Get a whiff of 'Ostalgie' with Eau de Trabant

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The Independent Online

"Trabi Duft", a tin of exhaust fumes from the ubiquitous East German car, is the latest in a seemingly unending line of "Ostalgie" products marketed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although many argue that the books, films, music, food and drink inspired by the defunct German Democratic Republic encourage a far too sentimental image of a regime which shot those who tried to escape it, the thirst for Ostalgie continues.

Producers of eau de Trabant, costing a socialist €3.98 (£2.75) a can, stress it is not intended for cosmetic use. But they say it remains the closest we will get to recapturing the true smell of East Germany.

"There used to be so many Trabis in the GDR, the entire country used to smell of them," said Thorsten Jahn, who developed Trabi Duft and sells it on his website, "Now you can count the number of Trabants on the fingers of one hand. I decided we just had to preserve this unique smell for future generations."

Mr Jahn, 32, from the former East German town of Eisenhüttenstadt, has long since swapped his Trabant for a Volkswagen Passat. He has had to borrow Trabant cars from friends to siphon off the precious scent.

"It was quite hard to get the smell into the can at first," he admitted. In the end he enlisted the help of a friendwho pulled out the choke and put his foot down while Mr Jahn sat at the exhaust pipe with the can. Each Trabi Duft tin is stuffed with cotton-wool to ensure that the oily smell is absorbed and takes just 10 seconds to fill. Now, with hundreds of orders for eau de Trabant, from as far afield as Italy, Mr Jahn employs an entire team dedicated to producing the scent.

"We're constantly getting orders; it's a real hit," said Mr Jahn. "One old guy told me the other day he'd had a Trabi for more than 30 years, but eventually got a West German car. He missed the smell so much he said he absolutely had to get his hands on Trabi Duft."

Trabants, known affectionately as Trabis, were produced by the East German car-maker Sachsenring and became the most popular vehicle in former Communist countries. Lightweight and easy to repair, the GDR people-carriers had a plastic body and two-stroke engine, but production was slow and even the most loyal comrades often had to wait years before they got one. Now a cult car, they are hired by tourists going on "Trabi Safaris", but the cars are unreliable and, in GDR times, ran on cheap, dirty petrol.

Not that opening a can of Trabi Duft (the smell lingers for 14 days) will make you ill. Mr Jahn says the cotton wool filters out any toxic particles. "I wouldn't stick my nose in too deep, though," he warned. "And don't open the can in the living-room. You'll have real trouble with your wife if you do that."