Monday, June 18, 2007

I've been looking for freedom...

I was surprised to find this article on page one of the online version of the N.Y. Times the other day. When I went home to my mom's house this weekend I found an old picture of my dad and me cleaning our first Trabant or how we call it here: Trabi.

If I think back today it is quite difficult to imagine that the Trabi used to be our family car back in the day. We went on vacation in our Trabi, my parents built a house using it to haul material, and it was also the car that took us across the border into West Germany for the first time in our lives.

The article mentions that you had to wait forever to get a Trabant. It wasn’t such a problem to buy a used one if you had the money (the one on the picture was a used one). However, buying a new one was quite difficult since you had to wait for more than a decade to get one. My dad ordered a new Trabant when I was born in 1977. It was in the summer of 1989 when the letter arrived - the letter telling him that the car he ordered 13 years earlier was finally available. And he didn’t get the normal Trabant. He got the special version – the “Trabant 601 S de luxe”. It still sounds like music in my ears. The “de luxe” version came with a special interior: carpet, a low fuel light (in the normal version you had to open the hood and stick a plastic stick into the fuel tank, which was underneath the hood, to find out how much fuel is left…), fog lights, and reverse lights. He even paid extra for a radio and a heating system. In other words: that was the full package – the real deal!

I will never…and if I say never, I mean never….forget the moment when he came around the corner with this baby blue wonder for the first time. He asked me whether we should go for a ride. When I got into the car and rested my feet on this carpet that tells you “yes that’s a ‘de luxe’ ”, I knew instantly that I was the proudest son in the whole German Democratic Republic. I rolled down the window, took a deep breath, and we drove off to pick up mom from work.

Two cylinders and 26 horse powers took us down the road. My dad turned on the radio and what I heard was the only song that did the situation justice: “I’ve been looking for freedom”, sang buy a guy who was driving around a black car that talked to him in this TV-series that I was not allowed to talk about in school since you were not officially allowed to watch West German TV. The guy on the radio was David Hasselhoff and even though I know that I'm catering to a stereotype here I want to point out that I'm not making this up…

My dad didn’t take notice of the song because he was still shocked about sitting in his first brand new car after waiting for more than a decade. He was shocked again a couple of months later when the wall came down and he realized that he could have gotten 16.580 West-Mark for the 16.580 East-Mark that he bought the baby blue Trabi for…he could have easily afforded even a Mercedes, a used one that is...

We kept the car for quite a long time. My mother drove it until 1996 (she sold it in 2003) and was back then one of only a few people who stayed loyal to their Trabi. After I got my license she let me borrow it. The Trabi became the first car that I was driving around looking for freedom...


Blogger jeremy said...

Awesome story, Knassel.

6/19/2007 11:54 AM  
Blogger Huevos McGringo said...


6/20/2007 10:37 AM  
Blogger deuce deuce said...

Yes, Knassel, I really enjoyed it too. It conjured up images of the Yellow '79 Dodge Omni I drove around Savannah in high school (My only artistic accomplishment in 29 years were the flames we painted on the hood).

I think many of us can relate to that feeling of driving around "looking for freedom."

The article was great, too:
"I was drunk when I bought my first one. Now, I have 20." and
"With its 2 stroke engine, it accelerates from 0 to 60 in a leisurely 20 seconds." Right on.

6/20/2007 11:09 AM  

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