Spies and watch-towers make a hell of a holiday

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The Independent Online
IF YOU always wondered what it was like behind the Iron Curtain, but were too afraid to go and find out for yourself at the time, never mind, you may yet get the chance.

Just four years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Frank Georgi, a businessman from the former East Germany, is seeking permission to re-create, in miniature, the Communist state on a 500-acre plot just north of Berlin. Like the real thing, his 'theme park with a difference' would be ringed with barbed wire, manned by guards in watch-towers and infested with snooping secret policemen.

No pains will be spared to ensure that all visitors receive an authentic East German 'experience': the only cars for hire (with a 12-day waiting list) will be Trabants; most of the shops will be empty most of the time; meals will be eaten with aluminium cutlery and the lavatory paper - specially rough - will bear the brand name 'Stalin's revenge'.

'The aim is to make this an amusement park,' says Mr Georgi who, in the summer of 1989, aged 24, fled to the West via the West German embassy in Prague. 'But it will also be a teaching device and a monument to the past.'

In addition to nostalgic east Germans, Mr Georgi hopes that 'Ossi Park', as his project has been nicknamed, will attract schoolchildren from west Germany to be shown just how 'primitively' the other half lived. In addition, he is banking on strong interest from wealthy American and Japanese tourists who somehow hanker after the chill and thrill of those Cold War days.

If approved, 'Ossi Park' will cost an estimated DM150m ( pounds 60m) to build and bring some 200 jobs to Prenden, the nearest town to the proposed site. Locals, however, are strongly against it. Having put up for years with the 96-mile concrete wall surrounding nearby West Berlin, they are not keen to see it all again on their doorsteps - even in make-believe.

'The town totally rejects this idea,' Paul Alesius, the Mayor of Prenden, said yesterday. 'It really is sheer insolence.'

Joy and anger in Berlin, page 12

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