I was born in East Germany and spent most of my childhood there. I lived in East Berlin, and was twelve when the wall came down.
I enjoyed Rob’s chat about his visit to Berlin. The museum sounds like it services a particular phenomenon known as ‘Ostalgie’ (literally ‘Eastalgia’ an amalgamation of the German words for nostalgia and East), which is mainly a longing and appreciation for the things that are remembered fondly and as being good in East Germany. Those may be consumer goods - certain food items have seen a particular level of this nostalgia - but also artists, TV shows, music… It is interesting that even 30 years later, such a museum can’t seem to exist without what Rob described as being propagandistic - there just has to be a strong reminder that ultimately the system that created all these things was bad, and you must not forget that.
The Trabant is a peculiar thing. It was pretty much the entry level vehicle, and even as such it was a form of luxury, because they just didn’t make enough to fill the demand, and the entire notion of individual transport was viewed suspiciously by the authorities. The Trabant - we had one for some time - was built pretty much the same for almost thirty years, and because they were fairly easy to self-maintain and repair, you sometimes couldn’t tell a 20 year old one from a brand new one. Even so, people had to wait years to be allocated one (still had to buy it), or had to try and get one second hand.
Also it’s worth noting that the apartments Rob described were mainly available in new development blocks in the bigger cities. In smaller towns you might have gotten two-bedrooms, but you had to forego luxuries like running hot water and central heating. Both my grandmothers lived in such apartments and I ‘fondly’ remember all the buckets of coal briquettes that had to be lugged up the stairs to provide fuel for the coal-fired ovens and stoves.
I don’t remember ever seeing a hot air balloon with Karl Marx’s face on it, much less a bunch of them at the same time…