Driving in Berlin… Eastern Style

Driving a Trabi

Not more than 15 minutes walk from my hotel is the start and end point for the so called ‘Trabi Safari’ tours. For an hour or two, you can rent a Trabant – the cars they drove in East Germany – and go on a tour of the city.

Travelling in convoy, the guide in the lead car gives a commentary over the radio. You can choose between 1 hour and 2 hour tours – I chose the shorter one, to give me enough time to get back to the hotel to collect my luggage before departing for the Airport.

The tour I went on was the ‘Wild West’ tour – a quick drive around the Western part of the city; going in to the East once or twice. You can also choose a tour entirely in East Berlin, or the ‘Wall Ride’ which covers both East and West – but the Wild West tour was the one which worked with my schedule, so I went on that one.

You drive the cars yourself – and as such you need a valid driving licence to be able to drive it, and it’s worth saying that you are driving on public roads so you need to follow the German traffic rules and regulations.

Luckily, travelling in convoy it is not too difficult to see where you are supposed to go – just follow the car in front and you’ll be OK. If the traffic lights change and you become separated from the rest of the group (as I and the car behind me did several times), no problem – the others will wait for you.

At one point, I lost sight of the convoy completely, but all was OK – the guide could see we didn’t make it through the lights and told us simply to take the second exit at the roundabout and then they would be waiting for us on the right hand side.

I found it quite fun to drive my trabant. The gear lever takes a bit of getting used to but after 10 minutes I was driving like an East German and before long I had found myself in 4th gear in the middle lane of a 3 lane highway leading up to the Brandenburg Gate. Now that was a sight to enjoy!

Trabants are very light – so even though they have 2-stroke engines which make them sound like little mopeds, when you put your foot down, they do go. Sort of. As one text I sent to someone earlier said “I didn’t speed. Keeping up with the car in front would be a more accurate description”.

This is in fact the first time I have driven outside the UK – the first time I’ve driven in the center of a capital city (although Greenwich and Blackheath are harder than Berlin’s Mitte district).

It was a last minute decision to do this, but I’m glad I did – I really enjoyed it and I’m sure I would have regretted it had I not even had a go. I might not be the most experienced driver, but in a Trabant everyone is in the same boat (the Americans behind me had never driven a manual before – learning to drive a Trabant having only driven automatics is really quite hard)!

Before long, we drove past Checkpoint Charlie and back in to the compound to park our Trabants.

Then, I headed back to the hotel to collect my luggage, got a Taxi to the Airport, and am now about to rush off to the gate which has just come up on screen.

So that’s the end of my weekend in Berlin. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading all about my German adventure.

Bye for now.


Fred Hart

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