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In Berlin, a Tourist Flood Elicits Calls for Peace, Quiet and Yet More Rules

Berlin tourism and its effects on residents has become a political issue in the German capital. Here, a July 2013 scene from a fashion convention called Bread & Butter at Tempelhof Airport. Source DPA
Berlin tourism and its effects on residents has become a political issue in the German capital. Here, a July 2013 scene from a fashion convention called Bread & Butter at Tempelhof Airport.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Tourism is one of Berlin’s only growth industries, but some want the city to impose “rules” on tourists to limit noise and pollution.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • A Green Party civic leader thinks some Berlin neighborhoods need regulations to address tourist noise and litter.
    • The “Visit Berlin” tourism agency publishes behavior guidelines for tourists in a brochure.
    • Neighborhoods with heavy tourist traffic think their districts should receive a larger share of revenue from an overnight accommodation tax.
  • Audio

    Audio

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“Is the clattering of suitcases on wheels the problem or is it actually the loud cobblestone streets?”

Carsten Spallek, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union party and a city council member in Berlin’s hip Mitte district, isn’t really taking this sort of rhetoric seriously, at least not all of it.

It’s what Monika Herrmann, the Green Party mayor of another district in Berlin, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, a tourism hub, said in an interview in this week’s Der Tagesspiegel, a daily newspaper, in which she complained about the nightly racket produced by suitcases with wheels. “You can’t even sleep with your windows open anymore,” she said,  wondering why suitcases aren’t equipped with rubber wheels.

For some, it’s a bit of a dilemma. A city council member doesn’t have much say when it comes to the kinds of wheels manufacturers install on luggage. And the city, with a debt of more than €60 billion, doesn’t quite have the money to repave sidewalks with low-noise asphalt.

But that was only one of the many observations Ms. Herrmann made.

“Some of our visitors seem to think they’re staying in a kind of Disneyland, and that we locals are the extras,” she said.

Ms. Herrmann proposed issuing a “code of conduct for visitors,” which would address the issue of “garbage, noise and respect for local residents.” And although Mr. Spallek also advocates creating boundaries, he is talking about simple rules of behavior – and possibly existing laws that apply to tourists and partying Berliners alike.

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