The ticket machines for busses and trains had a rather peculiar functional principle: The coin slot and the ticket window were installed independently. One could throw in 20 Pfennig, but didn’t necessarily have to. There was no real control mechanism for fare dodgers.
Other means of transportation in the DDR were not entirely free, but still very affordable. There was, however, a lack of reliability. The trains of the “East-German Railways” were dirty and cramped. There were cancellations due to “extreme weather conditions” even in view of the first snowflakes. The situation with busses and trams was quite similar. During its entire 40-year long existence, the state invested only little in its transportation system.
This is why an own car was a great dream for many people in the age of socialism. There was far more than the Trabi: The Wartburg was produced in Eisenach and the brands Skoda and Lada were imported from other socialist states. Leading personalities were transported with the luxury brand Volvo from the West.
The unchallenged symbol of everyday life in the DDR, however, was the Trabant, meaning “companion” – and this car truly played a significant role in the life of many citizens of the DDR, just like a good friend. As a dream at first; for the waiting time for a new car was no less than 16 years, later as a status symbol, a set of wheels and hobby.
The Trabi was constructed rather simply so the lucky owners of the so-called “Rennpappe” were able to fix most defects themselves. The car body was made out of Duroplast, a mixture of cotton felt and artificial resin and did not corrode and it was therefore possible to skimp on expensive deep drawing sheets. Many an adventurer took on a large trip; for example to Bulgaria, all repair tricks in mind. Like that, owners of a Trabi developed a rather affectionate and personal relationship with their car.
There were even a number of hit songs about the Trabi – “Ein himmelblauer Trabant, der fuhr über’s Land …” (German for “A light blue Trabant was driving through the country”) as well as many jokes: “What is a Trabi on a mountain? - A wonder!”
Even though there is no one singing about the Trabi in our exhibition, there is still the chance to “test-drive” the car. Thanks to a technology which has been developed exclusively for the DDR Museum by the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute. The technology gives visitors the opportunity to drive around a virtual estate of prefabricated houses, covering an area of 60.000 m². You won’t even need a driving licence!