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On 9 November 1989, East Berlin’s isolation from the West ended when the Berlin Wall came down. Although East and West have been reunited for almost 3 decades, some 'ostalgia' from this period has been preserved. Visitors to Berlin can embark on a Trabant safari, spend the night in an East-Berlin hotel and sample an old-fashioned DDR meal in a local restaurant.
It is 1949 and for 4 years Germany has been divided into Allied occupation zones including the capital Berlin, which lies in the middle of the Soviet zone. The Soviet Union has decided to create the Communist German Democratic Republic (DDR or East Germany) in its zone, with major consequences. Between 1949 and 1961, around 2.5 million people flee East Germany (and East Berlin) via the poorly guarded border. The economy suffers greatly and there is a shortage of goods as people from West Berlin flock across the border to stock up on cheap products in the East. On 12 August 1961, the DDR decides to solve this problem by building a wall dividing the city. On 6 November that same year the Berlin Wall is completed, creating a physical barrier between the East and West.
It’s hardly bigger than a biscuit tin on wheels but the Trabant is perfect for exploring Berlin. There are several locations throughout the city that rent out this symbol of former East Germany. Take a self-guided tour along the various Berlin attractions or participate in a Trabant safari, accompanied by a guide who will lead various cars around the city. The tour takes in several historical monuments and shows you important remnants of World War II and the DDR. Highlights include the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery. A fun way to explore the city.
To truly understand what life in East Germany was like, visit the DDR Museum in the Mitte district. Inaugurated in 2006, it has become one of the most visited museums of Berlin. The museum covers all aspects of life in the DDR such as education, work, school and economics. All the displays are interactive: visitors are allowed to touch everything, open cabinets and drawers, browse through sex-education booklets, and look and listen to espionage tapes. The DDR Museum offers an authentic glimpse into the past.
Guests can literally taste the past in DDR restaurant Domklause, located on the Spree. The restaurant is located on the same block as the infamous Palasthotel, where the Stasi would welcome its important guests during the days of the DDR, and recreates the hotel’s original recipes. Order a Ketwurst (also known as hot dog) or a Jägerschnitzel with pasta. After a hearty meal, relax in the Ostel, a hostel furnished with authentic DDR furniture at pre-capitalist rates - a double room costs 32 euro per night.
“Jägerschnitzels, hamburgers and sausages: typical DDR dishes”
For those who would like to know more about life in the DDR, we recommend watching the movie 'Good Bye Lenin!' (2003). The main character Alex has lived his entire life in East Berlin. When his mother, a strong supporter of Socialist East Germany, goes into a coma in October 1989 and wakes up again after the fall of the Wall, he has a big problem: her heart is weak and the new capitalist world could be fatal to her. To save his mother, Alex transforms their apartment into a socialist museum. His mother has no idea that anything has changed. The ploy works until his mother starts watching TV and gets out of bed.
“Watch the movie ‘Good Bye Lenin!’ about life in the DDR”