Thursday, November 13, 2008


That basically translates to crossing light man and he is a pretty big deal in Berlin! This fellow, who seems to be universally described as "jaunty," is the East Berlin version. Over the years he became very popular in East Germany for teaching young children traffic safety. In the early days of reunification, he was in danger of becoming extinct. There were great efforts to turn Berlin back into one city instead of the two that had existed for over thirty years. They were anxious to get rid of reminders of the differences and separateness. East Berlin needed some modernization and the traffic signals apparently had antiquated electronics so they had to go. But Ampelmann was adopted by an industrial engineer and soon there was an outcry from the media and the public to save him. He has now showed up at some street crossings in former West Berlin, and elsewhere in western Germany. It seems that time has lent some perspective and not all that was East German is discarded. He has grown over the last decade into a kind of cult symbol of Berlin and the merchandising has been quick to follow. Now you can find Ampelmann keychains, bottle openers, pasta, gummi candy, t-shirts, bags, soccer balls.... Even though we knew it was a tourist trap, we couldn't help but go into the shop. It's hard not to like Ampelmann, both for his jaunty stride and for what he represents in Berlin.

1 comment:

cortina said...

ben found a super cheap ticket to berlin so he'll probably be visiting in dec or jan. he better bring me back some ampelmann gummis and shirts for the kids!