Crazy Communist Tours

Anyone who’s been to Berlin will note the abundance of ‘Trabi Safaris‘ on offer. In recent years, though, Berlin has had stiff competition from Krakow and Eric’s Crazy Communist Tours. One distinct advantage Eric has is the crazy terrain of Nowa Huta. In Soviet times, Kracow was just too middle-class for its own good. So the concerned authorities blighted the city with a Lenin steelworks and some Stalin Empire-style housing…

Sex, Drugs, Bronze’n’Gold

East Germany’s ‘Wonder Girls’ were the most successful Olympics team ever. At the 1980 Olympics, East German girls won 11 of the 13 swimming events. Wunderkind Rica Reinisch won three medals at the age of 15. The DDR – a country of just 17 million people – could outsport both the US and the Soviet Union. But . . . something wasn’t quite right about the girls. That’s what US…

The Red Elvis

Dean Reed’s is a truly astonishing, true story. Unknown in the US, he’s the all-American boy who became a Soviet superstar during the Cold War. Dean defected from Nashville to East Berlin, going by way of Argentina and Chile. It was in ’60s South America that he had his first number one record and picked up his Marxist politics. Dean soon discovered he could fill arenas with fans and give…

The Way We Weren’t

Yuppie pads edge out artist squats. It’s been property developers versus people for a few years now in East Berlin. Restoration is welcome, of course. But sacrificing all to the property god is changing the social fabric of East Berlin. What made East Berlin trendy and desirable – the artists, students and oddballs – are being priced out. A bland bourgeoisie is replacing the buzz. The Government is as responsible…

Rubbish Bag

Bag made from re-used number plates and an inner tube The Berlin home of Garbage Art is at Kunst-Stoffe, in Pankow. It describes its activity as: ‘an artistic, aesthetic and sociological exploration of re-use and second-hand culture’. So you can get started, the atelier helpfully maintains its own garbage tip which is just full of materials ready for ‘creative upcycling‘. Before you say, ‘what a load of rubbish’, note that…

The Berlin Wall Just Moved

East German border, 1989 Königsberg border, today John F. Kennedy was rather famous for standing in front of the Berlin Wall, complaining how inhuman it all was. No one, however, stands in front of the Fortress Schengen wall, which has effectively imprisoned one million people in Kaliningrad. (As it happens, roughly the same population as the former East Berlin.) As far back in 2002, the Institute of Security Studies wrote…

Heaven Is A Sky Blue Trabant

The DDR’s Sonja Schmidt never really made the big time until she released  ‘Ein Himmelblauer Trabant’ in 1971. It’s an unashamed, uninspired novelty song with pathetic lyrics . . . so it should have won the Eurovision Song Contest hands down if East Germany had been a contestant at the time. All the same, it grabbed a gold for DDR’s  State record label – Amiga. Still today, equally pathetic Trabant…