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Stuttgart goes off the rails

Whistles in the air, shouting, and, every Monday night, streets filled with thousands of protesters. The Wutbuerger are on the march again.

Life in my hometown couldn’t be any more different from what it used to be. Nearly 20 years have passed since plans were announced to tear down our beloved landmark, the main station, building a new underground station in its place in the name of efficiency – at a  cost of a mind-boggling four billion Euros. ‘Stuttgart 21’ was born.

Initially, nobody believed they’d have the guts to destroy such an iconic landmark – it would be like removing Big Ben from London. But last August, when the demolition balls finally arrived, hundreds of thousands of us took to the streets, shouting our slogan ‘Stay on top!’, and a new word soon emerged: ‘Wutbuerger’ or angry citizens.

Protest groups sprang up like the ‘Save the Trees’ camps in the park next to the station, a green space also to be sacrificed to the builders. The fence around the building site became the symbol of the fight, covered in imaginative pamphlets and posters. The media started calling it the ‘Stuttgart Wall’ because it bears evidence of a divided city. Really, you can’t escape the topic:  there are books about the station, the protest, even the fence and the trees, also a film and, most recently, a musical.

When protest turned to open conflict something had to be done. Demolition was temporarily halted during mediation, which, incredibly, ended in a decision to go on building. Shortly afterwards, however, the conservative government of Baden-Württemberg paid the price when they lost the elections, after nearly 60 years in office. The Green Party carried the day, having promised to stop Stuttgart 21 before. We thought we had won.

But the story hasn’t yet ended. In fact, it looks like it’s only getting started: last week, Deutsche Bahn announced that they will go on building as the costs of opting out of contracts would amount to over one billion Euros. So, I guess, we’ll all soon be taking to the streets again.

 

Want to escape city centre strife? See our page on Esslingen, Stuttgart’s medieval suburb.

 

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