Up until now we have tried to explore how the air of Berlin smells when it is looking toward an elegant future. But Berlin has developed in many different ways. Mitte is an extremely central district and has wanted to give its streets an exportable image of well-being and culture. Other parts of the city which once belonged to East Berlin, however, have been moving at different speeds even if, in their own ways, similarly towards the future.
The smells which up until a few months ago were typical for certain corners here are disappearing more and more. By smells we really mean terrible odors, but at least authentic and homegrown testimonies to the city as it once was. These smells have disappeared as the air has been purified and refined or they have been covered up by others. If up until a few months ago walking into Humana at Frankfurter Tor you noticed an unmistakable kind of Eau de Humana, today that Eau de Humana has left us. Humana is a huge organization that collects used clothes, often directly from their own collection bins, in order to resell them, partially to make a profit and partially for humanitarian ends. In Berlin there is an enormous central point where these are brought and then redistributed throughout their various shops in the city. The shop at Frankfurter Tor in the district of Friedrichshain is the largest in the city and has four floors. The typical Humana smell was here to the nth degree until around 2013. The clothes which were sold were of course all washed and ironed, but they no doubt had long histories in wardrobes, basements, or who knows where with mothballs and other pesticides and which then came into contact with other clothes which maybe hadn’t been washed or had been disinfected with the old GDR detersive. In any event, up until just a little while ago, coming into this store meant being trailed by this wake of ancient sweat and naphthalene with an after-smell of wet fruit. All gone now. Since 2014 Humana has smelled like a dry cleaner’s. Who knows, all the clothes probably are these days.
Seeing that we’re at Frankfurter Tor in search of terrible lost smells, we should go over to the french-fry and burger shop at Boxhagener Straße 104, which is open every day from one p.m. Whenever someone says French-fry shop we immediately raise our arms to our nose to see if we smell like oil. But the Frittiersalon doesn’t smell. It’s a French-fry shop, true, but “fusion” style. The potatoes are organic and smell like rosemary and thyme. There are vegan sauces and even vegan burgers and currywurst. Of course you can also have a classic hamburger and it’s a good one too but you can freshen it up with a spicy orange and pepper sauce. And you can wash all of this is down with Frittonade, a drink made of strawberry, rhubarb, and fresh mint. The bread which is served here is fresh and locally made as well.
And so this is how the new Berlin of these former working-class districts is trying to free itself from its past: with sips of Frittonade and those little steps that lead one toward purity and nature, the symbols of rebirth. If you wanted to describe the actual air of these former Eastern districts of Friedrichshain or Prenzlauer Berg, you could say that they are trying to liberate themselves from their sad, gray, oppressive, and restrictive pasts through bright colors, lightness, and well-being. But this would only be looking at the surface of things. This breath of fresh air is in truth artificial and the result of initiatives that were not born in the city. Therefore, today you can find completely inorganic districts filled with completely new inhabitants.
But this is also Berlin’s richness: to be both this lively and this international. And yet, this great surface movement can quickly destroy layers of city life and the lives of people within it, almost as if truly taking the ground out from under their feet. The fact that Berlin’s ground, geologically speaking, is practically just sand makes this image of these wandering districts and Berliners who are running behind them like nomads in the desert all the more powerful. If a foreigner’s eyes light up when they say “Berlin is international”, an old Berliner says “Berlin is international” with a grumble. And as long as they do, we know that the old Berlin is still alive and well and everything’s under control. The moment you only hear “Oh! It’s SO international!” we’ll know it’s time to take down the tents and move on. Who knows, maybe old Berliners will really take off for Wallachia in order to found a new Berlin, but without any rivers in order to prevent any would-be tourists from getting any ideas, please, and absolutely no airports whatsoever, they just bring bad luck. To found New Berlin they would take a compass and draw two Cartesian axes and at the four extremities would write North New Berlin, South New Berlin, East New Berlin, and West New Berlin. It would have four signs: one of a currywurst stand, one of a beach bar for latte macchiatos, and one of a beer garden doubling as the Senate. Basta. Everyone would be free to move here and there over the axes without having to touch them, jumping with one foot or both together like little kids do, free to say “Today I’m going to go have a latte macchiato in the east,” without having any crazy tourist saying “But don’t you know? There’s no longer any East! Ha ha!” To take care of the need for variation, they’d put a swingers’ club at the intersection of the axes and that’d be it.
