The Curious Case of Berlin's Disappearing Traffic Lights - Berlin Tales (2023)

Once upon a time, in the land of techno and currywurst, a quirky city named Berlin found itself in the clutches of a mysterious phenomenon – the curious case of disappearing traffic lights. As the city’s inhabitants, a diverse mix of artists, techies, and everyone in between, roamed the streets on their über-cool bicycles and vintage Vespas, they began to notice that the little green and red men that once guided their journeys were slowly vanishing into thin air.

In a city where jaywalking is considered a cardinal sin, this was no laughing matter. Berliners, known for their dry wit, couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of the situation. After all, they were living in one of the most organized and rule-abiding countries in the world, and yet their traffic lights were playing a game of hide and seek with them.

The rumors spread like wildfire through the hipster coffee shops and gritty techno clubs of Berlin. Some whispered that the traffic lights had become sentient and were staging a rebellion against the city’s strict orderliness. Others speculated that the vanishing act was an avant-garde art installation designed to question our reliance on technology. And still, others were convinced that it was all a ploy by the city’s infamous bike gangs who wanted to sow chaos on the streets to regain their kingdom.

As the city’s underground comedians and poets began to spin tales of the enigmatic traffic light bandits, the city’s residents couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement. After all, who doesn’t love a good mystery? The city’s streets were abuzz with laughter and speculation, as Berliners embraced the absurdity of their plight with their signature dark humor.

As the weeks turned into months, the traffic lights continued to disappear, leaving the city’s streets in a state of chaos. The once-orderly Berliners were now forced to navigate the urban jungle using their wits and intuition, much to the delight of the city’s anarchist population.

Meanwhile, the city government, desperate to restore order, convened an emergency meeting to address the issue. As the politicians and bureaucrats debated the possible causes and solutions, a young intern by the name of Hans, who was known for his love of craft beers and vintage typewriters, had an epiphany.

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Hans, who had spent countless hours scouring the city’s flea markets for rare vinyl records, recalled a curious interaction he had had with an elderly gentleman at one such market. The old man, who went by the name of Herr Licht, had mentioned in passing that he used to work as a traffic light engineer for the city. He regaled Hans with tales of a secret underground laboratory where he and his team of brilliant engineers had created the first-ever traffic light that could disappear on command.

The old man had laughed it off as a crazy invention that would never see the light of day, but Hans couldn’t help but wonder if there was some truth to his story. Armed with this knowledge, he approached the city’s leaders and suggested that they track down Herr Licht and enlist his help in solving the mystery.

After a city-wide search that involved scouring the city’s most obscure dive bars and antique shops, the authorities finally managed to track down the enigmatic Herr Licht. The eccentric inventor, who had long since retired from his post, was more than happy to help the city solve the mystery. After all, he had grown tired of his quiet life and longed for the excitement of his youth.

And so, the city’s finest minds convened in the secret underground laboratory, poring over blueprints and schematics in search of the answer to the curious case of Berlin’s disappearing traffic lights. As they worked tirelessly, fueled by a steady supply of Club-Mate and vegan donuts, they began to unravel the mystery, one clue at a time.

First, they discovered that the traffic lights were not disappearing at random, but rather in a specific pattern that seemed to form the shape of an enormous pretzel across the city. This revelation led them to the conclusion that the vanishing act was not the work of an individual but rather a highly organized group of pretzel-loving bandits.

Next, they uncovered a series of secret tunnels that crisscrossed the city, allowing the bandits to move undetected and carry out their nefarious deeds. The tunnels were lined with a peculiar substance that seemed to absorb sound, making it virtually impossible for the bandits to be detected by the city’s ever-vigilant residents.

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Finally, after months of tireless investigation, the city’s team of sleuths managed to trace the mysterious substance back to a small factory on the outskirts of the city. As they stormed the factory, they discovered a group of rogue traffic light engineers, led by none other than Herr Licht’s long-lost twin brother, Herr Schatten.

As it turned out, Herr Schatten had been secretly plotting his revenge against the city for decades, after a bitter falling-out with his brother over the invention of the disappearing traffic light. Consumed by jealousy, he had assembled a team of like-minded engineers who shared his disdain for the city’s strict orderliness and together, they had set out to create chaos on the streets of Berlin.

In a dramatic showdown, the city’s forces, led by Hans and Herr Licht, managed to apprehend Herr Schatten and his band of pretzel-loving engineers, thus putting an end to the curious case of Berlin’s disappearing traffic lights. In the spirit of reconciliation, Herr Licht offered his brother a job in the city’s traffic light department, where they could work together to create a safer and more efficient transportation system for all Berliners.

