All that time Annabelle Mallia wasted on learn­ing how to ask the time in Ger­man…

Where Berlin - - Contents -

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”

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