Sunday, November 6, 2016


Although many foreigners regard German technology as top-notch, we are miserable in finishing major construction projects.

The most striking example is the Hauptstadtflughafen Berlin-Brandenburg (capital airport). Groundbreaking was in September 2005, and completion planned for 2011. Since then, lots of severe mistakes in the planning and construction have been heaping up, delaying work. Now the opening of the airport should take place in one year. Costs have exploded from initially 2.5 billion to 6.5 billion euros in 2016. At present, Willy Brandt, whose name is reserved for this building site that will someday be finished, is no longer turning over in his grave but instead rotating.

The other example is Stuttgart 21, the new underground central train station of Baden-Wurttemberg's capital. The project was started in February 2010, and the commissioning of the station was initially planned for December 2019. In the meantime, the date was changed to December 2021, while experts regard the opening of the station by the end of 2022 as more likely. Initially planned for 4.5 billion euros, Die Bahn (Germany's federal railway) corrected the sum to 5.987 billion in July 2013, deliberately avoiding the 6 billion mark (not marks but euros!). Independent cost estimates involve a final cost of 6.8 billion euros instead.

So with some pride on November 2, a minor construction project, although significant for costs and delays, finally came to an end.

Finished (©Der Spiegel)
Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie will not only be the new landmark of Germany's biggest port but is located within the harbor.

©Der Spiegel
Newspeople have already started comparing the Elbphilharmonie with the Sydney Opera House.

©Der Spiegel
The cornerstone-laying ceremony for the building was in April 2007, the initial authorized costs were 241 million euros and the completion of the Elbphilharmonie scheduled for 2010. Six years later the total costs had reached 789 million euros, i.e., a more than threefold increase in money for a construction period of nearly 10 years instead of four. NDR's (North German Broadcasting) satirical television show Extra Drei rightly tweaked the exultant photo shown above.

Expensive (©NDR)
At the inauguration ceremony, Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz (Social Democrat) said that the decision to build the Elbphilharmonie was correct indirectly praising his predecessor Ole von Beust (Christian Democrat). Scholz had to swallow the high costs. The Elbphilharmonie is not only a fascinating building, he said, but one of the best concert halls in the world.

This is the true Hanseatic spirit: Forget party lines when it concerns Hamburg's interests. With both Hamburg soccer teams ranking last in their respective national leagues, they are no longer attractive to watch playing. Therefore the city needs other tourist highlights. It would like to attract more people, not only those visiting Reeperbahn and Große Freiheit, Hamburg's red-light district but cultivated music lovers, too.

In connection with the inauguration, Red Baron learned that the word Philharmonie is of French origin. The two components root in ancient Greek philos, meaning friend, loving and harmonia euphony, music. Humanistically educated Frenchmen coined the word philharmonique from which the English philharmonic and the German philharmonisch were derived and adopted.

The official opening concert is scheduled for January 11, 2017, and already on January 18, Red Baron will listen to Haydn's Die Schöpfung (The Creation). I truly deserve it; whenever I was in Hamburg over the last ten years, I always wondered whether I would live long enough to listen to music at the Elbphilharmonie. Let us keep our fingers crossed.

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