Berliners, as we know, are a pragmatic people of good sense. New Berlin would also be founded in order to save their beloved currywurst from the Great Flood. Naturally, they would bring both versions: with or without Darm, in other words, with the guts or without. When the tourists standing in front of the currywurst stands today get asked the all-important question they begin to sweat, they begin to stall, they consult their translators, and the Berliners behind them in line begin to lose their patience as well as their precious time. In the tourist-less New Berlin to come the Berliner will no longer have to lose any time in line for their currywurst, they’ll simply respond with supersonic speed “Ohne!” for without and “Mit!” with. And this would solve a whole lot of the traffic problems you find today.
The smell of currywurst is really one that needs to be saved. In the immediate post-war, in a Berlin that had only recently survived the Berlin blockade, Frau. Herta Heuwer had an Imbiss (stand) where she sold sausages. After a number of experiments, she eventually patented a sauce made of ketchup, tomato paste, and powdered curry, which turned her sausages from that moment on into something extraordinary. Today people’s tastes are more diverse, and it’s difficult for us to imagine what a sausage like this could have meant in 1949. The fact that an “ohne Darm” version was created at that time wasn’t only an expression of culinary creativity, but a creativity related to the scarcity of intestines. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the “ohne” version became more popular in East Berlin. Berlin’s homemade fast-food is served today, just like it’s always been, on a paper plate accompanied by a simple piece of bread or French fries covered with mayonnaise. As we said, taste is taste but the smells are undeniably fat and powerful. There’s the acidic smell of ketchup and tomato paste, the tear-inducing curry, and then the pork fat and the oil from the mayonnaise and French fries. The smell is unforgettable. In the meantime, Berlin has been economically reborn and can not only eat as many intestines as it wants, but can enjoy meat bought on the street for cheap that isn’t necessarily too full of fat and swimming in such robust and acidic sauces. But we love this historical sausage, it is a symbol of the city’s energy and tenacious struggle for survival.
For more than thirty years now, however, its rival around these parts has been kebab. The powerful smell of currywurst, thank the lord, every day grows weaker and weaker and for this reason, whether we like it or not, should be protected.
The two classic stands to go and smell the air of currywurst in Berlin are Konnopke’s, by the U2 station of Eberswalderstraße in Prenzlauer Berg, and Curry 36, its western counterpart, at the U6 and U7 station of Mehringdamm in Kreuzberg. Both are extremely popular. Curry 36, however, is neighbors with Mustafa’s famous Vegetable Kebap, which has been written up in just about every guide as one of the best places in all of Berlin for kebab and the lines in front of his stand are clear proof. It’s not uncommon to have to wait two hours in line there at Mustafa’s and people therefore are talking in lots of different languages. Waiting in line at Mustafa’s is in itself a kind of happening that can take up an entire night. The kebab at Mustafa’s is made of chicken but there’s also a vegetarian option. The thing that makes this stand’s food so good, however, is the crispness and freshness of its vegetables, the lightness of its sauces, and its cheese. The smell of Mustafa’s isn’t the usual one that comes from those enormous spits grilling meat from morning to evening, but one of vegetables, flour, and roasted chicken, almost like you’d have at home, but here with more spices and less fat. This smell is an example of those smells of a new Berlin which is little by little is pushing out the smell of traditional German cooking.
Another classic Berliner smell in danger of becoming extinct is that of the U-Bahn. And by that we mean the smell which exists independently of whoever is riding on it. It’s the typical smell you breathe in while standing on the platform waiting for the trains. You can smell this particular smell of the U-Bahn in stations where it hasn’t been taken over by the smell of fast-food and drink stands. Often the only thing your nose becomes aware of is wafts of pseudo-cheese laid like veils over frozen pseudo-pizzas. We must seek that particular U-Bahn smell in those stations where such fumes are either weaker or simply absent all together. And so we’ll avoid all those well-travelled stations and go on the search for those older and out-of-the-way ones. It’s not hard to find. The smell of the U-Bahn is a mixture of rubber, the oil of burnt brakes, and, above all, the oil impregnated in the wooden railway ties. This oil is known as creosote and is used to protect the wood from humidity and swelling. It’s an old smell that will disappear soon because today the railway ties are produced in cement and this alone is a good reason to hurry to Berlin.
