Berlin Stories: How a city became an endless shampoo ad

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The Independent Online

Cities inevitably seem more attractive when portrayed on television than they do in reality.

Cities inevitably seem more attractive when portrayed on television than they do in reality.

But the arrival of a much-hyped new television series, Verliebt in Berlin (Loved-Up in Berlin), has got locals complaining their city looks like "an endless shampoo ad".

A remake of the supremely popular Colombian series, I Am Betty the Ugly One, the daily show tells the story of Lisa, a fat, frizzy-haired, twenty-something who leaves an eastern German backwater to make it in the Berlin fashion industry. Hardly through the door of her new office, she falls in love with David, her devilishly handsome boss, who ignores her. Supposedly, in true telenovela style, Lisa will be transformed into a ravishing beauty and bag her man by the final episode.

The show, launched last week, has got off to a blazing start, enjoying unusually high ratings for German television. Its broadcaster, Sat.1, argues that the show's very strength is its distance from reality at a time when Germany is getting to grips with the fact that unemployment is higher now than at any time since the Second World War.

But the sugary image of the city peddled by Verliebt in Berlin, which is filmed against the backdrop of the Americanised Potsdamer Platz shopping mall, couldn't be further from the truth. Many Berliners are fuming.

"Berlin is raw, poor and interesting," a friend of mine declared this week. "This show makes the German capital look like a never-ending shampoo ad."

Berlin is a place of bohemian bars, weird restaurants and eccentric characters. In the case of this city, at least, the televisual reproduction has absolutely nothing on the real thing.

With 13 million overnight stays registered in Berlin last year, the German capital is celebrating record tourist figures. Many were hoping to attract further visitors by building a London Eye-style big wheel on the waterside in the sleepy district of Kreuzberg. But the plans were criticised by, among others, the city's Deutsche Technikmuseum.

The museum, home to a spectacular collection of vintage aircraft, is next door to the proposed site. It argued that the wheel would overshadow its own attractions. Happily for the museum, the project has now been completely scuppered by a mysterious British benefactor.

The anonymous entrepreneur has reportedly offered the Technikmuseum €5.5m (£3.8m) to buy the two hectares adjoining its building so that it can build an extension.

Unusually for this time of year, Berlin is still shivering in sub-zero temperatures, and the capital's neo-Nazis have turned the cold snap to their advantage.

Extreme right-wingers, smarting from the news that the government has tightened up Germany's assembly laws in an attempt to ban neo-Nazi marches in the city, made their presence felt last week by stamping a giant swastika on a frozen lake on the outskirts of the city. The symbol is outlawed in Germany.