Friday, 20 January 2012

The Ampelmann

One of the more interesting Christmas presents I received this year was an Ampelmann. The Ampelmann, was the "go" symbol for pedestrians at traffic lights in the former German Democratic Republic (DDR). Upon reunification in 1990 the Ampelmann, like everything else in the DDR, was considered inferior and replacement by its western equivalent - similar to the UK's version - started in earnest five years later. But by then the citizens of the former east Germany had begun to realise that life in the west was not as perfect as they had been led to believe and a certain degree of "ostalgia" (nostaligia for the ost -(east)) had developed. A campaign to save the Ampelmann was fought and won. Its use was extended to traffic lights in the former west Berlin and, after studies have shown that pedestrians reacted better to it - and its red "stop" equivalent, it has even appeared in west German cities for which a female version - the Ampelfrau - was developed.
My fridge magnet came from an unashamedly capitalist enterprise that markets nostaligic ephemera of all sorts and its advertising suggests that its products are "beautiful images. . .from the good old times", although I'm not sure how many former residents of the DDR think of it as the good old days!

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