge for the silverware

No extra charge for the silverware…the tag line (Weil wir dich lieben) is “Because we love you.” Coordinating conjunction, subject, direct object in accusative case, conjugatable verb.

There must be some local slang in this ad, because literally it means “Bring along with you another shore (? whaaat ?), The Day Card, so Ufer must be some slangy word for, well, whatev.

Here’s a mattress ad that I used earlier – I still think it’s a hoot:

Winter's coming...

Winter’s coming…

and, on a serious note, a poster about a problem that is plaguing much of the developed world, not only the US, and that is racism:

If only we all knew where home was

If only we all knew where home was…

But today I saw one sign that just tickled my funny bone – the kind of clever play that seems to be constantly at work here. So many things give me pause…this one included:

damn I love smart

damn I love smart

And finally, because so many people have beer bottles right at hand during the ride (I haven’t yet succumbed to this trend), cheers to the many people who spend a lot of time ensuring that this system keeps working, keeps moving us there and back, keeping an open space and service where everyone is safe and comfortable (for the most part). Prost!

"Nuff said

“Nuff said

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5 Responses to An Ode to the U-Bahn

  1. Janet Stebbins says:

    I love what you notice. Ser Gut!
    PS Couldn’t find the video.

  2. John says:

    Did You make it to Potsdam?

  3. Anne says:

    Congrats! Enjoy the remainder of the adventure. We do, however, miss you.

  4. Rachel Drummond says:

    Thank you for sharing what you see in Berlin with us!

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