peter lustig: germany’s most famous tiny house dweller

So you moved to Germany. It took you a while, but you mastered the language. You understand all the words that your friends are saying, but you still don’t understand half of what they say; because you didn’t grow up in Germany, when people start talking pop culture nostalgia, you don’t have a fucking clue.  When you were a kid (you being me, growing up in the United States) you watched Sesame Street, The Smurfs, and Rainbow Bright.  And so did they.  (Though they called them Sesam Straße, Die Schlümpfe, and Regina Regenbogen.)  But they also watched Sandmännchen, Sendung mit der Maus, and Löwenzahn.  (Say what?)  Which brings us to Peter Lustig.

Peter Lustig is probably Germany’s most famous (fictional) Bauwagen dweller, made famous by his role as moderator on the children’s show Löwenzahn, an educational number where Peter, more or less, explains how the world works in 25 years of episodes.  He’s Germany’s answer to America’s Mr. Rogers.

In the very first episode (which you can watch in three parts, here, here and here) Peter trades in his house for a Bauwagen (being pissed at the noise caused by a new airport and after discovering that the usual travel trailers are inflexible, too small, and too expensive), which he buys from a building company, parks in his friend’s Schrebergarten—a rented garden plot, where, I might add, it is actually illegal to live full time, though I do know some people who do it—then fixes up using scavenged materials.  As if that didn’t make the show interesting enough, Lustig ends every episode with a direct look in the camera and instructions for kids to turn off their televisions and go outside.  Even the opening sequence is full of radical imagery: a dandelion (dandelion=löwenzahn) growing up through a crack in the pavement, a saw cutting into a television.

Of course, for the English speakers reading, the most interesting thing about Peter Lustig is probably his Bauwagen.  Which is why I wanted to share a few pictures of it with you here.  It is currently sitting in the Babelsberg Film Studio Lot, where folks touring the studios can get a good look.  I love the old-chair stairs (visible in the photo above), and I’ve had fantasies about a similar roof terrace as well.  I haven’t watched much of the show myself, but what I have seen has been full of interesting ideas for re-purposing household objects for Bauwagen and tiny house living.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Lustig was personally responsible for the existence of a large number of Bauwagen-dwelling adults in Germany today.

Episode two, Ein neues Zuhause (A New Home), finds Peter trying to figure out how to make such a tiny living space work for him.  The neighborhood kids come by to tell him his house is too small, and he tells them about all the folks around the world who live in tiny houses.  (Watch it here.)  If they can do it, so can he.  (And this in the early 80s, long before the “tiny house movement” began to roll.)  If you want a tour of his Wagen, almost finished, as of the second episode, click here and start at 0:45.  You’ll see the chair steps, a toilet in an armoir, a carpet used as an awning, a glass cabinet as a bay window, and a number of other “lustig” innovations (hardeeharharhar, “lustig” means “funny” in German, fyi).

Funnier yet is what the Beard told me about Peter Lustig this morning.  At the end of his 25-year career as moderator for the popular children’s show (today the show has a new moderator), Lustig admitted to interviewers that he can’t actually stand children.  Fans everywhere were horrified.  “Children should watch the show and have their fun, but I don’t like having them around me.  Like all adults, I am of the opinion that children are sticky or disruptive or loud.  I’m no fan of children, that’s a misunderstanding.”  I was amused.  What irony!  You can’t expect an actor playing a part to be the part he’s playing in real life, after all.  But whatever he thinks about children, at least he had a pretty neat Wagen.

Photos (cc) static_view (top) and honma (bottom)

0 Comments on “peter lustig: germany’s most famous tiny house dweller

  1. Great post! I don’t speak German, but I watched the bit about his Wagen and its various ‘rooms’. The colors in the show are so 70s(early 80s) they make me smile. I was born in -73, so they are my colors, as well, and their are some Finnish tv shows for children from that era which have that same look and feel as this – especially one about a circus clown who lives in a ‘Wagen’ 😀 (I used to love the Czech mole stories and animations, but I also watched the Smurfs at some point.)

  2. Ooohhhh! This post has sent me straight down the memory lane… I used to watch his show in the late 80’s on public television in Montevideo, Uruguay. The channel had many German shows produced by Transtel, and I particularly liked this one.

    The subject sometimes pops up when I meet people my age since the shows have literally disappeared, but everyone remembers them fondly – off the top of my head, just to name a few: “Der Alt”, Fussball (Beckenbauer still played!), “Telematch”, The box of toys (I think Janosch had something to do with that one), a dramatic series about a football player named Manny, and of course, Peter Lustig!

    I guess your partner might remember some of the shows. If so, I’d love to know the title of the Manny series. I remember it as being awesome and would love to track it down. Thank you!!!

  3. Sara: What a cute little Wagen he lives in! Awesome. Too bad we don’t get a look at the inside. (Or if you do, I accidentally skipped over it.)

    Julia: Ooo Janosch. I love Janosch. I need to write about all Janosch’s lovely books someday. The show is pretty awesome too.

    The Beard says the show with the football player named Manny doesn’t ring any bells for him. He says the only ones he remembers are Die Kickers (with Gregor) and something like Super tolle Fußball Stars, but that neither were German originally.

  4. I don’t think you actually ever got to see the inside of Pelle Hermanni’s home during the show, it concentrated mostly on his funny undertakings and stories. I think the Peter Lustig concept is much stronger in terms of sustainable living etc.; I just thought it funny to mention the little similarity. And actually there was an informative Swedish tv show for children that I used to watch where a woman lived in an old train carriage, I think, and a talking owl(a man in actual fact) lived on her roof and they debated various issues. I remember it being socially relevant in that she once went to meet Olof Palme – the then prime minister – for instance. The name of that show escapes me, but it was good.

  5. Hey! Thank you for asking your partner about it. Who knows… maybe it was produced for Latin America only??? Who knows?

    A specialist in children’s literature told me Janosch too doesn’t like children. But his characters are just too lovely!

  6. That is so awesome! All of it! I was loving those stairs before I even realized they were chairs too.

    A big above-garage patio is on my list of things my dream home would have. That and a 1920’s era built in dining room hutch, our neighborhood is full of those craftsman houses. And a secret passage way, probably a bit more unrealistic dream…

  7. cool! at this point in my german learning, and given my wife is at 28 weeks and I plan to raise our demonspawn bilingual. german children’s books & TV have definitely been my focus for the last while. thanks for the Peter Lustig video links!

    Not sure if it’s always the case, but I notice a strong moral and story difference between our literature and german. (see Most North American kid’s stories end happily and the stories more often than not are there just to entertain.

    Not sure if your husband watched them growing up, but I am also really enjoying Piggeldy und Frederick. zB (

    I see you’re really close – good luck with your delivery!

  8. Pingback: more tiny house toys | click clack gorilla

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