The Trabi, East Germany's VW Beetle Offers Clunky Nostalgia

A Trabant 601S in Bucharest
A Trabant 601S in Bucharest
Stefan Anker

BERLIN - Anyone who owns a Trabant — or "Trabi" as the East German cars are called these days, often with a mixture of affection and amused derision — really wants to own one. But probably not as a financial investment, because even a beautifully maintained Trabant P601 fetches no more than 3,000 euros. Instead, Trabi owners are motivated by the nostalgia their cars inspire. Production ended in 1989, and anyone who maintains a Trabi is preserving a clunky little piece of history.

According to the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, there were still 32,485 Trabants on German roads as of Jan. 1 of this year, 488 fewer than the previous year. But the phenomenal decline in Trabant numbers witnessed after the re-unification of Germany has essentially halted, and the Trabant has become a cult hit that has captured the imagination of collectors and sentimentalists.

There are reams of jokes and anecdotes Trabant owners love retelling. ("Why does the deluxe Trabant have an electrically heated rear window? So your hands don't get cold when you’re pushing it.") They also love to discuss how ingenious some of the car's technical solutions were for back in the day.

And in 1957, that may have been true. But with each passing year, the Trabant’s loud two-stroke engine (26 horsepower, 600 cc) became more and more outdated, as did its Duroplast body, especially compared to Western cars, which constantly had to improve to deal with intense competition from abroad.

What’s more, Trabants took a long time to produce, and they were certainly not rust-proof: Many a Trabi frame rusted away.

So over the years Trabis became the stuff of caricature, particularly in the West where there was no emotional tie to it.

What spoke most for the Trabant — whose creator, Werner Lang, recently died at age 91 — was that it existed at all. "We were able to go all over with it," is what former East Germans unfailingly remember about the car. Wait a minute, isn’t that the point of a car? Yes, but East Germans didn’t have any other cars. All they had was the Trabant.

As a symbol of mass motorization the Trabant was to East Germany what the Volkswagon Beetle was in the West, but with one crucial distinction: Though more than three million of them were built, the Trabant was never able to meet the huge demand for the cars. The production shortages became additional fodder for the jokes that are now just as much a part of the cult of the Trabant as the vehicles themselves.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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