This morning I did a “Crazy Communist Tour” where you are picked up at 8.30am in an old East German Trabant “car” and taken around Krakow and shown some sites that are relevant the Soviet occupation period, especially the “Nova Huta” area, which was a model communist village built to house workers on the giant steel plant.
For those that don’t know what a Trabant is, this was the most common communist “car” made in East Germany from the mid 1950s to about 1990 when communism collapsed. They never really changed it, it remained pretty much the same design for about 30 years of manufacture.
It has about a 30 horse power engine. When I say horse, I mean Communist Rocking horses. The ride in the Trabant was fantastic, imagine riding in traffic on a ride on lawnmower with a plastic roof, and that just about sums up what the experience is. Noisy, smelly, slow and with a tinge of danger. Almost everyone you pass turns their head to look at it and smiles as you chug past and leave them a cloud of exhaust pollutants accelerating from 0 to 60 in Stalin’s life time.
The “car” has seatbelts in the front, but I doubt they would actually help in an accident give the structure and layout of the car. The fuel tank is located in the engine bay, which just adds to the excitement knowing not only would you most likely die if stuck by another car, it would probably end in a spectacular fireball as well.
I highly recommend a ride !!
Nova Huta was built by the communist government for political as well as economic reasons, Krakow was considered rather “Elitist” at the time given its history as a University town and the government wanted to move “workers” into the area to dilute the political influence of the existing residents. Many people wanted to move from other areas of Poland to get an apartment as they had running water, electricity and central heating which was unheard of in the 1950s. It has wide Avenues, it was sort of modelled off Paris, although in reality its nothing like Paris, apart from being located in Europe.
We also visited a communist restaurant where we were shown some various pictures of when Nova Huta was built and had a shot of vodka (mine was a hazelnut flavour) then drove to an area where we took some photos near the entrance to the steel works and visited an area where there is an old Soviet built tank on display.
After this we went to an apartment that is in original condition, surprised how spacious, bigger than some 2 bedroom units in Australia. We were shown an old propaganda film, had some more Vodka and a polish pickle. Both were quite delicious. The apartment contained lots of old products from the communist time. Apparently toilet paper was an extremely rationed product, and everyone was granted a yearly allotment of 10 roles each !
At the end of the tour we went to traditional polish “milk bar” where the cost of all food (except the meat) is subsidised by the government. very popular with pensioners. There used to be thousands in Poland, now only about 100 left, and 5 are in Nova Huta. The food was extremely cheap, the cost of the meal for three of us was about AUD$5 and there was more food than we could finish.
This was a fantastic tour and I highly recommend doing it you visit Krakow. Here is a link to the website where I booked the tour.
Here is a little video I put together with the GoPro “QuickView” software:-