Have you ever noticed how that pedestrian traffic signals are different depending on where you are in the world? I absolutely fell in love with the little crossing man, the East German pedestrian traffic light symbol or the “ampel men.” He seemed so friendly whether telling me to cross or to stay right where I was on the sidewalk. But who is he? From the Ampelmann website:
On October 13, 1961 when, in response to the growing threat of road traffic accidents, the traffic psychologist, Karl Peglau, introduced the first pedestrian signals to the GDR capital. And so the vehicle traffic light, which had directed traffic alone up to that point, was joined by the pedestrian traffic light. Its design was psychologically conceived, because road-users react more quickly to appealing symbols.
After reunification, the ampel men were set to disappear along with other items from East German life. In 1994 the phase out began, but in 1996, Markus Heckhausen, an industrial designer, created a lamp out of the glass of the original traffic lights and so the Ampelman products were born. What happened next is what movies are made of as people united to preserve the ampel men and soon after, the media and politicians also followed suit. They are back on the streets again with only the west or euro traffic light man allowed only on main roads. In 1999, Heckhausen created the first Ampelmann collection and now there is an Ampelmann gallery, two stores in Berlin, and sales via the Internet.
We had seen Ampelmann products in a few of the stores that sold souvenirs, but I was glad I could buy authentic products from the original store. I knew I wanted to buy something, but what was I going to leave the store with today?
Rich gravitated immediately to one item and now loves sporting his Ampelmann training jacket (€59,90) in green and red and I have to agree, it’s pretty cool. No, that is not Rich in the picture!
Expect crowds in this store with products ranging from fashion to jewelry to products for the home and they are somewhat on the pricey side, but still — it’s an Ampelmann!
You can pick up something small like a postcard to take back home with you or go full out. Although I wonder how you would get some of these items back home, you could purchase a suitcase, chairs, lamps or if you prefer, something with an Ampelwoman on it. I love how she is pink with ponytails!
Unter den Linden 35
Although there is an Ampelmann Restaurant, we decided to do dinner that night at Fritz 101. A German restaurant steps from the U-Bahn, it definitely has an appeal to the tourist crowd as it is front and center on Friedrichstrasse and is near many hotels.
As is the case in German restaurants, there are communal tables as well as small tables. We had our own table near the back by ourselves and we couldn’t wait to get a drink immediately. Rich got a local beer called the Allgäuer Büble Bier and the one I ordered was a lighter ale, but the name, unfortunately, escapes me. The restaurant is large, but we saw maybe three servers working the restaurant and that definitely affected the overall service. We ordered our beverages and meal and didn’t see our server again until our food arrived.
Appetizers: For an appetizer, we ordered the traditional German cucumber salad in a dill sour cream dressing. Thinly sliced cucumbers lightly dressed in the sour cream dressing was a light and delicious little salad.
Our other appetizer was the rocket salad. Rocket, also known as arugula in the United States, was dressed and served with cheese and croutons. Rich was all about this salad while I felt it was a little too over-dressed.
Entrees: There is something strangely amusing about having two non-meat eaters go to a country rich in food dominated by meat. We searched out many restaurants along the way and we were glad that Fritz 101 had two vegetarian entrees. The first was the Ragout von geschwenkten Waldpilzenragout, a ragout of mixed wild mushrooms in an herbal cream and bread dumpling and this was super delicious. I was ready to devour all of the mushrooms all by myself, but I had to share.
Our second entree was the Käsespätzle mit Gruyiere, which was cheese spaetzle topped with gruyere cheese. This was Rich’s favorite without a doubt.
Now one usually conjures up images of big plates of meat and potatoes when you think of German food so I hope I haven’t disappointed you. The food was rich and delicious and the beer was beyond perfect.
Because this is a big restaurant that is usually quite busy, be forewarned that your food comes out all at the same time and it will take some time for it to arrive. Luckily, we didn’t have any plans afterwards, but if we had, it could have ended badly. I get the idea of sitting back and enjoying friends and family over a meal and drinks, but I would actually need a meal and drinks in order to do this. Since we didn’t have any food on the table, we talked, but the experience would have been significantly better if we at least had something to eat (bread?) and maybe more beer. We practically had to trip our server to get him to stop in order to just get another drink from him. My suggestion? Ask for check as soon as your food is delivered or you might never see the server again. Despite the good food and painfully slow service, we had a great dinner.
Fritz 101 Restaurant