Berlin hotel recreates East Germany

BERLIN – The four clocks behind the reception desk of Berlin’s new budget hotel Ostel show the hour in Moscow, Berlin, Havana, and Beijing. Time, however, appears to have stopped here sometime before 1989, when communism was still entrenched in all four capitals.

The Ostel offers a renewed whiff of life in the former German Democratic Republic, welcoming travelers with portraits of communist leaders adorning the walls.

Furnishings — except for mattresses, bed linens, sink and toilets — are the real thing, dug up by founders Daniel Helbig and Guido Sand from flea markets, friends, family and eBay.

But Helbig made clear it was not about pining for a return to the police-state.

“We had the idea of preserving a bit of GDR culture … (but) we are not crying for the East German regime,” said Helbig, who grew up in East Berlin and experienced its restrictions on freedom of expression and movement first hand.

Germany was divided into two after World War II, the capitalist West and communist East, and nowhere was the split more acutely felt than Berlin, where communist authorities built a wall through the city to prevent its citizens from leaving. The wall fell in 1989, and Germany was officially reunified in 1990.

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