Seeing as that we’re already talking about transportation, we’ll head on over to the most beloved of squares in terms of getting around: Alex, or, by its full name, Alexanderplatz. There is a station for the S-Bahn as well as many other trains, a station for the U2, U5, and U8 lines, various bus-stops like that of the famous 100 and 200 buses, loved by tourists and not only, and, since 1998, once again the trams just as they did before the war. We are officially in Mitte, but at that point where it merges with the districts of Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg.
That stated, we will consider the great square as a universe unto itself. All of Berlin practically converges at Alexanderplatz. All of the most important chains and typical smells are there and all of the possibilities of eating quickly and cheaply in a pretty powerful way. If during the time of the GDR this was where the parades from the nearby Karl-Marx-Allee would end up, today it is the regime of aggressive smells that reigns supreme. To the square’s good fortune, as well as ours, the spaces are so immense that the aromas also come and go rather quickly.
Which is quite different from what happens in the tunnels of the U-Bahn where all the various fast-food shops are held in captivity one after the other and their molecules fight one another like rabid dogs. Moving from the platform of the U2 to that of the U8 and vice versa is truly dangerous. For this reason there are always police and security guards. Truthfully, however, all you really need is a handkerchief with essential oils to cover your mouth and nose, but not everyone manages to think of it and therefore runs. The reason why everyone’s running through the U-Bahn tunnels under Alexanderplatz is quite simple: they stink. But these escapees from unified Berlin have no problem with fast-food, on the contrary. And even fussy folks like ourselves are children of the time we live in. The problem is that Est modus in rebus, as they used to say in Latin, there’s a limit to everything. This underpass is, aromatically speaking, simply too full. Complaining about Alexanderplatz and loving Alexanderplatz are really just two sides of the same coin. It’s like waiting in line every day for a currywurst but then complaining about how terrible they are. We’re unhealthy, compulsive, and happy, what’s the problem?
Being the privileged child of its large mother, the square’s most characteristic trait is that of being excessive, limitless. You can lose yourself at Alexanderplatz. There is always something of an initiation when crossing this space, something of a passage through a contemporary Dark Wood. So much has been written, filmed, and sung about Alexanderplatz. Among the most famous are Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel Alexanderplatz, Kurt Tucholsky’s 1920 poem Total Manoli, Max Skladanowsky’s 1896 short film Leben und Treiben am Alexanderplatz, and Walter Ruttman’s 1927 film Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt, and Franco Battiato’s song “Alexander Platz”…but the list goes on and on.
Manoli was a famous cigarette factory which in 1898 had already understood the importance of advertising in launching a product. Up until that point, advertising had consisted of a simple photograph of the product with a list of its principal characteristics. Herr Jakob Mandelbaum, Manoli’s owner, began to invest in the art of the ad by taking inspiration from life. Among other ideas, he had a large, blinking revolving sign installed above the rooftops of Alexanderplatz which said “Smoke Manoli!” It was one of the first electric advertising signs, and it even revolved in a counterclockwise direction. You could see it from afar and reports from that time mention that everyone remained transfixed. The expression “Du bist ja total Manoli!” even entered into Berliner jargon, an expression which meant that you were nervous and half crazy, blinking and spinning around like the revolving sign. In 1920 Kurt Tucholsky dedicated his famous lines to this sense of freneticism.
We, however, believe that everyone can get their bearings however they see fit. Looking at this huge square today, it’d be difficult to guess that it’s actually the oldest one in the city. Or, in any event, that it’s the only one remaining of those that were to be found outside the gates of the old medieval walls. Since the 13th century Alexanderplatz has done nothing but continuously be reborn from its ashes, like a perpetual phoenix eternally making plans for what’s to come. These last few quixotic years it’s been busy dreaming of having what are to be the city’s tallest buildings constructed upon it…
But how did it all begin? In the 13th century the Spital Heiliger Georg (Hospital of St. George) gave its name to the gate in the city walls which was located here. In the 16th century the Georgentor (George’s Gate) – interestingly enough, now without the “saint” before it as Germany was no longer Catholic – was the most important gate in the city. A large livestock market was held here and the square was therefore known as Ochsenplatz (Oxen Square); and the district which was referred to as George Outside the Walls grew up around it. George’s Gate was a large and quite impressive fortification and therefore it was here on May 6, 1701, that King Frederick I of Prussia rode into the city as the newly crowned king. From that moment on, this space began to be called Königs Tor Platz (King’s Gate Square), and George Outside the Walls came to be known as the Königsvorstadt, or simply Königsstadt (King’s City). In the 19th century a customs’ post was built into the gate and thus it lost its significance as being the entrance into the city, but, in recompense, the district around it became even livelier. Wool and silk factories sprang up and every year in June the German Wool Fair was held. Bourgeoisie and literary types began to settle around the square, as did a large number of the working-class: knife grinders, water carriers, fishmongers, junkmen…
But the history of the square as we know it now dates to October 25, 1805, when Tsar Alexander I of Russia came to meet Friedrich Wilhelm III. One year later the square changed names again in the former’s honor.
