Old Trabant

This month marks 30 years since the end of Communist rule in Europe. Berlin Wall, that unmistakable symbol of the East/West divide, fell on the 9th November 1989. While scrolling on Twitter on the day of the anniversary, I came across this article by Ken Sweeney, where he calls Trabant cars “chariots of freedom”. What has a car got to do with the collapse of autocratic regime?

Well this. Trabants were manufactured in East Germany; I remember there were plenty of them in former Czechoslovakia. They were quite awful, a subject of ridicule and to this day bring back memories of those times. But, as Ken notes, they were also the vehicles that transported people from East Germany through the newly open border to the West. Thus, chariots of freedom.

Surprisingly, I happen to have some pics of them too.

This is from 2013 when I was visiting my family back home. Taken on a motorway, obviously, near or just out of Bratislava. Brother and me went on a short trip when we spotted it in front of us. Of course I had to take a pic. Looks like someone is a fan!

I never take pictures of cars, I never learnt to drive and I’m not interested in them but I never miss an opportunity for a good random or weird shot. Even long before I conceived the idea of Random and Weird Phone Shots.

There is also a model of Trabant displayed in Imperial War Museum in Salford Quays.

I just love how something so awful can decades later be thought of in any positive terms at all. I like a good redemption story.

They say a car needs to get you from A to B. For East Germans, that A and B were more than just places on a map.

Throwback – Polaroid 2004

I keep this photograph among my important possessions.

I’ve never personally used an instant camera–never even held one in my hand. The shot is from an event in my home town of Bratislava, organised by Kia, the car manufacturers, when they opened their first plant in Slovakia.

It was in one of the squares in city centre, where they set up a stage for traditional Korean performances (I remember we watched some cool drummers). Among the promotional material they were giving away, like key rings and stickers and bags, that sort of stuff, I don’t really recall exactly, they did Polaroid shots for people.

As you can observe, there is a Kia car in the picture and those two people in front of it are myself and my younger brother! I was 23 and he was 12. I had already left for UK by then, but was back for a visit.

So, the year was 2004. An interesting year, because that was when Slovakia (with 9 other countries) joined the EU. Here in UK, you bet they had a lot to say about that and not in a good way. But on one news program they also said that with Kia now establishing themselves in Slovakia, potential other car manufacturers will follow and the country might one day become a second Detroit. Amazingly, to this day, it was the only positive thing I heard about my country on British TV ever. Now fifteen years later, we have Brexit and car manufacturers are leaving Britain.

And that thing with second Detroit became true.

Obviously I wasn’t the one who took this pic, but I was the one who took the pic of the pic, so is it my pic or is it not my pic?