Ampelmann, the East German traffic light man

18 10 2007

My personal favorite Ostalgie item, as I mentioned before, is the Ampelmann, the man in the traffic lights of East Germany (“Ampel” is “traffic-light” in German).

Ampelmann.

My first encounter with the Ampelmann was actually in a traffic-light. I immediately liked that cute darling. And then I found out about his oh so naïve and sweet history, but also about its outrageous commercialization. I mean, I really wanted an Ampelmann bag, but not at these prices. So I settled for a woolen hat and shirt, and a little green man for my key chain. I also got a small book elaborating on the history of the man, the brand and the various products.

Ampelmann bags Ampelmann ice cubes

The Ampelmann was created by the traffic psychologist (what a weird profession, I’d say) Karl Peglau, in 1961. The rationale was to combat the danger of road accidents by using appealing symbols, since “road users react more quickly to appealing symbols” (well, maybe. I don’t believe it would have worked here). Read the rest of this entry »




Ostalgie in Berlin

16 10 2007

The official Berlin tourism site offers a program for East Berlin nostalgia tours, which you can find here. They claim that “The recent history in Berlin has many aspects and different ways of handling. On one hand there is the difficult historical discussion, on the other hand is the (n)ostalgic mood… Our tour shows both sides”.

Another option is taking the “Trabi-safari” tour, which costs between 25 to 35 euros, depending on the number of participants. Information about the “Trabi-safari” can be found in their website.

A Trabant.

Read the rest of this entry »




Ostalgie

14 10 2007

After dealing with the commemoration of the darker side of the communist regime in East Germany, I turn now to deal with the phenomenon of Ostalgie, also mentioned here before, in relation to the current situation of the German Unification.

Ostalgie is like it sounds – the German word for nostalgia for life in the former German Democratic Republic (Ost is east in German). Everybody knows, most of all people who actually lived there, that the tearing down of the Wall was not a spontaneous whimsical act that happened with no reason. So I think it’s pretty obvious that Ostalgie does not mean wanting to live again under a totalitarian dictatorship and the unbound reign of the secret police.
Read the rest of this entry »




Is the German Unification a Failure?

4 10 2007

About a fifth of the German people would like to have the Berlin Wall back. 74% of the former residents of East-Germany say they feel like second-class citizens.

The 17th German Unification Day was celebrated all over Germany yesterday, but the above mentioned figures may have clouded the celebration..

The survey, conducted by the German independent opinion research firm Emnid, was commissioned by private broadcaster N24, and published just before the Unification Day.

Behind the headlines, there is actually a sad story. 73% of the westerners believe easterners are not at any disadvantage. 74% of the easterners, though, say they are second-class citizens. And technically they are.

Berlin Wall East side gallery

Unemployment rates in the east are as high as 15 percent, about twice more than in the west. Salaries are 25 percent lower (according to the German Institute for Labour Market and Career Research).
Read the rest of this entry »