One of the heartwarming things about spending some time in east Berlin is the plentiful architecture from the time of the DDR. There’s the stunning Stalin baroque along Karl-Marx Allee, the imposing Dietz Verlag, and the slender Mauer.

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The wall had certainly grown in the ideological retelling, attaining monstrous proportions, but it is really a rather modest affair.

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Anyway, sauntering along I came up short with this offer from the generous Berliners:

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Ah, but I was to be disappointed, for it turned out to be something else:

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A few further traces of the DDR, a country that somehow invites you in a virtual way, since it is still everywhere. For earlier moments, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here

Not quite sure what one might do with a life-size, somewhat soiled replica of a sheep, replete with a real skin …

Nearby is the coal depot:

Unfortunately, this one is finally closing down.

 The man covered in coal dust with a very white smile and eternal cigarette is unsure as to what he’ll do when he’s not breathing coal dust.

Other things are there to stay, such as the Ampelmännchen (invented in the DDR), now throughout Berlin and much of the rest of Germany:

And of course the little man is there to mediate between pedestrians and trabies:

I was so taken with them that I found one of my own to join the collection of other items in my Lenin corner:

All to be found in our little street in East Berlin:

Capitalism normalises, destroys, kills …

as some of the areas of the old east Berlin are turned into grungily trendy places for 40-something white couples with big teeth, worn faces, tractor strollers and a pampered well-dressed brat or two, the production of which is their great contribution to the human race.

Recently I found a pile of Christmas presents for the clan at the fleamarkets in East Berlin. These fleamarkets have a certain edge compared to many others – one of the many benefits of a history of communism in the area. A couple of examples:

Except the clan need not worry about finding one of these beneath the wrapping, since they are for myself. As for the rest …

The Traby lives on!

Which may explain why everyone is heading towards the light:

Since we will spend a bit of time over the next year or two in East Berlin, I decided to make the most of the former capital of the DDR. Of course the western part of Germany has done its level best to obliterate traces of the east in the last two decades – what euphemistically goes by the name of ‘reunification’ – but for some reason, it simply refuses to disappear. They try all sorts of things, even down to sending the grungily trendy shock troops of the middle class to areas such as Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg.

So have begun a list – very much incomplete – of pilgrimage sites:

1. Dietz Verlag, on Franz-Mehring Platz. With a venerable history that includes a stint as an offocial publisher of the DDR (GDR), Dietz is still going strong – as you will see on the site. The ever popular Marx-Engels Werke is one of their best products. The press is part of the Forum für Linke Literatur.

2. Nudist sites, since they are myriad. The East Germans were and remain much more enthusiastic about FKK (Freikoerperkultur). Stemming from the natualist movement in the 19th century, the communists were much more advanced on this score and fostered the tradition – as they are about bodies and sexuality more generally. Probably the best area still, outside Berlin, is the Mecklenberg Lake District, particularly the beautiful Müritz National Park. The thing to do here is nude camping – I am looking forward to riding my bicycle from Berlin to Müritz, completely starkers. Will save on stuff I have to cart with me. The trick, of course, as I found on a previous experiment back in Australia (in the mountains outside Melbourne) is not to stand up in the pedals too often, especially when people are behind you.

Or I could join some nude hikers:

3. Ampelmännchen, the little traffic light man. The West tried to abolish this one too, but the innovative design from Karl Peglau, the traffic psychologist, has become more popular than ever. Introduced in 1961, they became extremely popular in education, children’s stories, television and so on. After a failed effort by the West to remove the Ampelmännchen and enforce their own images, the Ampelmännchen had the last laugh, since now they even adorn western parts of the city. As Peglau put it: ‘It is presumably their special, almost indescribable aura of human snugness and warmth, when humans are comfortably touched by this traffic symbol figure and find a piece of honest historical identification’.

Further pilgrimage suggestions welcome!