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The Hotel Honecker

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If a hot cup of chicory coffee in the morning and an 8×10 glossy of Walter Ulbricht on the nightstand sounds like your kind of travel experience, be sure to check out Berlin's Ostel, a hotel that "recreates the experience" of East Germany for the budget traveler. From the AP:

The Ostel, which opened on May Day—the traditional worker's holiday under communism—represents a broader phenomenon known as Ostalgie, or fascination with life in the former East Germany. Ostalgie, like Ostel, is a play on the German word for east—ost.

Ostalgie primarily focused on communist-era pop culture, including TV shows such as "Sandman" that several generations of children grew up with, and theTrabant automobile, an East German clunker that families waited for years to be able to own under communism.

The Ostel, located in an old Communist-era building just steps from the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall, takes pains to be as authentic as possible.

Ostel employee Liliana Lehmann, 25, whose early childhood was spent under communism in East Berlin, said the hotel was a break from the bustle of today's capitalist capital.

"We try to create a community feeling," she said. "It's a contrast to today's dog-eat-dog world."

In 2004, the Daily Telegraph reported that the (former East) German village of Tutow's was building a totalitarian, errr, "community" theme park:

In a desperate attempt to create jobs and income, the rundown village of Tutow is transforming itself into a Communist-era theme park, complete with a Berlin Wall and Kalashnikov-toting border guards.

Visitors sit down to eat in the canteen, an ugly, single-storey building that was once a state collective laundry and supermarket. Black, red and gold flags of the former German Democratic Republic with the old hammer and compass emblem festoon the building, along with banners supporting Free German Youth and Communist Young Pioneers.

Inside, portraits of Eric Honecker, the former East German leader, and Politburo colleagues adorn the walls, while red menus embossed with Communist insignia tempt diners with a selection of hearty Socialist dishes.

But how, one wonders, does it compare to Stalin World?

I wrote about East German pop sensation Dean Reed here; reason contributor Glenn Garvin reviewed Anna Funder's terrific book Stasiland here. If you're not content with the standard, chimerical view of the GDR and too lazy to read either of those pieces, make sure to add this film to your Netflix queue.

NEXT: Were They Saying "Boo" or "Boo-urns"?

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  1. For $12 – $50 a night, I’d stay there.

  2. Yeah, as long as the plumbing works, and you’re a no frills person, commie hotels are okay.

  3. I hope they have the “floor ladies” – at least in Russia, and I think in the DDR, there was always an old woman sitting on every floor of the hotel whose role supposedly was to make tea and guard the floor but also, obviously, to spy on the guests. “Rumor has it” that these floor ladies would also happily procure guests prostitutes for a fee, although that was more towards the end of the Communist era. If the hotel is also going to recreate the experience of hot water not being on most of the time and a fuzzy black-and-white TV with 3 channels, it may not be worth $50.

  4. The irony is that the availability of these hotels is the perfect example of capitalism at work. They’re providing a service (cheap, no-frills hotels combined with an element of nostalgia and a touch of bohemianism) that people are willing to pay for. Viva choice!

  5. But how, one wonders, does it compare to Stalin World?

    It’s amazing what people will be nostalgic for. I spent a few days in East Germany and it was a shithole. For extra realism, I think “Ostel” should have a parking lot full of potholes and coal smoke should be pumped into the rooms at regular intervals.

  6. Going to a free-market Commie themed hotel is a little bit like buying your punk gear and Che T-shirts from Hot Topic.

    But aside from that, as recently as 2000 I stayed in a hotel in Shanghai that “floor persons” (they were male though). The hotel was a very modern western style hotel too, so it wasn’t some kind of old-school throw back either.

  7. So, it’s illegal to display a Nazi flag in Germany, but it’s legal to have a Communist one? Both ideologies were equally murderous, and the former has been discredited for several decades.

  8. So, it’s illegal to display a Nazi flag in Germany, but it’s legal to have a Communist one? Both ideologies were equally murderous, and the former has been discredited for several decades.

    Nazi flags aren’t illegal simply because the Nazis were evil. Nazi flags are illegal because Nazism is a tiny fringe group with a handful of followers, and have no power to fight such a law. Communism, despite being evil, is not a fringe group (or, at least far less of a fringe group)… if you tried to ban Communist stuff, there would be a powerful enough minority to cause problems.

  9. So, it’s illegal to display a Nazi flag in Germany, but it’s legal to have a Communist one?

    The distinction may be that one was homegrown and the other was instituted by a foreign power.

  10. For $50 a night, does the recreated East German experience include the maid staff (actually STASI agents) going through your belongings, planting bugs, and taking pictures to blackmail you with?

  11. Seems like this is just the German version of a 20-something American buying an A-Team lunch box or wearing a vintage 80s t-shirt. Nostalgia for one’s childhood era is pretty universal I think, no matter how shitty the era was.

    The Nazi emblems = evil versus Communist = cool dichotomy is an interesting one. I see hipsters wearing Che and Mao stuff all the time. I doubt a Hitler tee would go over as well. Maybe it’s just that the commies have done a better job of influencing popular bands. Skinhead hardcore never caught on as much as Rage Against the Machine.

  12. I think part of the reason for Communism’s relatively good PR is that at least in its propaganda its goal was a noble one (no poverty, no oppression, brotherhood of man, etc). Whereas Naziism didn’t even attempt to disguise the fact that it was a hate-filled, racist, militaristic ideology.

  13. crimethink:

    “I think part of the reason for Communism’s relatively good PR is that at least in its propaganda its goal was a noble one (no poverty, no oppression, brotherhood of man, etc). Whereas Naziism didn’t even attempt to disguise the fact that it was a hate-filled, racist, militaristic ideology.”

    Given that every friggin’ mainstream organization (church, school, you name it) drills those noble values into our heads, you’d think that alternative culture would be more prone to try to embrace something like Naziism, which stands for the opposite of that. You know, on the logic that, “if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, maybe the road to heaven is paved with bad ones?”

    Anyway, Nazi chic has always struck me as more hardcore and appealing than the Communist variety. That, and it’s not like those same “noble” goals (no poverty, no oppression, brotherhood of man) aren’t present in Nazism- they’re just reserved for the Aryan race.

  14. Only poser wannabe rebels wear Che T-shirts. If you really want to be a reviled outcast these days — show you have some serious stones — you gotta wear a Hitler T-shirt.

  15. Didn’t the Sex Pistols catch some flack for performing in Nazi Stormtrooper garb once? And recall the origin of the names “Joy Division” and “New Order”.

  16. Where can I get a T-Shirt with a pic of Ron Paul in a beret?

  17. De Stijl-

    Vat do you mean zat Kommunisum vas not homegrown in Germany!

  18. Neither was democracy, does that make it less real?

  19. Only poser wannabe rebels wear Che T-shirts. If you really want to be a reviled outcast these days — show you have some serious stones — you gotta wear a Hitler T-shirt.

    Or one with Bush on it.

    I toured Romania back before the Wall fell. The other reason for the floor ladies is to make sure you don’t steal anything valuable from the room, like a coat hanger.

  20. TV shows such as “Sandman” that several generations of children grew up with, and theTrabant automobile, an East German clunker that families waited for years to be able to own under communication
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