Are you looking at some kind of art installation like the painted resin bulls installed in Barcelona a few years ago, or the Gromits, of ‘Wallace and Gromit’ fame, in Bristol just this past summer? A great day out to follow a trail around the city of these delightful albeit temporary attractions. But wait: these pink pipes look permanent. They come in all shapes and sizes: a network, comprising metres of brightly-coloured narrow tubes to the huge riveted industrial pipes, winds its way snakelike through the city like one of the maze puzzles for children in comics. 60 km or 40 miles of it.
It all starts in Potsdamer Platz, the square where all the trams in earlier times met, and from here intricately entwine all over Berlin: springing mysteriously out of the ground and looming over your head making intricate bends and straights like the best Brio train-track before they disappear into the distance.
Maybe they mark the course of the Berlin Wall? Or do they transport gas through them? No. They are in fact water pipes. The term ‘berl’ actually just means swamp, Berlin therefore means swamp-city! Like so much of Germany, functionality is king, and if this functionality turns out to be a thing of intrigue, beauty or a tourist attraction, well, that’s so much the better.
The pipes suck the water out from under the ground level, pump it across the city and then discharge it into a special canal. A simple yet fascinating solution to sort out the damp problem.
And Berliners; what do they make of it all? They seem to accept this as a normal Berlin feature and are bemused that visitors photograph them, talk about them, love those unique urban pink pipes.
But why pink? Pollems has been providing the city with its tubes. Founded in Berlin more than a century ago, it has been the capital’s main water pipelines maker and it also has a pink depot where all the pipe painting is done. Pollems’ managing director, Bernd Kempf, explains that 21 years before they had asked a psychologist to suggest the colours that children and younger people liked, and she came up with purple and pink. So it’s stuck and what a brilliant marketing concept it’s turned out to be. As they say, ‘a thing of beautiful is a joy forever’ and this is what is has become in Berlin as visitors embrace this labyrinth of twisting pink iron tubes as a thing of unique beauty, regardless of its purpose of transporting water away from the urban community.
To see these intriguing pink pipes is just one good reason to visit Berlin. What if you’re interesting in exploring even more features which Berlin offers, getting to grips with the German language and culture which is not normally available to mere holidaymakers? City Travel Review offers you the chance to research such aspects of the city in-depth on a working experience. Your brief will be to produce a travel guide with a team of like-minded people, all interested in language, culture, travel, writing and media. Check out all the opportunities on: www.citytravelreview.co.uk or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out the Facebook page and Twitter (@citytravel)
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