And so, the city of Berlin, once again guided by the trusty green and red men, returned to its usual state of orderly chaos. The streets were once again filled with laughter and speculation, as the city’s residents swapped tales of the great traffic light caper over pints of craft beer and plates of currywurst.

In the end, the curious case of Berlin’s disappearing traffic lights served as a reminder of the city’s unique spirit – a place where even the most mundane aspects of daily life can become the stuff of legends. For in Berlin, the line between reality and fantasy is often as blurred as the city’s infamous traffic lights, and that’s just the way Berliners like it.

Helpful Q&A:

Q: What is the curious case of Berlin’s disappearing traffic lights?

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A: The curious case of Berlin’s disappearing traffic lights is a peculiar phenomenon that has been happening in the city over the past few years. Traffic lights, especially the iconic Ampelmännchen pedestrian traffic lights, have been mysteriously vanishing from their posts. This has led to an increase in public curiosity and a number of theories, ranging from theft for souvenir purposes to urban legends about underground art collectives.

Q: What makes the Ampelmännchen so special in Berlin?

A: The Ampelmännchen is a unique symbol of Berlin’s traffic lights, which features a distinctive hat-wearing male figure. Designed by Karl Peglau in 1961, Ampelmännchen was originally created for East Germany as a way to improve road safety and make traffic signals more visible. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ampelmännchen gained popularity as a symbol of the city’s history and the merging of the two sides. Today, it is considered a cultural icon, attracting tourists and locals alike, and can be found on various souvenirs, clothing, and accessories.

Q: What are some theories behind the disappearing traffic lights in Berlin?

A: Several theories have been proposed to explain the curious case of Berlin’s disappearing traffic lights. One theory suggests that the Ampelmännchen are being stolen by collectors or tourists who want to take a piece of Berlin’s history home with them. Another theory points to an underground art collective that may be using the traffic lights in their installations or as a form of urban protest. Others believe that the local government may be quietly replacing the iconic Ampelmännchen with more modern traffic light designs, which may not be as appealing to thieves or artists.

Q: How is the city of Berlin responding to the disappearing traffic lights?

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A: The city of Berlin is taking the issue of disappearing traffic lights seriously and has implemented various measures to combat the problem. For instance, the local government has increased the number of surveillance cameras around traffic lights, particularly those featuring the Ampelmännchen. Additionally, efforts have been made to improve the security and durability of the traffic light installations, making them more difficult to remove without proper tools or authorization.

Q: What impact does the disappearance of traffic lights have on the city and its residents?

A: The disappearance of traffic lights in Berlin not only poses a threat to the city’s cultural heritage and identity but also has a direct impact on road safety. With the absence of these vital traffic signals, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists may face increased risks while navigating the city’s streets. Furthermore, the resources spent on replacing and securing the traffic lights could be allocated to other pressing issues in the city, such as infrastructure improvements or social programs.

Q: Are there any initiatives to preserve the Ampelmännchen and Berlin’s traffic light history?

A: Yes, there are several initiatives aimed at preserving the Ampelmännchen and Berlin’s traffic light history. For example, the Ampelmann Shop, a store dedicated to the iconic traffic light figure, sells a variety of products featuring the Ampelmännchen design, raising awareness about its cultural significance. Additionally, local artists and historians have organized exhibitions and events to celebrate the history of the Ampelmännchen and promote its preservation. Some citizens have even gone so far as to form “Ampelmann Patrols” to keep a watchful eye on the city’s traffic lights and report any suspicious activity.


What is the green man on Berlin traffic lights? ›

The literal translation of Ampelmännchen is “little traffic light men”, a small green and red man with a hat that can be found at numerous pedestrian traffic lights in Berlin. It is one of the few features to remained from East Germany.

Who tore down the Berlin Wall? ›

On 13 June 1990, the East German Border Troops officially began dismantling the Wall, beginning in Bernauer Straße and around the Mitte district. From there, demolition continued through Prenzlauer Berg/Gesundbrunnen, Heiligensee and throughout the city of Berlin until December 1990.

How did people escape East Berlin? ›

These border houses had doors and windows that opened into West Berlin, and people used those buildings to escape. West German emergency personnel and others waited on the west side and helped people as they climbed through windows or jumped off of roofs.

What was Berlin like before the Wall? ›

Before the wall was built, Berliners on both sides of the city could move around fairly freely: They crossed the East-West border to work, to shop, to go to the theater and the movies. Trains and subway lines carried passengers back and forth.

Why was green chosen for traffic lights? ›

Green was picked because of how the color is pleasant to the eye. Green has a shorter wavelength which makes it easier to see. Before the color green was chosen, white was used. But, this color was easily confused, as street lamps used white lights.

