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Thread: Communist Kitsch

  1. #1

    Default Communist Kitsch

    Iron curtain all that's absent in retro hotel
    Communism wasn't that bad, was it? If you feel that way -- and many seem to, writes Tom Hundley -- your room awaits at the quirky Ostel.

    Chicago Tribune Tom Hundley November 26, 2007
    BERLIN - When you check into the Ostel, a small, anonymous hotel a few blocks from the eastern train station, it's almost as if the Anti-Fascist Protection Wall, as it was known in this part of the city, still divides Berlin.

    From behind the reception desk, a portrait of Wilhelm Pieck, the first president of communist East Germany, smiles benignly. A row of clocks records the time in the comradely capitals of Moscow, Havana and Peking.

    You can sleep at the Ostel for as little as 9 euros (about $13) a night if you are willing to share a Pioneer Room with five other people.

    Or you can splurge on a standard single that costs 38 euros ($56), but you still have to share a bathroom.

    The idea of the Ostel -- the name is a play on the German word for east, ost, and hostel or hotel -- was hatched by Daniel Helbig and Guido Sand, two former Ossies who worked as acrobats in the East German state circus.

    According to Sand, they got the idea while hiking in a rural area near Berlin and coming across a perfectly preserved but completely abandoned Pioneer Youth camp.

    "We thought people would enjoy staying in a place like that, but we realized we wouldn't make any money [in a rural location], so we went looking for a building in Berlin," said Sand, who now works as a physiotherapist when he's not helping out at the hotel.

    After finding a suitably dreary building, they went on a collecting spree for authentic East German furnishings.

    "We asked grannies and aunties; we looked on eBay; we went to flea markets and antique stores; we checked in newspapers when old people died," he said.

    Their haul included several vintage radio consoles as big as refrigerators and a conference table from a hunting lodge used by the Stasi, the regime's hated secret police.

    Since opening May 1 (a date not chosen by accident), the Ostel has done a brisk business. Some guests come for a taste of what Germans call ostalgie, a nostalgic yearning for the artifacts of the vanished German Democratic Republic.

    Others are drawn by the bargain prices.

    For Nina Holzem, 26, who was in Berlin recently for a business meeting, it was a little of both.

    "I try to pick hotels that are a little bit different, and this sounded like a cute idea," said Holzem, who works for a Frankfurt publisher.

    The rooms are fine, she said, although somewhat spartan. She also missed having room service. "To be honest, I wouldn't send my parents here," she added.

    What is slightly puzzling to outsiders is the eagerness with which Germans have transformed communism into kitsch, and the way ostalgie has become a lucrative cottage industry.

    For Russians, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and others who endured corrupt and misanthropic socialist regimes, there is no similar sentimental yearning for the bad old days of secret police and shoddy consumer goods.

    No surprise then that Ostel's quirky brand of humor is usually lost on guests from the former Soviet bloc.

    Especially the Russians with the pretty young women on their arms, Sand said.

    "They were looking for something cheap on the Internet, but when they arrive here, they get angry and start yelling. They say it's like a hotel in Russia. They don't think it's funny at all," he said.

    Out of deference to these guests, Sand and Helbig have toned it down a bit. They no longer "bug" the Stasi Suite with little plastic insects.
    "All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." -- Abraham Lincoln

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Communist Kitsch

    Seems like a perfect hotel for a wrestler going to a tourney who is on a low budget.

    Really though the re were many good hotels during communism. It is pretty sad how the West always sees only the negative.

    America has its share og garbage as well. Just go to Manhattan or Harlem and look how low income people live.

    Go to New Orleans.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Communist Kitsch

    I just thought it was interesting that they were trying to save the objects that typified the era and put them together in a place where people could see them and use them. Too many boring Best Westerns in the world anyway.
    "All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." -- Abraham Lincoln

  4. #4

    Default Re: Communist Kitsch

    It is pretty sad how the West always sees only the negative.

    Coming from a chipper fellow such as yourself, that's quite a criticism.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Communist Kitsch

    Quote Originally Posted by Flop The Nuts View Post
    It is pretty sad how the West always sees only the negative.

    Coming from a chipper fellow such as yourself, that's quite a criticism.
    Big's probably busy right now- starting a thread and writing a whole chapter about the stock market being up over 200 points today. I'm pretty sure that's what he's doing.
    "All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." -- Abraham Lincoln

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    Default Re: Communist Kitsch

    Quote Originally Posted by BonnieJ2 View Post
    Big's probably busy right now- starting a thread and writing a whole chapter about the stock market being up over 200 points today. I'm pretty sure that's what he's doing.

    Nothing really to write bonnie. Al Qaeda financial donors gave Citigroup $7.5 billion dollars. Meanwhile they also talked Saudi Arabia into increasing oil production to get their money back swiftly to provide Al Qaeda with more bombs. That is why stock market is up and oil prices are a bit lower:

    Stock markets snapped back today after promising news emerged from the Middle East.

    Financial shares rose after the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a Middle Eastern sovereign fund, made a $7.5 billion investment in Citigroup, which is struggling to work off its exposure to subprime mortgage securities. Shares of Citigroup were up 1.4 percent in midday trading.

    Meanwhile, crude oil futures fell nearly $3 a barrel after Saudi Arabia’s oil minister announced an increase in production levels. The price decline briefly allayed fears that expensive energy will drag down consumer spending over the holidays.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/bu...hp&oref=slogin

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Communist Kitsch

    Notice the last sentence claims that $94 per barrel oil instead of $97 will help Americans buy more goods. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. They really do treat us like suckers.

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