20 June 2007

Berlin hotel recreates East Germany communist chic

This just might be the best thing ever. Usually you'll stumble across these places in Eastern Europe, frozen in time and they are always amazing. But this hotel is doing it on purpose and I think I'm gonna need to go back there ASAP.

The four clocks behind the reception desk of Berlin's new budget Ostel Hotel show the hour in Moscow, Berlin, Havana, and Beijing. Time, however, appears to have stopped here sometime before 1989, when communism was still entrenched in all four capitals. Hells yeah! Bad time for the common folk, good time for fashion and interior design. Holla!

The Ostel offers a renewed whiff of life in the former German Democratic Republic, welcoming travelers with portraits of communist leaders adorning the walls. The furnishings — except for mattresses, bed linens, sinks and toilets — are the real thing, dug up by founders Daniel Helbig and Guido Sand from flea markets, friends, family and eBay.

But Helbig made clear it was not about pining for a return to the police-state. "We had the idea of preserving a bit of GDR culture ... but we are not crying for the East German regime," said Helbig, who grew up in East Berlin and experienced its restrictions on freedom of expression and movement first hand.

The Ostel, which opened on May Day — the traditional worker's holiday under communism — represents a broader phenomenon known as Ostalgie, or fascination with life in the former East Germany. Ostalgie, like Ostel, is a play on the German word for east — ost. I never knew there was a word for this communist chic obsession! How cool!

There are rooms that replicate bedrooms from typical East German apartments, from about $50 a night. At the other end of the scale, $12-per-bed Pioneer Camp dorm rooms feature two bunk beds and spartan living conditions evocative of the summer camps of the Free German Youth, the party youth organization. I've definitely stayed in hostels that look just like this.

Check out the hotel's website where you can view all the rooms and read the full article here.

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