All that time Annabelle Mallia wasted on learning how to ask the time in German…
Berlin's obsession with public clocks is sure to keep you punctual.
H ave you realized yet how many public clocks there are on the streets of Berlin? Perhaps it’s the stereotype about Germans being punctual that has resulted in clocks being prominently displayed on city squares, outside train stations, and at busy bus stops to tell you the bus will be arriving at exactly 9:23. Or maybe it’s downright practicality.
The most prominent of all of them, Berlin’s Big Ben so to speak, is the World Time Clock on Alexanderplatz. This clock by Eric John was part of the GDR’s redevelopment plan for the Platz in the 1960s. Weighing 16 tons and standing 10 meters tall, it features a revolving cylinder with the world’s 24 time zones and the names of major cities in each zone, topped by a simplified model of the solar system rotating every minute. Aptly, it is a popular meeting place for friends and street musicians alike, who come to enjoy the square’s lively atmosphere and socialist-era character with the famous TV Tower looming in the background.
Like most great things in former East Berlin, the World Time Clock had a Western counterpart. West Berlin’s iconic clock, the
Clock of Flowing Time, has made its home inside the Europa Center mall since 1982. Built by the French scientist Bernard Gitton in 1982, the 13-meter-high clock is three stories tall and tells the time with the help of neon-green liquid flowing between 12 large glass spheres, which represent the hours. Thirty small, oblate spheres show two-minute intervals, all controlled by a violet-colored pendulum and the flow of water.
Another unusual clock can be found just outside the Europa Center on Budapester Straße. Known as the Berlin Clock, this is the world’s first public clock that tells the time by means of illuminated, colored fields. Designed by Dieter Binninger and first installed in 1975, it consists of 24 lights: a circular blinking light on top to denote seconds, two top rows of red fields denoting hours, and two bottom rows of yellow fields denoting minutes. So while you’re shopping along the luxurious Ku’damm or visiting the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, don’t forget to keep an eye on the time.
“The World Time Clock is Berlin’s Big Ben”