I AM CHRISTOPHER LEACH THE ARTIST. I started this blog so that I can share with everyone my vast collection of transport photographs showing a personal and nostalgic view of the industry with images that span some 45 years taking in the U.K and some of Europe. I have no darkroom and so rather than being the perfectionist after tidying them up I upload the images warts and all, and even those that won't scan squarely or are scratched. In a way it adds age and character. You are all free to download these for your personal use but please remember I still own them and you are not just free to use them without prior permission for any knd of publishing. Click on images to enlarge them and if you want to see more leave your comments or visit my website for the mother-site with galleries including those Buses & Girls: PICTUREWORLD

Thursday 19 March 2009

East Berlin: Umbrella's up it's that Grey Sunshine

Both East and West Berlin next door had a greyness about them that reminded me of the unhealthy days in Britain before smokeless fuels, and one can actually see the soot filled atmosphere like a rain in this scene, one in which those Trabants belching out their two-stroke fumes did not help. Now of course the air seems cleaner but there are still just as much in the way of car fumes as the former East Berlin has joined the high-octane traffic-jam culture of The West. I quite miss East Berlin as it was as it was so different to the West which still bore scars from The War whereas in the East with it's pinched economy and eerie feel one was made to feel it never quite ended and they had entered a different world and time.


Andy R said...

East Germany cities were also filled with that special smell which was something between sweet and sticky and was just a tad like cheap whisky (but probably a lot more noxious). It was caused by the burning of that peculiar sandy lignite they open-casted in the eastern parts of Brandenburg, destroying a lot of good agricultutal land in the process. For lack of any better coal (if you could call it that), this gooey mess was used for everything from locomotive coal to heating bathwater and its fumes caused the sun and the houses and even the people to turn the same shade of sad brownish grey. It is strange that all ex-East Germans I have mentioned this to don't recall that smell at at all. Maybe if you grow up with it you don't notice it. But it's a smell I can't get out of my head and that your photo brings back to life.

Anyway, the REKO tram type was something special. They were often bemoaned for their bone-breaking ride, but in my eyes there were and indeed still are many tram types that ride far worse and yet don't get criticised as much. To me these trams were a timeless expression of a country that seemed to live outside of meaningful chronology. They were built in the 1970s to a design that was essentially 1950s and using technology that was 1920s. To me they symbolised the optimum in symbiosis between German solid engineering and solid Soviet pragmatism. They were sufficiently robust to have been able to last another 40 years (probably without maintenance or even cleaning) had time and tastes not caught up with them.

Thanks for sharing


christopher said...

That smell of course was just as prevalent across the wall in the West especially in the city area and I remember it so well too. It was a part of Berlin's chemistry on the senses. No doubt to the locals it was something they came conditioned to like living next to a motorway. As for these trams they were rather attractive as I love that traditional shape from the Fifties and before.