Ampelmännchen (“little traffic light man”) keeps watch over pedestrians at a crossing near the Brandenburg Gate. He has become a virtual mascot for East German nostalgia, “Ostalgie”, after attempts to remove him from lights in the mid-1990s crossings drew widespread protests and is now found on pedestrian lights throughout Berlin.
Berlin – Fact Check

How a little green man became a Berlin cult

Photo by Norbert Michalke

Berlin – Fact Check How a little green man became a Berlin cult

I never thought I’d return home from Berlin with a souvenir of a road safety symbol. But that’s the curious charm of Ampelmann, the little green man seen on traffic lights in the old East Germany. The authorities even tried to remove him after the Berlin Wall fell, but he’s here to stay.

Meera Dattani
Meera Dattani Travel Writer

Maybe it’s his waddling stance. Or perhaps that tilted hat perched on his large head. Whatever the reason, this unlikely icon of the old East Germany has endeared himself to locals and visitors, turning him into Berlin’s unofficial symbol. And since 2004, his female counterpart Ampelfrau has also been helping locals and visitors cross the road.

Creator Karl Peglau and industrial designer Markus Heckhausen made the first Ampelmann lamps in 1996. Heckhausen noticed the discarded traffic lights following reunification and decided to create something with the original glass. Now, dedicated stores sell Ampelmann-related paraphernalia – mugs, bottle-openers, T-shirts, mouse mats, even pasta.

To enter a shop and leave empty-handed is a real challenge – one I failed spectacularly.

Take me to Ampelmann!

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Berlin is relatively flat and cycling friendly, with an estimated 700 bicycles per 1000 residents. As Germany’s largest city, its population of 3.5million includes almost 500,000 who are members of some 1,900 sports associations, with soccer, gymnastics and tennis being by far the most popular fitness activities. Photo by Lucas Vallecillos

Lucas Vallecillos

Lucas Vallecillos

Canon EOS 5D

Aperture
ƒ/2.8
Exposure
1/100
ISO
400
Focal
24 mm

Berlin is relatively flat and cycling friendly, with an estimated 700 bicycles per 1000 residents. As Germany’s largest city, its population of 3.5million includes almost 500,000 who are members of some 1,900 sports associations, with soccer, gymnastics and tennis being by far the most popular fitness activities.

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