By the Shark-Filled Rivers of Schwabylon


Berlin, they say, is being overrun by Swabians. 'Swabian', one of the most amusing words in English, denotes people from Swabia, a region in South Germany. According to native Berliners, the Swabians are  industrious, conformist yuppies. Above, you see the work of extremist Swabians, who have changed street signs into their (IMHO totally awesome) regional dialect. Under their baleful influence, Berlin is rapidly changing from a place where cafes serve breakfast until 4 PM to unwashed, still-hungover 'creative types' into yet another safe, sanitized, mind-shatteringly expensive, tourist-friendly playground for the upper-middle classes and
above (you know, like New York, Paris, and London).

Those parts of Berlin which have suffered an unusually heavy infestation of Swabians are often referred to as Schwabylon, derived from the short-a German word for Swabians. Which brings me to the subject of this post. There once was an actual Schwabylon! The Voices of East Anglia describes it thus:

The colourful Schwabylon shopping and leisure centre had one hundred
shops, a cinema, twelve restaurants, a beer garden, sports facilities,
Roman spa, sauna, solarium, swimming pool and a skating rink. Located
next door was a Holiday Inn which contained a three-story nightclub
named after The Beatles song Yellow Submarine, which was surrounded by a
600,000 litre water tank with more than 30 sharks – What could possibly
go wrong?

Schwabylon is a portmanteau word that blended together
the name of the district in Munich, Germany and the word Babylon. The
pyramid shaped shopping centre with it’s bright red, yellow and orange
rising sun paint work was designed by architect Justus Dahinde and
opened for business on November 9th in 1973.

Although the centre had many attractions it was (almost) windowless
and had ramps instead of stairs, and just fourteen months later the
retailers “shut up shop” and the Schwabylon closed. Parts of the
building  were demolished in 1979, however the Holiday Inn and night
club remained – Minus the sharks.


2 thoughts on “By the Shark-Filled Rivers of Schwabylon

  1. There was a saying of the Early Ninetees: If we do no more divide the Germans in “Ossis” and “Wessis”, but in Norddeutsche (Northern Germans), Berliner, Sachsen, Bayern (Bavarians), Schwaben (Swabians) etc. pp., than the German Reunification has been succesfully reached.
    Obviously this time has already come. Earlier than expected.


  2. Schwabylon comes from Schwabing a (once upon a time Bohemian) suburb of Munich originally a city in its own right dating back to the 12th century. Sorry nowhere near Schwaben, but generally southern Germany, probably accurate enough for expats. Don’t tell the people of Schwabing that you mixed them up with Schwaben, though. Would not go down well.


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