Postcard from... Berlin


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The Independent Online


East Berlin’s inner city Prenz- lauerberg district acquired its “hip” reputation soon after the fall of the Wall. The quarter’s dilapidated but cheap housing became a magnet for West German students seeking adventure in the reunited capital.

The students stayed on, got jobs and had children. Today all of Prezlauerberg’s houses have been immaculately renovated and the district has one of the highest birth rates in Germany.

The upshot is that, some 20 years, on Prenzlauerberg is now more devoutly middle class than “hip” with all the trimmings included. The latest to fall victim to this phenomenon is  Nico Roberts, the owner of  the district’s “ Hokey Pokey” ice cream parlour .

He was obliged to shut down his hugely popular business last week because of angry complaints from neighbours. They objected to the noise and obstruction created by the queues for ice creams.

A furious legal battle has now erupted. It involves the ice- cream eaters and local residents who have threatened to take Mr Roberts to court over the issue.

In an effort to take the heat out of the ice-cream war, Mr Roberts  closed down his business for several days. He then reopened with extra staff and with the prices of his ice creams up by 30 per cent. Both measures were designed to keep the size of the queues down. 

But Prenzlauerberg is a wealthy district and the queues have hardly diminished . Nico Roberts says he hopes that the weather will deteriorate soon, as demand for his ice creams then usually drops off.