What does red man traffic light mean? ›

A 'Red man' light means that you must not cross or start to cross the road.

Who was the first man killed Berlin Wall? ›

Ida Siekmann

How much of the Berlin Wall is left? ›

Today, almost nothing is left of it. In many places, metal plates in the ground remind us where the Wall once stood. The Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain. For more than 28 years, the Wall divided East and West Berlin.

What caused Berlin Wall to fall? ›

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a pivotal moment, not just in the Cold War but in the history of modern Europe. It was brought about by political reforms inside the Soviet bloc, escalating pressure from the people of eastern Europe and ultimately, confusion over an East German directive to open the border.

Who dug Tunnel 57? ›

Undeterred, Neumann tried again. With many of the same students, he set out to build another tunnel – beginning in a derelict bakery in the West and burrowing underneath more than the length of a football field. The passage later became known as Tunnel 57.

What are 3 facts about the Berlin Wall? ›

10 Things You May Not Know About the Berlin Wall
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall happened by mistake. ...
  • The Berlin Wall was erected more than 15 years into the Cold War. ...
  • The Berlin Wall was actually two walls. ...
  • More than 100 people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall.
Nov 7, 2014

Did anyone dig a tunnel under the Berlin Wall? ›

Started in April 1964 by 35 West Berlin students, Tunnel 57 was more than 30 feet below ground and stretched for nearly 500 feet. It brought dozens of East Berliners to the West, including young Andreas Springer.

Was the Berlin Wall good or bad? ›

The Berlin Wall would prevent the West from having further influence on the East, stop the flow of migrants out of the communist sector, and ultimately become the most iconic image of the Cold War in Europe. The United States quickly condemned the wall, which divided families and limited freedom of movement.

How did the Germans react to the Berlin Wall? ›

The East German government claimed the wall was an 'anti-fascist protection barrier' (antifaschistischer Schutzwall) intended to dissuade aggression from the West, despite the fact that all the wall's defences pointed inward to East German territory. This view was viewed with scepticism even in East Germany.

What animal is on the flag of Berlin? ›

The state flag of Berlin, Germany has three stripes of red-white-red, the two outer stripes each occupying a fifth of its height, the middle the remaining three-fifths. It is emblazoned with a bear on the civil flag, while it bears the coat of arms of Berlin on the state flag.

What color was the first traffic light? ›

The earliest traffic signals were designed for trains, not cars. They were red and green, gas-powered, and more than a little dangerous in the event of a leak.

What are the 3 colors of a traffic light? ›

Traffic signals consist of three colours: Red, Yellow, and Green. When the signal turns red, you must stop, when it turns yellow, slow down and wait, and when it turns green, go.

Why stop lights are red? ›

Why was red chosen for stop? Red is the color with the longest wavelength; that means that as it travels through air molecules, it gets diffused less than other colors, so it can be seen from a greater distance.

What are the cameras at red lights? ›

Cabinets are located at every intersection with traffic signals. These cabinets contain the intersection con- troller, which is a computer that controls the color changes for the traffic signals.

What does run a red light mean? ›

Red light running defined

If a vehicle enters an intersection any time after the signal light has turned red, the driver has committed a violation. Motorists who are inadvertently in an intersection when the signal changes (waiting to turn left, for example) are not red light runners.

What does the red light at the street intersection indicate to us? ›

The color 'RED' on the signal light indicates to stop well before the stop line and not to crowd the intersection. Turn left in a red signal only when there is a sign to do so. While turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians and vehicles coming from other directions.

Which side of Berlin was communist? ›

The Soviet Union occupied East Germany and installed a rigidly controlled communist state. The other three Allies shared the occupation of West Germany and helped rebuild the country as a capitalist democracy.

How many died trying to cross the Berlin Wall? ›

Between 1961 and 1989, at least 140 people were killed or died at the Wall in connection with the GDR border regime: 101 people who tried to flee through the border fortifications were shot, died by accident, or committed suicide.

Who was inside the Berlin Wall? ›

The Berlin Wall (German: Berliner Mauer, pronounced [bɛʁˌliːnɐ ˈmaʊ̯ɐ] ( listen)) was a guarded concrete barrier that encircled West Berlin of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) from 1961 to 1989, separating it from East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Can you still see the Berlin Wall today? ›

Today, all across the city you can find traces of the Wall, its remains and memorial sites – the East Side Gallery, the Berlin Wall Memorial in Bernauer Strasse, the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, a former Stasi remand prison, and the green Mauerpark.

