The Trabi-Monster

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

While I was in Prague, I was scootering around the back of the German Embassy trying to get a glimpse of a memorial statue located in the backyard. In a children’s playground, I climbed up on the see-saw (das Hin und Her) to see, well, what I could see.

A man came up from behind with his two daughters (which threw me quite embarassingly Hin, Her, and on my Hinter) and asked:
“Suchen Sie die Trabi?”
“Ja, wissen Sie wo ich kann sie besser sehen?”
“Die beste Absicht ist um die Ecke und dann entlang die Mauer.”
“Diese Mauer?” I point.
“Vielen Dank! Fast keine Touristen kommen hier, oder? Haha.”
“Haha, nein, nur Deutschen… Kommen Sie dann aus Berlin?”
“Oh, nein, ich bin Amerikanische Studentin…”

Wait. Wait. Spul that züruck for a second.

Somebody heard me speak German and then asked me “Kommen Sie dann aus Berlin?”

This is absolutely the best thing that has happened in ages. Sure, they probably only asked it because they couldn’t imagine why else somebody would want to hunt down this obscure memorial, and they were probably from Prague which means their judgement matters less, but trotzdem my German is decent enough for somebody somewhere to think I am native.

I practically skipped my way around the corner and to the following memorial:

The story behind it? In the summer of 1989, a bunch of East Germans vacationing in Prague decide they don’t want to go home, so they climb in the backyard of the West German embassy, pitch tents, and refuse to leave until they’re leaving to the West. The East German government finally relents on September 30, 1989, meaning they get their freedom only six weeks earlier than everyone else, which makes the story in retrospect sort of anticlimactic.

But imagine being there then! As far as you know, vacations to Prague are no longer going to exist in a few weeks (the reason so many people were in Prague that summer) and the Wall will be up for another twenty years, but after enduring one hell of a vacation, one that was real embarrassing for your government and drew renewed media attention to your situation, you have earned your family freedom–you’ve absolutely struck a blow at the Communist Man!

Given that, I’m a bit upset the memorial is as small and unreachable as it is, but it’s still pretty good. It’s a Trabi on feet, to represent all the Trabis they left behind en route to the West. I think it looks sort of like the Creature from the Commie Lagoon, namely not as brilliantly freedom-evoking as one would like, but hey. Evoking nightmares about Trabis out to eat you is a good end too.

(And you feel really cool for seeking it out once you realize that the plaque in only in Czech and German. My “damn, I’m good at German” mood lasted all day long.)

More to come later this week.

Eine bessere Berlinerin als JFK,

Lauren Stokes

The Phoenix