As we have said, in the first half of the 19th century this area was very lively and continuously crossed by horse-drawn carriages coming back and forth from Potsdamer Platz. The pavement was witness to important moments of the March Revolution of 1848 and by the middle of the century most of the buildings already had five stories, the Grand Hotel had 285 rooms, and the train station had giant arches. And then, in 1898, the first electric trams began to circulate. At the beginning of the 1900s, three rather elegant warehouses were built and then the subway station. By the 1920s, the face of Alexanderplatz was pretty similar to what we see today. Looking at this square today, which seems to want to beat every record and constantly improve itself, we can thus recapture at least a bit of the spirit of the Berlin of that time, that chaotic and most modern of cities. All the different means of transport make the air circulate and fill up this rather boundless space then as now. When the square was destroyed in the final days of the war, much of it was rebuilt with Plattenbauten, those huge rectangular housing blocks with their hundreds of windows, the tram traffic was rerouted into the side streets, and the huge spaces were used for the GDR’s military parades. In those years the airless and windless square became somewhat of a metaphor for the emptiness and depersonalization of East Berlin. If in the 1930s Alexanderplatz enjoyed a surface area of around 18,000 square meters (approximately 194,000 square feet), during the time of the regime it measured 80,000. It was the central point of East Berlin, the place to meet par excellence, and yet it always remained a bit too big, a bit too empty. Its model, of course, was Red Square in Moscow. But seeing as that we’re in Berlin and not in Moscow throughout all those years that image remained a bit unnerving. The principal smell of socialism was probably just that air of emptiness. With the fall of the Wall, however, the square once again filled up with enormous shopping centers and the trams once again began to circulate through its middle (but without containing walls) and the whole area once again was divided into smaller spaces, into more colorful nooks and crannies, each of which had its own smells. It shouldn’t be hard to guess what the most representative smell of this space is today, however. That’s right. Bratwurst.
The smoke from cooking bratwurst breaks into different parts like the images in a kaleidoscope thanks to the men who are walking around supporting it. This isn’t a moral judgment, we mean this quite literally. These are the men you may have seen wandering about the square with a small grill in front of them filled with smoking sausages and a tank of gas strapped to their backs. On the sides of the grill you’ll find bottles of mustard and ketchup and containers for the rolls. These deep-sea-diver-looking bratwurst men crisscross all of Alexanderplatz offering up their sausages for the agreed-upon price of only 1.35 euros.
However, with respect to the chaotic Alexanderplatz of the 1920s, today’s square is a bit absent-minded. In some ways, it’s a bit like those hostages who, after being released from the hands of their captors, have difficulty taking their former life up again as if nothing had happened. Our most modern and commercial of squares doesn’t remember itself as the most modern and commercial Alexanderplatz of the beginning of the last century. Wittenbergplatz with its KaDeWe and its Tauentzienstraße are full of the same brands we can find at Alexanderplatz and yet there’s something somehow western about it; and though Alexanderplatz, lacks absolutely nothing in comparison, it seems a bit unsure of itself. But, then again, there are all of the Plattenbauten surrounding it which ceaselessly remind it of the forty longest years of its life. For many of the former eastern districts Alexanderplatz certainly represents the west, but for former West Berlin it remains undeniably eastern.
Walking into the Galeria Kaufhof, which might consider itself a sort of eastern version of KaDeWe, we are immediately met by food almost as if to say, after many years of relative scarcity, “Look! We’ve got it! We’ve got it!” And then, distributed across the other floors, are clothes, books, games, souvenirs, and all in a capitalistic manner, mind you, even if there are a lot of empty spaces and a vague air of confusion. The Kaufhof primarily smells like bread and brioche and only rarely are these smells superseded by others. When we walk into this no-frills, linear, and box-like building we are met by socks, bags, perfumes, watches, scarves, hats, and jewelry all smelling of bread because they are neighbors to the food section. And even if many of the food stands offer something other than bread, the smell hangs around. Before the cheese stand there is the smell of bread and cheese, before that of the meats bread and meat, that of the vegetables of bread and vegetables, the mushrooms, potatoes, chocolate, candy, all smell of bread. The stand selling liver, however, manages to invert this combo (in other words, it smells on liver and then bread) and follows us until we reach the fish section where the smell of bread finally disappears completely.
