Berlin 24/7: Why I love summer in Berlin

Although many Berliners and institutions take a break during the summer, the cultural scene still has tons to offer. DW columnist Gero Schliess lists his favorite events.

"Berlin lacht" (Berlin laughs) is the name of a street festival in the German capital. Yes, Berlin actually laughs over a period of six weeks, 10 hours a day - making for 420 hours of diaphragm training altogether. That's serious stuff.

Some people even end up crying, especially at the location where the street performers set up their act: in the middle of Berlin on Alexanderplatz, where several Berliners stop laughing once they realized they've been robbed by pickpockets.

But let's leave such petty matters aside: Berlin in the summer is unique; it's beyond compare.

08.2016 Kolumne Gero Schließ

DW columnist Gero Schliess love the summer in Berlin

I'm not the only one whose so excited about it: "Berlin at this time of the year is fantastic, I never leave the city," the painter Jonas Burgert told me.

We met at a bar with a fabulous view over the Spree River and the Reichstag, where we could enjoy the setting sun, glittering waves and the chugging of the boats passing by. The best part of it: Not a single politician was around to disrupt the idyll. They were out bothering the suburbs - thanks to the current election campaign.

You don't need to be a fan of the Vegan Street Festival or to believe in the promises of the Berlin Night of Shooting Stars (up to 100 in one night!) to be happy with Berlin's cultural summer. Dancing and drumming at the open house day held at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is only conditionally subject to entertainment tax, too.

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Summer fun with promising young talents

Berlin in the summer offers so much more. As throughout the rest of the year, you'd need several doppelgänger to get to see everything going on. Surprisingly enough, that's the case even without the highly subsidized state theaters and orchestras, which are off on their well-deserved holidays. Along the way, many of the musicians from Berlin's six symphony orchestras help out at the music festivals in Bayreuth and Salzburg, in search of a musical climax they perhaps no longer find in their routine at home.

Pianist Dmitry Masleev

An exceptional pianist: Dmitry Masleev

Meanwhile, youth orchestras had a blast at the Young Euro Classic festival at the Konzerthaus Berlin, during which the whiz kid Dmitry Masleev ignited pianistic fire with the International Tchaikovsky Youth Orchestra Yekaterinburg, allowing us to forget Putin's ugly mug for a moment by showing Russia's cultivated face.

The Waldbühne experience

Idealism is always possible in Berlin - and it's even more beautiful outside. The Waldbühne amphitheater offers an unforgettable experience, provided that the weather gods play their parts.

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Berlin Waldbühne, Barenboim & Argerich & West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich at the Waldbühne

I love to go there for a concert by the Berlin Philharmonic or, recently, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, with students from Israel and Arab countries. Conductor Daniel Barenboim brought them together, presenting them at their best, along with the spectacular Martha Argerich at the piano.

I was sitting there with friends from Washington, Ljubjana and Berlin among 18,000 listeners and could feel this vibe. What a feast - for the ears, the palate (thanks to the well-filled wine jugs) and the eyes.

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It's incredible: You just can't get enough of looking around the Waldbühne. The atmosphere lets you forget that it was built by the Nazis as a part of the area surrounding the Olympic Stadium.

UFA Film Nights on the Museum Island

For me, the Waldbühne is only topped by the historical backdrop of Berlin's Museum Island, where masterpieces of cinema are projected onto a big screen erected in the Colonnade Courtyard of the island for the UFA Film Nights.

Kolumne Berlin 24/7 Kultursommer

The Film Nights on Berlin's Museum Island

"Here, time becomes space," is a Richard Wagner quote that can be turned the other way around during the film nights: That space offers different dimensions of time.

The digitally restored version of the 1927 film "The Love of Jeanne Ney" celebrated its premiere surrounded by the historical facades designed by Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Performing the live score, the WDR Funkhausorchester conducted by Frank Strobel added a third dimension to this unique composition of images, sound and architecture.

For me, it doesn't feel like Berlin laughs, but rather Berlin marvels! - with a hint of melancholy. Because every summer ends one day.


Photo finish

Saturday's 8th International Pug Meeting in Berlin saw some 264 pups compete for the title of fastest pug in the event's annual race. Competitors had to run, or trot, as quickly as possible down a 50 meter (164 foot) track. Individual times were professionally tracked with an electronic timing device, including a photo finish picture.


Doggy 'doping'

Every athlete sometimes needs an extra rush of motivation to cross the finish line. "Doping" in the form of treats or chew toys was allowed to take place during the races. In this picture, an owner entices her dog down the track with a jar full of treats.


Hometown advantage for winning pup

This year's winner was a Berliner pug named Emma who flew down the track in less than six seconds. In the picture above, Emma and her owner Angela Kaiser celebrate the victory with plenty of cuddles. The slowest runner this year was a dog named Sihla, who needed a little more than a minute to cross the finish line. Don't worry - she got a prize, too.


Cool down lap

After an afternoon of playtime, this pug takes it easy in a kiddie pool. Animal rights activists voiced concerns that the races are dangerous for the short-muzzled breed, as they cannot get enough air. To ensure the safety of the four-legged participants, the event's organizers had the pugs inspected by veterinarians on site, reported the local paper Berliner Zeitung.


Pug fans from around the world

The event in the Lichtenrade district in southern Berlin drew young and old pug enthusiasts from several countries. Local broadcaster RBB reported that the curly-tailed contestants hailed from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Scotland and the island of Sardinia.


A mischievous and loving breed

This pug puppy isn't quite ready yet to run with the bigger dogs, but may compete when it is older. The breed is known for its even-temper and playful personality. "Pugs are not exactly natural athletes, but they do have strong legs and endless curiosity," the American Kennel Club states on its website.


Protecting pugs

Although the breed is well-loved as a companion pet, they are not without controversy. The British Veterinary Association last year called for prospective dog owners to avoid flat-faced breeds as they suffer crippling health problems, breathing issues. The Berlin event's organizers have also called for breeders to breed pugs with longer noses and slimmer bodies to protect the dogs.