Berlin Mythbusters

Berlin Mythbusters

Getty Images

With a history of two world wars, two dictatorships, a bunker, and a wall dividing the city, Berlin is a place full of urban legend. But contemporary Berlin also has its secret spaces and anonymous artists who adorn the city. How much do you know about Berlin? Test your knowledge with these Berlin mythbusters.

1. Berlin has more bridges than Venice.

TRUE. This is not a Berlin urban myth. The main river flowing through the city is the Spree, but there are another four, as well as six canals, which comprise more than 110 miles of waterways and 7,400-plus acres of lakes. Throughout the city you can cross these rivers and canals using quaint, old, romantic bridges, as well as huge, new, shiny steel and concrete ones.

2. Berlin is "poor, but sexy."

TRUE. Berlin's mayor, Klaus Wowereit famously made this statement in 2003. The city is a vibrant melting pot of struggling artists and musicians from all over the world, who fuel Berlin's exciting cultural scene. It's a kind of urban myth that feeds itself: Berlin is a creative city, so creative people come to the city. Creative industries account for more than 20 percent of the city's GDP. But there is also a darker side to Berlin. The city is in debt to the tune of 60 billion euros, and in some areas unemployment is around 20 percent.

3. Berlin is a mecca for techno music.

TRUE. Berlin's techno scene is the stuff of urban legend, with world-class clubs like Berghain and Tresor tucked away in the city's industrial underbelly. The pull of techno draws tens of thousands of clubbers to the city every year. However, in recent years, there's been an influx of bright-eyed singer-songwriters with guitars in hand, who are forging their own path. While techno is what Berlin is known for, these singer-songwriters are Berlin's new underground music scene.

4. The Berlin Wall was built to keep out the West.

FALSE. This is one of Berlin's most popular urban myths. After the end of the World War II, the German Democratic Republic, or GDR, was founded in 1949. For the next 11 years, more than 3.6 million people fled from socialist East Germany to the West. To put a stop to it, the GDR government took brutal action and built the Berlin Wall in August 1961, thereby dividing a city and families in the process. Up to 100,000 people tried to escape in the 28 years that the wall stood, and hundreds were killed.

5. The Stasi – the East German Secret Police – collected scent samples.

TRUE. The Stasi were the feared Ministry of State Security in the German Democratic Republic. While Berlin urban legend abounds on their techniques and strategies, there's no doubt that the Stasi were both brutal and thorough. They collected scent samples so that in the event a person came under suspicion again, they could be tracked with sniffer dogs. The Stasi bugged apartments and workplaces and used tiny cameras to spy on East German citizens. From 1950 through 1989, it is believed that 274,000 East Germans were hired by the Stasi to spy on each other. The legacy of such suspicion and fear is still being felt in Germany today. Sadly, this is not a case for Berlin mythbusters.

6. Urban art is illegal in Berlin.

TRUE. Walking around the city, with its splashes of color from graffiti and stencil artists, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was legal here. Unfortunately, this is one of our Berlin mythbusters. Despite the fact that urban art is illegal, however, Berlin-based street artists have become legends in the urban environment, livening up the city and carving a niche for themselves in the international street art scene. While there are thousands of illegal works in alleyways (including a few by the infamous Banksy), there are also five-story-high commissioned murals by some of the world's most famous artists. Check out work by Blu, HuskMitNavn, El Bocho and Faith 47.

7. Currywurst is one of Berlin's most famous dishes.

TRUE. But what is this fabled culinary delight? Germans are renowned for their sausage-making skills – known as Wurst. Berlin urban legend has it that Herta Heuwer invented the sauce for Currywurst by adding curry powder to tomato ketchup. For some reason Berliner's love this bizarre fast food snack and talk it up to every tourist in town. But let's be clear here: it's just a pork sausage covered in ketchup with curry on the top.

More Berlin Articles From Our Partners
Read Full Story

From Our Partners