On the first floor we find the fairly deserted women’s department with all these exotic brand names that in their original languages would suggest preposterous things. On the second floor we find the men’s department together with the shoe department, which smells of leather, but also of rubber and petroleum. The customers walking about are dressed in a rather casual way to say the least, many of them with their right trouser-leg held up on their calves by a florescent band, a sign that they’ve just gotten of their bikes. The third floor’s a happy mess of women’s lingerie, books, children’s clothes, and souvenirs. Much of the latter is contained in an old sawed-in-half Trabi filled with stuffed bears and objects of every kind with the word “Berlin” or a large “I” followed by a red heart and the word “Berlin.” All of this merchandise smells like brioches. Who knows why. Maybe the air vents from the ovens where they prepare them empty out here. There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation. And it’s exclusive to the third floor.
But let’s go up to see the travel department which is paired up with swimwear that smells, once again, of rubber and the self-service restaurant on the top floor called Dinea. Its slogan? “Essen, trinken, genießen” that’s “eat, drink, enjoy” for non-German speakers. It’s hard to be any clearer than that! Everything looks appetizing, the prices are good, and there’s a wonderful view out over the square but, strangely, there don’t seem to be all that many people eating, drinking, and enjoying. Those arriving here at the Galeria Kaufhof after spending time at KaDeWe can allow themselves to make a few comparisons. It’s normal, we’re human after all, but we always need to keep in mind that life always has some surprises for us in store and that it often likes to take our judgments and throw them to the wind. A wonderful surprise awaiting us at the Galeria Kaufhof, for example, is the view from the bathrooms. It is incredible, truly spectacular, it’s a view that could even make the dome of the Reichstag jealous. The Fernsehturm is right in front of us, the Alexanderplatz train station, the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall), the Marienkirche, the Cathedral, the two twin domes of the Gendarmenmarkt, the gilded dome of the New Synagogue, the tall buildings of the Charité, and then a great number of different colored cranes and buildings. It’s without a doubt the most beautiful aerial view from East to West.
When we finally go back downstairs, we feel happy to have discovered a new point of view on Berlin and, as it’s still a secret, one that exists for us alone. We’re happy that there weren’t any kilometer-long lines, tickets to purchase, or reservations to make before being able to go to the bathrooms at the Kaufhof, and now we know what the restaurant’s slogan means. “Enjoy.” Indeed. It was a code.
As we’ve seen numerous times by now, Berlin changes very quickly and we think that sooner or later even Alexanderplatz will be completely unrecognizable, that all of its empty spaces will soon become filled and that the air will become ever more imprisoned. And so we have to seize this moment of slight confusion, this solidly capitalistic bubble of air, and keep them as precious memories to pass on to the future. The charm of this square lies precisely in its awe-inspiring mass and the abundance of air – simultaneously free and constrained – that circulates within it. As much wind as you’ll find in Berlin, here you’ll always find three times as much, just like in the hot-air balloon. Alexanderplatz remains, in terms of its air, both an enigmatic and upsetting place. A vague presence still carries signs of the past but, at the same time, clings violently to the present.
But let us leave the square now and have a look at the airiest church in all Berlin: the Franziskaner Kirche. This gothic, three-naved basilica dating to 1250 today is a ruin which was intentionally left without a roof, without any windows, and without any eastern-facing walls after being heavily damaged in the Second World War. The trees are literally climbing inside the arched windows with their branches while the sky envelops all that’s remains of its elegant red brick. This is certainly one of the most particular places in all of Berlin to meditate on the natural element of air, which cuts equally through our most ambitious buildings as well as our most miserable ruins. Speaking of building and destroying, we shall conclude our experience with the air of the capital that builds, and that which destroys. And we’ll do so with the intention of silencing all those critics who don’t think Berlin produces anything. For it’s not that Berlin doesn’t produce anything, it’s only that today Berlin is only so daintily industrial.
