The question has come up many times on my tours. Do you know about the pink pipes scattered around the sidewalks and streets of Berlin? I've also heard many imaginative answers. From sewage pipes to giant beer kegs.
We have an incredible amount of groundwater in Berlin because our city is built on a swamp. In fact, the word Berlin comes from the West Slavic languages, where berl means swamp.
Berliners would like to tell you that Berlin means bear. But this is a misconception that dates back hundreds of years, when a heraldist was drawing the first coat of arms. He understood that the word Berlin was derived from bärlein, which means little bear. And so the story of the bear was born.
However, the land under and around Berlin is marshland, so the water table is very high. This causes problems when building new houses. And there are many construction sites in Berlin. A few meters down, the groundwater bubbles up when excavating for the foundations of new buildings.
So to be able to build in Berlin at all, the groundwater has to be pumped away so that the subsoil is bone dry where you are building. This is where the pink pipes enter the cityscape.
But why are the pipes pink at all?
In some parts of the city, the pipes are actually light blue or purple, but the vast majority are pink, and this is no coincidence. According to this BBC TV report, the manufacturer of the pipes says that he asked a psychologist what color children like. She replied that it's purple and pink. She also said that young people and those who feel young at heart also prefer purple and pink.
Berlin is in many ways a young city.
As the metropolis we know today, it emerged only about 150 years ago. With electric street lamps and electric subway trains, Berlin was young and modern from the very beginning. And the city still stays young with Berliners keeping the melting pot going every day.
The color pink therefore fits perfectly into Berlin, and it would be strange if one day the pink pipes were gone.