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Postcard from... Berlin


Communist East Germany may have been killed off with the fall of the Berlin Wall 23 years ago, but its products live on – and on. Some 90,000 former East German citizens queued up in freezing temperatures over the weekend to get into east Berlin's Yuletide phenomenon for insiders – a Christmas market dedicated to selling “Ossiware” – goods that were being produced in East Germany before 1989 and still are.

The vast selection of items on offer in Berlin's Velodrome indoor cycling stadium included special Christmas cake from Saxony's "Ore" mountains, photocopied examples of communist cookery books, "ice cream powder" from a firm called Komet and a famous totalitarian era bath foam called "Badusan", which comes complete with refillable yellow plastic duck and green fish-shaped dispensers.

The organisers said 140 East German manufacturers were selling goods at the "Ostpro" fair, which does a roaring trade for the three days it's held each year. The visitors were almost all former East German citizens aged 50 and older. Many travelled to Berlin to get their hands on products they thought had disappeared for ever with German reunification and the West German capitalist juggernaut which drove so many Ossi products off the market.

"Many of the visitors simply want to wallow in memories and rediscover the tastes and smells of their youth," insisted the fair's manager Ramona Oteiza. The term "Ostalgie" sprang up shortly after German reunification to denote nostalgia for the former communist east. It should not be underestimated.