Looking into your shopping cart in Germany, you may have no idea that you picked up Ostprodukte (products from East Germany). Reunification has proved a rocky road with many West German companies taking over from their eastern counterparts. But a select few products have toughed out the integration phase and even made it to national prominence in the 21st century.
Not just a product of "Ostalgie” (a combination of “Ost” (east) and “Nostalgie” (nostalgia)), these staple products for everyday life in Germany. Their history just makes them more interesting. Pretend you are Christiane from Good Bye, Lenin! and enjoy 5 East German products still around today.
Named for the Grimm's Little Red Riding Hood, this sparkling wine is still the preferred product of many German celebrations. The company has been turning out the bubbly since 1894 and was the market leader of the GDR.
After the country reunited, the company — like many other East German companies — faced collapse. But as the economy stabilizes, so did sales and in 2014 an estimated 115 million bottles of Rotkäppchen were sold and it is now Germany's market leader and a sterling example of a successful East German company.
The east German city of Bautzen is practically synonymous with its top product — Bautz'ner Senf (Bautzner mustard). The mustard comes in orange (scharf/spicy), yellow (pikant süß/spicy sweet) or top seller blue (mittelscharf/medium spicy) lids. Each little container only costs about 35 cents and is an authentic taste of East Germany.
For those really into mustard (the perfect pairing to Germany's many Wursts), the city holds a Bautzen Mustard Museum & Restaurant. It holds historic mustard cans, rare cookbooks about mustard and even a mustard bar for sampling. Try gourmet versions with flavorings of orange, horseradish, and beer.
This cheery green (for "go" or red for "stop") figure has become symbolic of East Berlin. Originally appearing on street lights around town, they were almost wiped out after reunification. Citing wiring deficiencies, all the old East German lights were being replaced by standard walk/stop men. Frustrated by the assumed supremacy of everything from the West, there was pushback and Ampelmännchen were saved.
Today, Ampelmännchen can be found throughout the city. On lights in both east and west, in gift shops, on t-shirts and even on cookie cutters. That guy gets around.
Just like Stilton cheese or Cologne's Kölsch beer, this Brandenburg specialty is regionally specific. Protected by the EU as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), these particular pickles can only come from the green forest area known as the Spreewald. Whenever Berliners take a day trip to boat its many canals, they are practically obligated to buy a pickle.
If you can't make it to the "Green Lung of Brandenburg", you can still enjoy these crispy gherkins. They are sold at practically any grocery store in the country and come in a variety of delicious flavors.
Once among the most desirable products in the DDR, these funny little cars are now more of an oddity — though still a desirable one. The Trabant was advertised as having room for four adults and luggage and being relatively fast. In reality, it was originally planned as a three-wheeled vehicle and provided cramped conditions. The West often joked about the "Trabis" capabilities, but the car has proved to have staying power.
Colorful caravans of the vehicle can be seen throughout Berlin on the popular Trabi-Safari tours with more sedate models owned by private citizens. The car has even become a semi-popular import to places like the USA due to its low cost and charm.