Gain insight into how East Berlin residents lived during the Cold War on this two-hour self-drive tour. You’ll get to drive a Trabant, or Trabi as locals affectionately call them, around Berlin in a convoy while your guide relays directions and historical facts through your car radio. A compact and boxy car, the Trabant is extremely basic and has no extra features — not even a fuel gauge — but is synonymous with daily life in East Germany.
Highlights of the tour include Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point, and the Brandenburg Gate, the backdrop for President Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’ speech. You’ll also see the Reichstag, where German Parliament meets and the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall.
Though largely abandoned as soon as the Cold War was over, Trabants are resilient little cars that gained a new lease on life as a fun way to explore Berlin. You’ll make your way to the meeting location, where a local expert will teach you how to drive the manual-shift car. After your quick lesson on how to deal with the sometimes-stiff gears, you’ll head out in a convoy of Trabants, following your guide’s modern car through the city.
The guide will relay historical information and directions through your Trabant’s car radio, but you won’t be able to communicate back. The tour will take around about two hours, and you’ll pass the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and the East Side Gallery.
The glass-domed, neo-Baroque Reichstag was the seat of government from 1916 until it caught fire in 1933. It was further damaged during the 1945 air raids. It was finally restored in 1964, and in 1990 hosted the German reunification ceremony. It was reconstructed and opened as the seat of government once again in 1999.
You’ll also get to see Checkpoint Charlie on your tour, the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point during the Cold War. Today, there’s a small shack, a replica of the one used by American forces, that reads ‘US Army Checkpoint’. There is also a large sign on the side of the road that reads ‘You are now leaving the American sector’ as you head toward what was East Berlin.
As you drive, you’ll pass the Brandenburg Gate. The neoclassical monument is a long-time symbol of the city and is recognisable as the backdrop of President Reagan’s stern directive, ‘Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall’.
You’ll also get to see the East Side Gallery, the open-air gallery of murals painted on the longest remaining remnant of the Berlin Wall. The section is 1,316 m (4,318 feet) long and serves as a monument to the fall of the Wall and peaceful negotiation.
Your tour will end at the same place it began.
Please note: Before the tour, you’ll have to sign a release stating that you are responsible for up to 500 Euros worth of damages to the vehicle. It’s a slow convoy and bouncy over Berlin’s cobblestone streets. Trabants are manual drive, and due to their age, the gear shifts can be stiff. Germans drive on the right side of the road, and you must have a valid driving licence from your home country.