Can you still visit the Berlin Wall? ›

Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse is open every day except Mondays 9:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. from April to October and 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. from November to March. The East Side Gallery and is located in an open public space and is accessible at any time.

How many people escaped after the Berlin Wall was built? ›

In 1961, 8,507 people fled across the border, most of them through West Berlin. The construction of the Berlin Wall that year reduced the number of escapees by 75% to around 2,300 per annum for the rest of the decade.

What did the wall of Berlin symbolize? ›

The wall, which stood between 1961 to 1989, came to symbolize the 'Iron Curtain' – the ideological split between East and West – that existed across Europe and between the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, and their allies, during the Cold War.

What was the Berlin Wall summary? ›

The Berlin Wall was built by the German Democratic Republic during the Cold War to prevent its population from escaping Soviet-controlled East Berlin to West Berlin, which was controlled by the major Western Allies. It divided the city of Berlin into two physically and ideologically contrasting zones.

What happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall? ›

The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War and, eventually, the Soviet Union. Soviet-occupied East Germany, officially known as the German Democratic Republic, was reunited with West Germany on October 3, 1990. And the Soviet Union collapsed a year later.

What was the most famous escape from the Berlin Wall? ›

The Tunnel

Between the 3rd and 5th of October 1964, 57 people, among them Joachim's girlfriend Christa, escaped through the tunnel, making it the single most successful escape route into West Berlin.

What was the worst tunnel collapse? ›

The Big Dig ceiling collapse occurred on July 10, 2006, when a concrete ceiling panel and debris weighing 26 short tons (24,000 kg) and measuring 20 by 40 feet (6.1 by 12.2 m) fell in Boston's Fort Point Channel Tunnel (which connects to the Ted Williams Tunnel).

What is the deepest underground tunnel in the world? ›

Gotthard Base Tunnel, Switzerland

The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the world's longest and deepest tunnel. It runs under the Swiss alps between the towns of Erstfeld in the north and Bodio in the south.

Which side of the Berlin Wall was free? ›

In 1952, the East German government closed the border with West Germany, but the border between East and West Berlin remained open. East Germans could still escape through the city to the less oppressive and more affluent West.

What would have happened if the Berlin Wall didn't fall? ›

I think for the wall not to have fallen, it would have, first of all, meant that we would have experienced a different Eastern Bloc than the one we had in the 1980s. They would have had to stop the reforms, Gorbachev particularly, and if that had taken place it would mean that the Cold War would have continued.

Who built the Berlin Wall when and why? ›

To halt the exodus to the West, Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev recommended to East Germany that it close off access between East and West Berlin. On the night of August 12-13, 1961, East German soldiers laid down more than 30 miles of barbed wire barrier through the heart of Berlin.

What is the death strip? ›

In 1961, the SED began adding additional obstacles to the border, expanding the Wall into a complex multi-layered system of barriers. In the West, the border strip was referred to as the “death strip” because so many people were killed there while trying to escape.

Was there prisons underneath the Berlin Wall? ›

They began to chip away at the Berlin Wall 30 years ago Nov. 9, but the East German police prison that was in its shadow remains. Anyone caught trying to cross the wall was taken to Keibelstrasse prison by the notorious East German People's Police, known as the VoPos.

Why was it called tunnel 29? ›

The story of Tunnel 29 – named after the number of people it allowed to escape – has been told and retold.

How did some people try to escape the Berlin Wall? ›

Through secret tunnels

In the largest escape in the Berlin Wall's history, two secret tunnels were used to get to freedom. Dubbed the “Senior Citizens Tunnel” a group of 12 people, most of them elderly, dug for 16 days until their 32-meter long tunnel brought them into the West.

Did the Berlin Wall ever fall? ›

Although changes in the GDR leadership and encouraging speeches by Gorbachev about nonintervention in Eastern Europe boded well for reunification, the world was taken by surprise when, during the night of November 9, 1989, crowds of Germans began dismantling the Berlin Wall—a barrier that for almost 30 years had ...

How long did the Berlin Wall last for? ›

A decades-long fight to flee brought it down. For nearly 30 years, Berlin was divided not just by ideology, but by a concrete barrier that snaked through the city, serving as an ugly symbol of the Cold War.

What are two consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall? ›

Its fall on November 9, 1989, paved the way for the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, and the liberation of Central and Eastern European countries previously bound under the Warsaw Pact defense alliance with the Soviet Union.

How was Germany reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall? ›

German Reunification Treaty

The two original copies of the Unification Treaty signed on 31 August 1990. West German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble signed for the FRG and the East German State Secretary Günther Krause signed for the GDR.

