It seems rather unfair that a medium-sized city which gave to the world Romantic composer Robert Schumann and the prestige Audi marque is known instead for the Trabant. Yet such is the ironic nostalgia for GDR kitsch – Ostalgie as it is known – that the plastic “people’s car” used throughout the communist bloc is the most famous export of ZWICKAU, which lies in the foothills of the eastern Erzgebirge range. Such is the price of being the regime’s Motor City for four decades. The tradition of motor manufacturing in Zwickau, ongoing in major Volkswagen plants in surrounding suburbs, was initiated in 1909 by August Horch, an entrepreneurial engineer who caught the wave of industrial success in the late 1800s. His legacy is an excellent motor museum north of the centre, the premier reason to visit – the centre is a pleasant enough but unremarkable assortment of historic islands, nineteenth-century grandeur and modern commercial shopping arranged around two squares, Marienplatz and Hauptmarkt.
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