“Ostalgie” is a special kind of nostalgia. In the US, some people collect old soda and gas station signs or old cars. All over the world there are also people who collect old relics from the former East Germany. Trabis, GDR signs, East German food, TV shows – all are examples of Ostalgie.
The “Trabi” may not be the fastest car, or the prettiest car, or even a good car for that matter, but for anyone who has a touch of “Ostalgie,” it is the perfect cure. People in East German would literally register their children at birth for Trabants, in the hopes that by the time he or she turned 18, a car would be available. Trabi enthusiasts can still be found all around the world. In the US, there is an annual Trabi Parade in DC to mark the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Rotkäppchen is one of the few East German brands that survived reunification, and is still widely enjoyed in both the East and West.
The film company DEFA produced a huge chunk of East German television programming. Its fairy tale series was particularly beloved by children. Most of the full length films are still available on YouTube.
4. Berlin Wall pieces
While not strictly a piece of “Ostalgie” the Berlin Wall is nevertheless one of the most symbolic parts of East Germany. Today, pieces of the Berlin wall are attached to key chains, magnets, or used as paper weights. For some, the wall is still a symbol of forty years under a surveillance state. Others, though, see it as a symbol of hard-fought freedom.
5. Pittiplatsch and Friends
Pittiplatsch the kobold and his companions were a staple in East German children’s television. Pittiplatsch dolls are still around to buy, and the older episodes are available online.
6. Spee washing detergent
Spee washing detergent was THE soap of every East German household. More importantly, Spee detergent was used in East German washing machines, which were famous for not only washing clothes but also for stewing fruit.
The East German crosswalk lights are still widely used in Berlin and in other major East German cities. They have been nicknamed “Ampelmännchen,” or little light men, and are one of the most popular pieces of Ostalgie around today. In fact, the Ampelmännchen are now more of a symbol of Berlin than of the East. Also, studies show that Ampelmännchen are more effective at doing their job. That is, making people wait before crossing the street.
8. Medals, Money, Signs
Flee markets in Germany are overflowing with GDR signs, pins, and other tchotchkis. Collectors of history and memorobilia from the east will find their home here.
9. Spreewald Gurken
Spreewald Gurken may seem a simple treat, but they are highly craved by many former East Germans.
10. Vita Cola
Vita Cola and Club Cola were East Germany’s response to Coca-Cola, which had long been a symbol of capitalism in the West. The bottle of Vita Cola even boasts that it is full of Vitamin C!
The Sandman would come on TV every night and sing children in the DDR a song before bedtime. This little man was so well-loved that he is still on TV today, though the animation has evolved a bit.
By Lauren Rogers