What ultimately happened to the Berlin Wall? ›

It was on 9 November 1989, five days after half a million people gathered in East Berlin in a mass protest, that the Berlin Wall dividing communist East Germany from West Germany crumbled. East German leaders had tried to calm mounting protests by loosening the borders, making travel easier for East Germans.

What is Berlin famous for? ›

Berlin, the capital city of Germany, is renowned for its exceptional range of landmarks, vibrant cultural scene and way of life that's somehow all go yet relaxed. In fact, the city is best known for its striking contrasts. Historical buildings stand alongside modern architecture as the past and present intermingle.

What is Germany's signature animal? ›

The symbol of German statehood with the richest traditions is the eagle. Its origins can be traced back to the early years of the Holy Roman Empire. It featured on the King's coat of arms and almost all the Imperial princes bore the eagle on their escutcheons as a way of displaying their status as vassals of the King.

What does the green man mean in Germany? ›

The Bagford quotation demonstrates something else as well: the “Green Man” developed an important new meaning during the latter part of the seventeenth century. Bagford suggests that, because the wildness of the Green Man's antics suggested intoxication, the Green Man came to be a symbol for both distillers and pubs.

Why are the traffic lights different in Berlin? ›

Berlin started to modernize its traffic lights from using regular light bulbs to LED technology in early 2006, which promised better visibility and lower maintenance costs.

What was the secret police of East Berlin? ›

The Stasi also conducted espionage and other clandestine operations abroad through its subordinate foreign intelligence service, the Office of Reconnaissance, or Head Office A (German: Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung). They also maintained contacts and occasionally cooperated with West German terrorists.

What is the green Bridge in Berlin? ›

Glienicker Brücke is a bridge over the river Havel connecting the district of Wannsee in western Berlin with the Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg. It has its place in the history books because it served several times as the site where captured Warsaw Pact agents would be exchanged for Western spies.

What is the story behind the Green Man? ›

The Green Man is believed to symbolise the cycle of life, death and re-birth. The symbol of Godhood within the male and its relationship with the transcendent life force our Goddess, the female expression of divinity. He is a Pagan symbol who heralds Spring after a long winter and the renewal of lush vegetation.

What is the myth of the Green Man? ›

The Green Man, Lyon writes, is “a sort of forest-god, an emblem of the birth-death-rebirth cycle of the natural year. He was worshipped in hope of good harvests, and guards the metaphysical gate between the material and immaterial worlds.”

What does a green light mean in Germany? ›

Red light: do not cross the stop line or pass the light. Yellow light precedes the red light: stop unless you are already too close to stop safely when the light changes. Yellow and red lights flashing together: prepare to drive. Green light: drive.

Is it illegal to cross the road in Berlin? ›

In contrast to a pedestrian crossing, cars, motorcycles or bicycles are not required to stop here. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. If you want to cross the street, always first look for a light, a pedestrian crossing or a traffic island. If you do not see any of those, make sure that the road is clear.

What is the oldest traffic light in Berlin? ›

Consequently, in 1924, the first traffic lights in Berlin were ceremonially put into service on Potsdamer Platz.

Why does Germany not allow street view? ›

German data protection and privacy rules are pioneering

This has led a tradition of strong data protection for German civilians, which has created a barrier to Google's Street View Programme. Google has tried to launch Street View twice in the country, and failed both times due to public backlash.

What does Stasi mean in German? ›

What does " Stasi " actually mean? The word is a colloquial term for state security, and refers to the former East German Ministry for State Security, abbreviated as MfS . The Stasi , or rather the MfS , was both intelligence service and secret police and it engaged in severe violations of civil and human rights.

What did tearing down the Berlin Wall mean? ›

On a global level, the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the symbolic end of the Cold War, famously prompting the political scientist Francis Fukuyama to declare it the “end of history.” On Oct. 3, 1990, 11 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, East and West Germany became one state again.

Who controls East Germany? ›

At the end of World War II, the main Allied powers—the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union—divided Germany into two zones. The Soviet Union occupied East Germany and installed a rigidly controlled communist state.

Why is it called the Devil's bridge in Germany? ›

Like many similarly precarious spans across Europe, the Rakotzbrücke is known as a “devil's bridge,” due to the colloquialism that such bridges were so dangerous or miraculous that they must have been built by Satan.

Is there a love lock bridge in Berlin? ›

Lovers are known to lock padlocks engraved with their names onto the wrought-iron work on the bridge, and at times, these locks are removed by the authorities.

Is The Berlin tunnel Based on a true story? ›

In the summer of 1962, a young student named Joachim Rudolph dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall. Waiting on the other side in East Berlin were dozens of men, women, and children—all willing to risk everything to escape.


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