Germany Holidays: Ossi shopping
They may not be the cheapest or the best quality, but a combination of ideology and nostalgia makes some DDR products the customer’s preferred choice.
They call it Ostalgie, nostalgia for the east and the former DDR. It has taken several forms over the years: sudden affection for the Trabant, as in Trabi Safaris (motoring tours in Trabants); hotels like Berlin’s Ostel where the decor is garish, you get treated in a surly fashion and have to pay in old Marks; the success of films like Goodbye Lenin and The Lives of Others, etc. And now there’s Ossi shopping, both online and on the high street in cities all over the country.
Some of the Ossi products offered in these stores are pure nostalgia, others are a bit of a laugh, and still more are actually a good deal. You can buy, for example, trashy coloured melamine tableware for kids; a Trabant ruler; Blauer Würger (Blue Strangler) a blue-coloured sweet drink with the motto, ‘if you drink Blue Strangler even the DDR looks beautiful’, and Erichs Rache (Erich’s Revenge), the German throatcleaner, an alcoholic herbal digestif. There’s army ‘field soup’ and packets of iron rations for marches and manoeuvres, in case you ever felt the need to go jungle. Former DDR beauty products come in gift packs with model Trabants, for the woman in your life who likes to combine banana-flavoured cleansing with playing with model cars, and you can even buy wads of the old DDR banknotes, too.
Blauer Würger (Strangler) a coloured drink with the motto, ‘if you drink Blue Strangler even the DDR looks beautiful’
Of course some of these items are not true originals, but there are some memorable brands that have had something of a resurgence in recent years. Trabants, and even Wartburgs, have become collectors’ items, particularly for tourism and themed bars. The ‘carbonated soft drink with fruit and herb flavouring’ called Vita Cola (the Communist take on Coca Cola) was once bottled in 200 plants all over the DDR, vanished with the Wall, but has staged a comeback amongst socialist thinkers and drinkers.
Spreewald gherkins, from the watery region of the Spree to the south and east of Berlin, are being sold in very significant quantities once again, and not just to tourists. And Mocca Fix, coffee flavoured with caramel, is still around in the shops.
But the biggest success of all the former DDR products is the ‘communist champagne’, Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood) sparkling wine, which has come out fighting after reunification, and is now actually Germany’s market leader, with over 40 percent of the market, and nearing 200 million bottles sold per year.
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