Berlin’s Ampelmann is simple a crossing guard, an electronic figure who appears in most of the street lights indicating when it is safe to walk. When it’s not, Ampelmann turns red and extends his arms. When it’s OK to walk, Ampelmann turns green and breaks into an energetic stride.
But from a larger perspective, Amplemann is a jaunty little character who survived the darkness of Communism and oppression in East Berlin to become a beloved symbol of a unified city and country.
Who is Berlin’s Ampelmann?
Ampelmann was an authoritative figure in East Berlin, but when the wall came down in 1989, he was quickly adopted by West Berliners and really, all of Germany. He’s a cool dude all right, perhaps because of his distinctive flat-brimmed hat and his ability to be everywhere he’s needed. Everyone in Berlin does what Ampelmann says.
He is so popular, he has his own retail outlet just a block east of Checkpoint Charlie at the intersection of Freiderstraße and Unter den Linden. You’ll know it by the life size green Ampelmann standing outside.
Ampelmann Souvenirs in Berlin
Here you can buy Ampelmann candy and pasta, soaps, coffee mugs, ice cube trays, Christmas ornaments, coloring books, flip-flops and all sorts of delightful treasures. Many street vendors and other tourist boutiques sell Ampelmann items. He also shows up on street lights and in shopping districts in other German cities. And he has a girlfriend named Ampelfrau. She has pink pigtails.
So it makes one wonder: If Charlie Brown had Ampelmann looking out for him, would he have avoided the dangers of the kite-eating tree? If Ampelfrau had held the football, would Charlie Brown eventually made a successful kick?
It’s all a matter of cultural perspective.