Sadly, my time in Berlin has come to an end.

My way out is through the Berlin Brandenburg airport (BER), my first flying out of it. I visited Berlin last year, but took the train in and out both directions.

Germany’s traditional reptuation from my youth was as a country known for its precise, efficient engineering, a reputation that’s been slowly backsliding over the intervening decades, with this airport perhaps the most conspicuous symbol of that process.

Construction started in 2006, with an opening target of 2011. I remember visiting Berlin for the first time in December 2011 and being told that the next time I came through, I’d be landing at the city’s magnificent new airport. But over the next decade, the oft seen mix of incompetence, graft, and regulation delayed opening a half dozen times until October 2020, a decade behind schedule, and ballooning its original €2.83B budget to €10.3B, with another billion EUR or so of loans still planned.

The good news is that Berlin finally has a decent airport, with Schönefeld and Tegel previously leaving a lot to be desired (although I did speak to someone last week who passionately argued that Tegel was one of the best airports in use, a point on which I vehemently disagreed, but was substantiated with reasonable arguments). It’s spacious, with reasonably efficient check-in counters and security checks (my sample size of is one, so take that with a grain of sault). It’s connected to not only the S-bahn, but the Deutsche Bahn network, with a direct regional train between it and Ostkreuz that’s only a 20 minute ride (in fact, DB sued the airport as the station it built in 2011 sat unused for years).

I appreciated that the airport’s builders borrowed themes from Berlin architecture elsewhere, with a huge open plaza (“airport city”), and giant megalithic pillars holding up the structure overhead. So big and so high that they’re ominous to look at.

Published June 1, 2024.

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