I took a short city break to Berlin this weekend to soak up some of that good beer and Cold War atmosphere - and while exploring what used to be the DDR before the Wall came down, I realized that as much as the Brandenburg Gate was a symbol of the city so was a certain automobile...

The Trabant - one of the, uh, “finest” machines created by Communism - is everywhere in Berlin, crowding out VW’s friendlier Beetle and classic Samba van. Every souvenir store is heavy with them in all shapes and sizes, you can drive one in a ‘safari’ tour around the city, and there’s also a museum dedicated to them (sadly I didn’t have time to view it, though).

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Die-cast Trabants are everywhere in Berlin, in a panoply of colours and decos that will make your head spin. Welly-brand cars have cornered the market (I reckon 90% of their make of this casting must sell in Berlin!) but there’s lots of other knock-offs...

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Naturlich, the Trabi Museum (details here) just around the corner from the famous Checkpoint Charlie has the most of them...

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They told me that in the old days, people in East Germany called the Trabant “the longest car on the road”.

How so, I asked?

The Trabant measure 12 metres,” they said. “2 meters of car and 10 metres of smoke.

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Postscript: Although I did resist the urge to buy a Trabi of my own, in the end I couldn’t resist getting something at the airport as a reminder of my German excursion - something a little more my speed...

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