Be that as it may, we shall begin with smelling out the Berlin that destroys. If it’s the good, old-fashioned odor of an incinerator you want, then you’ll have to turn to the Olympion Stadion on a day when there aren’t any matches or events. Why? Because otherwise the incinerator’s odor gets covered by the heavy fog of beer vapor wafting on the wind from thousands of bottles, thousands of mouths, and what’s been transformed and left behind in thousands of both official and spur-of-the-moment public toilets. The only smell that’s stronger than that of beer at the Olympia Stadion is that of the beer in the U-Bahn when it’s full of happy fans coming or going to the Olympia Stadion. It’s truly unforgettable.
There are, however, some interesting smells to be found in the huge square overlooking the stadium even when there aren’t any soccer matches. There is the sickly-sweet smell of the incinerator mixed with that of the factories and these are then joined by the exhaust from the public transport. If in the street there is only the indistinguishable smell of traffic, here you can scientifically separate each and every means of transport. The big square is used as a test track for motorcycles, cars, and tractor-trailers. The motorcycles are generally confined to the big parking lot at the center of the square and their riders slalom between florescent traffic cones. The trucks manoeuver over by the entrance to the U-Bahn, while the cars zip all around and we can only imagine how the poor aspiring drivers must sweat bullets every time they see a Ferrari shoot by (it’s not uncommon to see sports car owners taking their cars out to give the engines a workout).
The incinerator, however, isn’t really located at the stadium, but in a zone between the stadium and Spandau, at a station of the S5, Stresow. The large waste disposal company of Berlin is quite pragmatically called the BSR, which stands for Berliner Stadtreinigung (literally City Cleaning of Berlin). The BSR is a dynamic company just like the city which it helps to keep clean and among its various efficient departments it even has a marketing sector that created the slogans which help win the company approval and even sympathy. “Only the orange could be this green,” one of them runs, and orange is the color of the garbage trucks, the workers’ uniforms, and those inspiringly (and often wittily) imprinted garbage cans throughout the city. In Stresow – an industrial zone where they also produce tiles and paints, and where there is also a refinery and a water purification plant – there is another unmistakably sickly sweet, gaseous air who just about everyone can probably relate to one or another toxic memory in their own lives. This is one of the largest waste management plants in all the city. Depending on the wind, this odor can manage to cover all of Stresow. Sometimes you can notice a certain industrialesque aroma even in the city. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Berlin was one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution and that, in the years between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, it was full of extremely important factories which both qualitatively and quantitatively contributed to the greater history of German production. Then, the city’s division into different sectors as well as the new post-war political order gave Berlin a special status, but one that was a bit short on the (at least legal) business side of things. The city was at first kept on its knees, then little by little helped to get back on its feet but with the understanding that it would need not only a long period of recovery but outside help. While the business of politics took its time to reorganize and get going again, most large and medium-sized businesses couldn’t wait and therefore went elsewhere. Indeed, you rarely see factory workers in the city anymore, and the smell of the factories is confined to just a few specific areas. Smokestacks, therefore, are also, if not completely on their way to extinction, then rare and are things worth going to see and smell and certainly show off to the rest of Germany when they think that everyone here in the capital is just loafing about. Well, in the end, we could always export our compost.
But there’s one last curious thing: on the stretch of the S5, right between Olympia Stadion and Stresow in fact, you will find the station of Pichelsberg. And it’s here to Pichelsberg that thousands of people every summer come in order to hear the open-air concerts given by the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Waldbühne. But who knows, when all twenty thousand swept up by the collective euphoria play and sing together:
Das ist die Berliner Luft, Ja, Ja, Ja, Das ist die Berliner Luft, Luft, Luft, so mit ihrem holden Duft, Duft, Duft, wo nur selten was verpufft, pufft, pufft, in dem Duft, Duft dieser Luft, Luft, Luft, Das macht die Berliner Luft!
[tr. This is the air of Berlin. Yes, yes. yes. This is the air of Berlin, air, air, air, with its fair scent, scent, scent, where only now and again something disappears, disappears, disappears, in the scent, scent, scent, of this air, air, air. This is what makes the air of Berlin!]
Who knows – we were saying – if this enthusiasm which bursts forth from all twenty thousand spectators and musicians’ pores and mixes with the humid scent of the night covered woods, who knows if it shall ever completely cover the sickly sweet smell of the smokestacks…
Translated by Alexander Booth