Little Man on the street sign

little man on the street street sign figurine berlin ackerstraße invalidenstraße
little man on the street (2014)
Olympus E-M10 + M.Zuiko 40-150mm 53mm@F4 1/400s ISO 200

About street names

I have a little pet peeve. I hate streets named after people (who are mostly politicians anyway). There is even a law in Berlin to name newly built streets after politically or otherwise socially active women. For me this is mostly just virtue signaling on part of the local officials pandering to their electorate. Not that there is anything wrong with naming streets after famous people but do we really need to honor the first local female secretary of whatever party is in power right now?

I like street names with history. Even with contentious history like streets named after colonies. Despite our modern view on colonialism those streets do represent part of a countries history. So instead of renaming them after just another bunch of “valued” politicians how about we keep most street names and add a little sign explaining the historical context. We should only rename the streets who bear the name of outright terrible people and not those who espoused the views of their time no matter how false we see them today.

Berlin’s street signs have small plaques where an explanation about the name would usually be. Curiously these two streets lack any explanation. Maybe because the name “Ackerstraße” seems not very contentious. It simply means “Field Street” and is named because at some point this street was used to develop and connect farming estates outside of Berlin. Today this street is in the city’s gentrified center and there are no fields for dozens of kilometers. It is a weird throwback to walk along “Ackerstraße” and seeing nicely renovated buildings, Sushi bars and fancy restaurants.

The second street is called “Invalidenstraße” which literally means “Invalid Street”. Invalid refers to how disabled war veterans were called up until the 1960s or 1970s. This street was named after a veteran’s house for disabled soldiers from the First and Second Silesian war. It was a slightly more comfortable kind of barracks where the so-called invalids could live, earn a modest income and receive some medical attention. It was financed from the state and these early types of social security for veterans had a noticeable impact on the Prussian soldier’s morale. Knowing they would be taken care of in case war injuries would make earning a civilian living difficult.

Photographic Notes

Whenever I do walks through the city I like to read up on the street names. And sometimes I come across something like this little man on the street sign that someone made out of cork and food skewers. Maybe it is clapping, maybe it just observes the big people below rushing to and from work, enjoying a night out with drinks or slowly walking around with camera in hand observing little figurines like this one. I took my shot and winked at the little man. I like to think he winked back 😉

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