Sommerloch ’06, Part 1

“Boy, this sure is a quiet city,” said the visitor from Austin. Yeah, and it’s also green and warm. Hardly typical at the moment, in other words. The key word is warm, though: 36 degrees C, 97 degrees F yesterday, although some cooling breezes came in at night and mellowed it down about ten degrees F. Me, I don’t mind. This heat is wonderful, as long as I don’t have to rush around in it. I’m just kicking myself for not planting basil this year; in the cold, rainy summers we’ve had these past couple of years, it develops mighty roots, and little plants about an inch and a half high. I could have had a rain-forest, a jungle of the stuff this year! And yet I know if I plant some today by the time it comes up it’ll be cold and rainy outside.

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One thing about the WM that I’m already missing is the change in opening hours for stores, the convenience of having them open until 10 and open on Sunday. I got used to it all too quickly, I’m afraid. But help may be on the way: the Bundestag, the federal legislature, recently passed a law giving the individual states the power to regulate a lot of things the feds used to, and one of those things is opening hours. So it might be you’d find Berlin open all day Sunday, and Bavaria closed up like a prison. At any rate, my prediction is that as Christmas gets nearer, Berlin’s going to experiment with keeping things open longer, and they’ll notice a permanent upsurge in business. People found themselves enjoying the convenience despite their ingrained instincts and years of social programming. Once they get used to this, who knows what frontiers await? Itemized phone bills! Friendly sales-clerks! Errr, well, let’s not get too carried away.

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Berlin is a place deeply suspicious of entrepreneurship, and anyone who attempts to start a business here is faced with amazing obstacles every step of the way. And heaven forbid you try something which hasn’t been tried before!

But still, every now and again, it happens. Thanks to Brent for passing along news of the Teddy Tour Berlin, a brand-new business right here in the Weltstadt. Here’s the deal: you mail your teddy to these folks and they take it on a tour of Berlin, one of three they offer. Why the vacation? They figure it’s stressful being a teddy, on the receiving end of your owner’s tears and heartbreak, your job being to comfort a much larger organism who could easily destroy you. So: send the little feller on a vacation with people who’ll show him around. You get back a certificate showing he’s taken the tour, photos (on a CD if you choose the “Exclusive” or “Deluxe” tour), a postcard, a travel pass (Germans love documents, can you tell?), and “a little surprise” after your pal is mailed back to you, fully insured.

The larger question, though, is why Berlin? Few enough humans come here to relax and de-stress. The Teddy Tour folks mention that Berlin has a bear on its flag, and so it’s a place where a bear can feel proud. Okay. I’m not a bear, let alone a teddy bear, so maybe I don’t understand the psychology behind this. I would think that, being bears, the teddies would rather go hiking in Alpine valleys and so on, but like I said, maybe these folks know best.

What they do seem good at, though, is publicity: the first Teddy Tour sold out, and look at the prices for the three tours! (I like the fact that all the tours go to the Siegess

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