On my most recent trip to Berlin, apart from discovering how amazing quark tastes and how its very common to end your sentences with an or (“oder” in German), I fell in love with the little traffic light man – Ampelmann. This little guy is the pedestrian signal. He caught my eye on the very first day when I took a stroll. My reaction to the first time I saw him surprised my friend, who is a local from Berlin. I guess, he doesn’t seem as special if you grew up looking at him. Little did I know back then that he was a popular, beloved symbol of Berlin with a lot of history. He even has an entire industry of souvenirs and merchandise thriving on him.
Ampelmann looks like a little man wearing a hat. Something about the way he was designed by his creator Karl Peglau back in 1961 has made him have a cult following. The beauty of making a traffic signal so like-able is that when pedestrians like it they will follow him – well at least it worked with me. Ampelmann is actually one of the sole features from communist East Germany which has survived the end of the Iron Curtain. Back when he faced the danger of extinction people protested and got him back to ensure that he wasn’t replaced by his western counterpart. I think it’s a great example of how something so iconic was embraced with warmth and not tarnished by a failed social order. So if you’re in Berlin be sure to observe the pedestrian signals for its one of a kind and sure to make you love the city a little more.