Posted by: ingogulde | March 11, 2010

Why Bananas were special in East Germany

Bananas are today a staple but were rare in East Germany

Bananas are today a staple but were rare in East Germany

I love bananas! Yet, I could not have them everyday. Our grocery store had them only once or twice a month. And once the day had come, it was a matter of luck to get any. There would be no advertising. It worked all word-of-mouth or through observation. It was quite easy to know when a store would have bananas or other exotic fruits, like oranges or melons. Either your neighbor or colleague would tell you or you could see when there was a long line in front of the grocery store. Unlike today, there was only a handful of grocery stores, not even supermarkets, in our little town of 3,000 inhabitants. The long line would soon become synonym for a long wait for something special. That’s why we still have the common expression in East Germany when we see a long line “Do they have bananas here or why is the line so long?”

One of these special days, my mom heard from one of  her colleague that they sell bananas today. Usually, by the time work was over, the bananas would be sold out or the shopkeepers would have held on to some and sell them under-the-counter to their friends, neighbors, and family. Our shopkeeper had a big heart for children. So she would keep some for parents with young children. That day my mom got lucky and brought home some bananas.

Eating bananas was like a big celebration, especially for me as a toddler. My mom would prepare a couple of slices of bread with butter and cut the bananas into little cubes and put them onto the slices of bread. It was a feast! I still remember the fresh and sweet taste of my first banana.

Shortly after the wall came down, bananas became a normal part of everyday life. Now and then, I remember my first banana and am happy that future generations will grow up in a world of abundance and not scarcity.

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  1. […] old and led a quite comfortable and protected life. Yes, we did not have everything we wanted (e.g. bananas) but we had a good life after all. Now, everything was about to change. And I, as a child did not […]

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