- How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
- GDR-Guide: A Journey To A Bygone State by Robert Rückel, Stefan Wolle, Katrin Strohl and Andreas Menn
- The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Oh dear...I've been a bit slack on the reading front this year. In my defence, rather a lot has been going on. But I need to catch up a bit.
This book is the official guidebook to the DDR Museum
in Berlin, which I visited when I went on holiday last month. I'll review the museum at the same time, because they're obviously very closely related. It's a museum all about everyday life in the former East Germany, aka the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or German Democratic Republic. Rather an ironic name to be honest, because it was very much a dictatorship, but anyway...the museum is there to show what everyday life was like in a country that has just disappeared. East Germany was the first former communist nation to become part of NATO and the EU, so a lot of things changed very rapidly, and the museum has been opened to preserve as much East German history and culture as possible. It was absolutely fascinating - the remit of the museum is very large and it covers just about everything. It's got some obvious things in it, like a Trabant, but it also features things like recreated rooms from a typical flat, a cinema showing newsreels, lots of displays of everyday objects and products, and loads of little things that show just how different life was from the way we live in the West. Despite all of East Germany's problems and the rather brutal nature of the government, the museum was positive and uplifting, showing how people made the best of a bad situation and managed to have fun despite perennial shortages and a serious lack of freedom.
Display cabinets were largely made to look like the huge blocks of concrete flats that filled the East German landscape - Berlin is still full of them. You're encouraged to poke around in drawers and cupboards, and handle objects for yourself, so it's all very hands-on and interactive. You get a real glimpse of the culture and nature of the place - it was really immersive in that regard. Particular favourite exhibits for me included loads of books, records, documents and other little bits of everyday ephemera. The recreated flat is really cool, and only when leaving it did I notice a sign informing me that conversations in the flat could be overheard elsewhere in the museum - sadly, this was reality for many people, as the secret police, the dreaded Stasi, were very fond of bugging people's homes. The Stasi got some attention in the museum, but it didn't dominate things - the Stasi Museum is there for that, and I visited that too. Anyway, here's a few pictures of the museum.
An English language Trabant manual. Interesting because I'm pretty sure these were never sold in the UK, unlike a lot of other Communist Bloc cars like Skodas, Ladas and Polski Fiats.
Some East German cameras and films. Praktica and Orwo were the big brands here. Abby has a Praktica SLR knocking about somewhere.
Kick back and relax with some music from state-run record label Amiga, and a couple of beers.
Life in East Germany was often a bureaucratic nightmare - this is a desk in a section of the museum devoted to the terrifying nature of the country's government.
Recreation of a Stasi prison cell, which you'd spend a lot of time in if you were unfortunate to be deemed politically dodgy.
Reading material from East Germany and other fraternal socialist states.
Travel documents. Even travelling to other Eastern Bloc nations was tricky. Apparently East Germans were loathed by the citizens of other communist nations.
Communist Lego? Build yourself an authentic model Series 70 tower block! Wow, how exciting! These dismal buildings eventually comprised 42% of East Germany's housing stock.
Interior of such a flat...apparently all furniture was made to standard dimensions to fit inside the flats.
So there you are - a great museum that I was keen to remember. The guidebook contains pretty much all the text from the displays in the museum, along with a lot of other details and some great colour photos. It's really informative and a brilliant souvenir from a fascinating place. If you're ever in Berlin, I'd strongly recommend a visit, and pick up the guidebook too. It's available in German, English and a couple of other languages as well, if I recall. The Girl Who Played With Fire
I expected to finish reading this while I was on holiday, but in the event it's taken me much longer than that. Not because it's a bad book - just because I ended up not getting much time to read it while I was away, and shortly after I got back I lost my job, so I've been busy looking for another one. Anyway, enough of that. I finished it today.
Bit of a mixed bag in places, and some of it was a bit implausible, but it did keep me reading, and was pretty exciting, like the first one. Lisbeth Salander is quite wonderfully dysfunctional and I really like her as a character, despite her antisocial tendencies. :) Plenty of action and a couple of twists, and a lot of character development, building on the first book and the events in it. You get to find out a lot of what makes her tick as a character, and it's interesting. Looking forward to the third one, although I don't know where it is at the moment...next on the list is another book I picked up in Germany, so I'll read that and review the Stasi Museum at the same time.
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