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Wednesday 19 June 2024

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Trabant Garde – the ultimate German tour


Grab yourself a taste of Eastern Bloc culture with an iconic drive around the sights of Berlin in an authentic two-stroke Trabi

It’s almost twenty-one years since the historic fall of the Berlin wall, that most iconic of all symbols of the iron curtain, liberated the long-oppressed citizens of the German Democratic Republic. The official reunification of east and west Germany on October 3rd, 1990, saw a clashing of cultures, none so conspicuous as that cursory measure of personal success and wealth – the car we drive.

While affluent, capitalistic westerners flounced round in their Mercedes, BMWs, Volkswagens and – if they’d really made it – Porsches, the downtrodden denizens of the ghettoed east end had to make do with Wartburgs and Trabants.

Outside of the GDR, nobody ever really took the Trabant seriously. Come to think of it, neither did anyone inside it, but for a cash-strapped society under communist rule, it meant transport. It may not have been the last word in luxury, but the faithful little Trabi gave wheels to the people, albeit not very fast or stylish ones.

Of all the Eastern Bloc cars that made up the staple of cheap motoring throughout the last decades of the 20th century, the humble Trabant seemed the least likely to survive. Yet while populations of ancient Skodas, Ladas and Moskviches gradually rusted from the face of the earth, the smoky little two-stroke gained itself a cult following that immortalised it as the very essence of the division of Berlin, carving itself a nostalgic niche in the hearts and minds of car enthusiasts throughout the world; not many visitors to Berlin leave without the obligatory model Trabi in their suitcase.

Well now you can go a stage further. Trabi Safari, based in the German capital, actually give you the chance to take the wheel of the minxish motor yourself, as you take an indulgent drive along the site where the infamous wall once stood, absorbing the sights of both east and west Berlin along the way, with a quirky commentary provided via a radio link.

If you just fancy having a stab at driving one, you can opt for a straight-forward twenty minute spin following a driver in a lead Trabi who’ll give you tips and hints along the way. This will set you back €15 per person, but if you fancy venturing €40 each, you’ll get the full-on safari experience, being part of a convoy of six brightly liveried cars all following a leader. This tour lasts an hour, and you can fit up to four people in each car – I’ll stop short of saying ‘in comfort’.

If it’s a gorgeous summer’s day, you might want to select one of the specially modified convertibles. Me, I like my Trabi organic, the way nature intended, so I chose one in Bolshevik beige complete with roof and hubcaps. It’s a feisty little beast to tame, especially with its ‘revolver’ gearshift, and I wouldn’t want to take one very far, but it was great fun and very rewarding.

And when you return your trusty little Trabi? What better souvenir than an ‘authentic’ Trabant driving licence! All part of the service, of course.

BallonGarten (at WELT-Ballon) 
Zimmerstrasse 97 / corner Wilhelmstrasse
10117 Berlin-Mitte

Trabi Safari
BallonGarten (at WELT-Ballon)
Zimmerstrasse 97 / corner Wilhelmstrasse
10117 Berlin-Mitte


Tel.: +49 3027 592273


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