Stay in the Stasi Suite

Communist Nostalgia

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Attention Berlin-bound students and backpackers: For a mere 38 euros ($50), the impecunious traveler can decamp to the Ostel, a new budget hotel in the city's hip Mitte district. The rooms are spartan: a rotary telephone, bunk beds, a rust-brown couch—and walls adorned with photos of former East German Communist Party leader Erich Honecker.

At the Ostel, it's the GDR redivivus, with each room carefully recreated to evoke memories of arbitrary arrest and travel restrictions, using period furniture. Guests can choose from a variety of theme rooms, including the Stasi Suite, named in honor of the notoriously omnipresent and brutal East German secret police. Owner Guido Sand told Reuters that upon being reunited with the West, East Germans "lost part of their identity" and "like seeing the old stuff again." A hotel receptionist agreed, telling journalists the Ostel was merely trying "to create a community feeling. It's a contrast to today's dog-eat-dog world."

It's not the first time that the Ossies, as former East Germans are called, have parlayed their communist heritage into capitalist lucre. In 2004 the cash-strapped town of Tutow created Germany's first-ever communist theme park, "complete with a Berlin Wall and Kalashnikov-toting border guards," The Daily Telegraph reported.

According to Sand, GDR nostalgia—what the Germans call Ostalgie—shows no sign of abating. The hotel turned a profit in its first month of operation. "We are even selling the Honecker pictures as souvenirs now," he said, "because guests were stealing them."

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