Friday, November 8, 2013

Trabant Tour Through East Berlin.

Forget Disneyland, I had East Berlin as my personal amusement park this week when I was treated to a one-hour 'Trabi Safari' Trabant tour! Even before starting the tour I had a full Trabant sensory overload in the 'Trabant World' reception area / gift shop. Several cars out front, some decorated in wild colours and patterns, welcome you to the shop, and inside you're bombarded with all sorts of Trabant-flavoured items. There are t-shirts and mugs and mouse pads and pins and posters and, well you name it, they've slapped a Trabant picture on it! You can also buy small encapsulated pieces of the Berlin wall, and replicas of other famous oddball cars, like the Austin Mini and Citroen 2CV.
But enough of that, the point of the visit was to drive a Trabant! The friendly, smiling receptionist was very helpful, and quickly got us ready for our ride. Dozens and dozens of Trabant 601s were sitting in the back parking lot. Some are left in original, traditional hues, while others have bright, modern colours, and others still are painted in army or jungle-animal prints to go along with the 'safari' theme. All three Trabant 601 models are available (the classic sedan, the wagon, and the convertible).
Waiting for us was a sky-blue traditional version with wonderful patterned seat fabric. The enthusiastic tour guide explained the basics of the Trabant... and in the case of the 601, 'basics' is the key word, because there really isn't much to know! You pull out the choke and hold the gas pedal down as you turn the key and the cranky 2-stroke 2-cylinder coughs to life. No need to check the gas gauge... as there is none. As it was a chilly November day we fiddled with the heater controls, and, surprsingly, the cabin heated up quickly.
While the tour is apparently very popular in the summer, there were only three couples on our tour, plus the guide in the lead car. The Trabi Safari is live-commented by the guide who not only knows Berlin very well, but clearly has a soft spot in his heart for the tiny 601. We were the last car in the convoy, and simply had to follow the car in front as we twisted and turned around East Berlin.
The guide took his time, making sure we all stayed together, and made for a very memorable tour. I have to admit I was more focused on the car than the city at first, but I enjoyed learning about the different landmarks around Berlin. The live commentary was interesting and funny, with many jokes cracked at the expense of 'damn capitalists' in their big Mercedes and BMW sedans, trying to push the Trabbis out of the way! This commentary made for a very authentic and memorable tour, as the guide also showed great respect for the difficult history Berlin has survived.
For anyone visiting Berlin I absolutely suggest this tour. Different tour routes and durations exist, and all is explained on the Trabi Safari webpage. Even if you aren't a Trabant fan, it provides a fantastic personal, street-level view of a city full of history and mystery. And anything that keeps old Trabis out of the scrapyard is a good idea to me!


  1. And to top it all off, there was a Trabant Museum across the street, with all sorts of oddities! I think I know what my next blog entry will be about...

  2. Saw a fantastic movie the other day set in Berlin at the time the wall came down, and there is a lovely blue Trabant wagon that plays a great supporting role! Definitely worth a look; the film is called "Goodbye Lenin".


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