Travel Report: DDR Museum, Berlin.
April 2013. Berlin is home to some of Europe’s best museums, particularly those connected to World War II, The Holocaust and The Berlin Wall. Visit just a few of those sights back to back though and it can all start to get pretty heavy, there’s only so much misery and suffering you can digest before mental and physical tiredness sets in. A good option then, in the interest of mixing things up, is the unique and quirky DDR Museum. The exhibits here are all about showing typical daily life in socialist East Germany between 1949 and 1990.
April 2013. I loved the fact that DDR Museum is a touchy-feely affair, with almost everything being interactive. A big part of the museum is comprised of a self-guided walk through the different parts of a typical Platteanbau Apartment. These cheap, prefabricated concrete buildings were thrown up in huge numbers during the 1960s as an answer to Germany’s housing crisis. Inside the individual living spaces it was all plastic, chrome and wood. This is the living room, where… luxury of all luxuries…. there was a color TV!
April 2013. The exhibit on East German fashion is brilliant, with some wonderful photographs and glass case displays of actual clothing donated and sold by those who lived through the times. Generally speaking, clothing was typically grey and shapeless with a penchant for uniform stripes or spots. A woman wearing a skirt could be construed as rebellious in some neighborhoods! There’s even a dress up section if you want to get hands-on, while at the DDR Museum shop visitors can even walk away with a retro design all of their own.
April 2013. DDR Museum also has a section on popular socialist food, medicine and cosmetic products with original pieces of butter, soda, laundry detergent, liquor and skim cream. Amusing at first glance, but less so when you read about the chronic food shortages of the time and that any kind of cosmetic product was seen as an extravagance! The DDR Restaurant meanwhile offers up modern twists on socialist mainstay recipes such as stuffed cabbage in bacon and potatoes with sauerkraut.
April 2013. While most of the museum is pleasingly lighthearted in tone, a visit here can’t be made without delving into the murky world of The Stasi, The East German Secret Police and so-called Ministry for State Security that spied on the East German people and had citizen informants all over the place. The DDR Museum paints a sinister picture of how fear and paranoia became a part of daily life. This photo shows the interactive GDR Army wall, with its info on national service, uniforms and military parades.
April 2013. Anyone who fell foul of The Stasi would find themselves bundled into an East German prison cell and DDR Museum has its own mock up where visitors can get a feel for some good old fashioned Stasi hospitality. If you’re into your movies, a highly recommended cinematic masterpiece about these times is The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen), recipient of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film.
DDR Museum is located at Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 1 just across the road from Berlin Cathedral. It’s open daily between 10:00-20:00. Walk-in tickets are €10 for adults, €6 for kids. If you dig around online some providers offer admission for as low as €5.50 with a skip the queue option. For more info, head to DDR Museum’s official website.
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