The old state of East Germany is famous for a lot of things that are not very pleasant --- the secret police, or Stasi, comes to mind as being the worst the country had to offer (the movie "The Lives of Others" or "Das Leben der Anderen" gives an idea of how the Stasi operated --- it is a frightening but wonderful film). Despite the bad things of the old east, one is forced to also admit that some very great things came from East Germany as well. Some people are even nostalgic for the old East German times --- thus coining the modern German portmanteau "Ostalgie" (from Ost, meaning East, and Nostalgia).
Even from a western perspective there are some unquestionably awesome things that were produced by East Germany. Katarina Witt, perhaps the most popular ice skater ever, comes immediately to mind. A bit more obscure, but certainly just as awesome, is the legendary Ampelmann: the hat-sporting character on East German pedestrian traffic lights. The Ampelmann has now achieved cult status --- with entire stores in Germany devoted to selling products, such as tee-shirts, bearing his likeness (you can also order Amplemann products on the web, here).
And in these two photos below, I have crossed a street in Berlin at the kind direction of the Amplemann.
Now to finish off this blog post, I think it would be entirely appropriate to post photos of Katarina Witt. My younger brother is a big fan (he just loves Olympic skating) and I thought that maybe, if I post some pictures of her, he might actually read my blog.
This is Katarina Witt in her gold-medal-winning Carmen routine from the 1988 Olympics in Calgary (she also won gold in 1984 in Sarajevo). I remember watching that performance. She was stunning (here is a video of it, or here). She also earned some international cred by being completely unimpressed with famed slalom gold-medalist and lady's man Alberto Tomba. After he declared publicly that he would woo her at the Olympics, her only response was "I don't think he knows very much about figure skating."