Coming out of the Ostbanhof train station, you will quickly spot the big sign painted on the façade of the Soviet-style concrete apartment block, asking you to walk another 50 meters and go up the stairs to the reception. There, in what looks like an old-fashioned waiting-room, a receptionist resembling an administrative secretary is sitting behind a giant counter, framed by a row of wall clocks indicating the respective times in Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, and Havana. In the corner, a voluminous television set resting on a wooden cabinet projects washed-out, hazy images of political summits from a bygone era.
There is no doubt: This is Ostel Hostel, the Berlin budget accommodation that decided to appropriate the hoax from the movie Goodbye Lenin and run away with it!
The concept of this GDR-themed hostel is simple: to recreate the look and atmosphere of 1970s East Germany housing. Playing on the idea of “ostalgia” (nostalgia for the East), it mimics the traditional block apartments inhabited by East Berliners before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The hostel’s commitment to the GDR theme extends to every part of the building, from the “lobby area” (an impersonal row of doctor’s waiting-room chairs) to the bedrooms decorated with pattern wallpaper that would just about be acceptable in your grandmother’s house, and kitsch furnishings.
The charm lies in the attention to detail: it’s hard to repress a grin as you discover the retro transistor and Soviet-approved pile of books on your bed table, or the vintage pictures in the – otherwise clean and modern – bathroom.
While it offers single rooms, double rooms, and a holiday apartment in addition to dorms, Ostel Hostel nevertheless remains mainly a budget option: the rooms are small and the amenities limited. If you’re after space and luxury, then this may not be the right place to lay your head.
However, budget travelers looking for a unique and amusing experience can’t do much better than step 45 years back in time to spend a night in the former German Democratic Republic. And for a complete GDR experience, why not follow your stay at the Ostel with a visit of Berlin’s interactive DDR Museum?