National Geographic : 1937 Feb
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE cycles, registrations for 1936 show only a few more than forty thousand. The traffic flow has a heartbeat of thirty seconds-half a minute of red light, an orange flash warning of change, followed by half a minute of green. To one ac customed to the longer intervals of most American cities, it seems at first a little hysterical in its frequency of interruption. Upon arrival I was petrified to see autos passing stopped streetcars. The law, how ever, permits such passing, with the injunc tion that it be performed with extreme care. The large number of bicycles on Berlin streets creates an additional hazard for the motorist, especially as the riders seem en dowed with a sublime faith that the vagaries of their delicate vehicles will be unfailingly observed by truck and car behind. Yet, with it all, casualty statistics are not high. The city's fatalities from traffic accidents totaled 358 for 1935. The traffic lights halt squads of cyclists: girls in unbecoming but practical divided skirts; delivery boys carrying bundles bigger than themselves; tenders of street lights pedaling precariously from lamp to lamp with 8-foot ladders strapped to their shoulders. There are still 51 horse-drawn cabs in the city (page 136). The Germans call them Pferde-Droschken, or horse droshkies. I talked with two of the old drivers who were hobnobbing beside their carriages in the Potsdamer Platz. With whimsical acri mony they bewailed the Motor Age. "Why, sir, before the war there were between eight and ten thousand of us drivers on Berlin streets! Those were the days! There were three classes of Drosch ken: first class for the best people, second for the others, and third class, a combina tion of passenger and baggage carriers. "Today we just pick up a bare living from the curiosity-seekers. The ninety per-cent are in a terrible hurry to go no where in particular." FOUR MAIL DELIVERIES A DAY The Berlin resident receives four de liveries of mail a day on weekdays and one on Sunday for good measure. Five thousand postboxes announce their presence on street corners with a lustrous surface of red-that shade which someone has described as "the color of audacity." Until within the last year they were a sober blue, but the color experts announced that they lacked visibility. Special delivery obtains, but for those who desire extra-rapid service there is the fast-functioning pneumatic-tube system, reaching every section of the town. This is a convenience to the businessman and an undoubted blessing to exigent lovers. I posted in midtown an important air mail letter (business strictly) one hour be fore the starting time of the Stuttgart plane. The letter reached Tempelhof Airport in proper time and was delivered to its desti nation in Stuttgart four hours later. A SKYSCRAPER IS CALLED A "CLOUD SCRATCHER" "How many skyscrapers have you in Berlin?" I asked the white-jacketed Schupo directing traffic at Belle-Alliance-Platz. (Schupo is the contraction of Verkehrs schutzpolizei, which means a policeman who-protects-traffic.) "None that you Americans would call by that name," was his answer. "But," he added, "we have three or four that seem pretty tall to us, and a radio tower to boot." I paid my entrance fee and rode up to the roof garden of Europa Haus, the newest cloud scratcher, eleven stories high. There, surrounding an actual garden with bloom ing flower beds and gravel walks, were tables set in wind-protected alcoves. While I ate my luncheon I envied the sun baths being enjoyed by earlier lunchers on steamer chairs strewn about the "lawn" for the free use of roof guests. As there are no other high buildings or smokestacks ad jacent, there was no soot to mar the picture. Any list of the city's cloud scratchers should also include the new home of the Karstadt department store (page 159). Columbus Haus on Potsdamer Platz and the handsome white building of the Shell Oil Company, which rises from the verdant bank of the Spree in mid-city, are other contenders for dizzy honors, and neither exceeds ten stories. Berlin is not suffering from lack of edu cational institutions, with its 13 universities, colleges, and higher technical centers, 147 high schools, and 503 grade schools. Berlin (Frederick William) University, center of educational life, fronts on Unter den Linden across from the State Opera House. Such a dignified atmosphere of scholarship pervades the lovely gray build ing and its linden-shaded court that no one would suspect it was originally built as a palace for Prince Henry by his brother, Frederick the Great (page 137).