It's 30 years after the german re-unification as we mind a bizarre plan: We're trekking along the Iron Curtain, the former deadly borderline between the East and the West of Germany! There is a hiking way named „Grenzwanderweg“ or „Green Ribbon“. You can hike here along the path on which the east german border guards monitored the „Iron Curtain“ between the socialist world and the west.
The first episode of our hike you can read here.
Man is a strange animal. He always wants what he doesn't have. And if he gets it, he is disappointed. We don't, we're "Marching on" like the great Mike Peters of the Band The Alarm sings. After a nice and sunny walk along the dams of Hitzacker - heavy are only the weight of 20 kilograms we have to carry each - we're trekking along the Iron Curtain now on the western side and we're stumble into a village called Neu-Darchau.
The name alone suggests that something happened here at some point: Darchau is on the other, on the east side of the river Elbe, for more than 40 years old and new Darchau were separated from each other. Families could not come together, brothers could not visit each other, children could not see their parents years after years. Those who got a permit had to make long detours to cross the few meters to the other bank, because there was neither a bridge nor a ferry.
This is particularly strange because world history has had a lot of very dark fun here, of all places. Just a few meters behind Neu-Darchau, which is located in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district, the Lüneburg district begins, which extended to the other side of the Elbe until the end of the war.
But the Allies decided, for the sake of simplicity, to draw a border in the middle of the river here as well: All Lower Saxony who lived to the east became GDR citizens under the socialist regime. If they didn't flee as fast as they can.
Once a horrible area
This cuted families and friends from each other. If you carry your backpack through this landscape of old trees, wide meadows and smiling cows you never get the idea how horrible this area was 40 years ago. Only after the wall fell and German unification came, Angelika, who lives in Neu-Darchau, tells us that relatives and friends were able to get together again.
After a citizens' vote, the eastern part of the Lüneburg district came together again with the western part. Unfortunately, without having a direct connection: apart from two ferries there is nothing up to Lüneburg. "And that's why there is no way over in winter when there is ice and in summer when the water is low."
A bridge has therefore been supposed to be built for a long time, but unfortunately the best place for it is not in the Lüneburg district, as Hendrik describes, who lives in Neu-Darchau and is one of the bridge advocates. But in Neu-Darchau, in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district. "I think it's good," says Hendrik, "but many see as different."
Refugees against the bridge
The many refugees from the big cities of Hamburg and Hanover, in particular, who have settled here in the quiet of the former border region, would rather continue to live at the end of a dead end and have their peace and quiet. "The fact that the farmers have to go over there to harvest is of no interest to the newcomers any more than the problems of the people who belong to Lower Saxony but are completely cut off there in the east."
That's why posters hang everywhere in town. No bridge! Or: Yes to the bridge! There has been an argument for years, because the times are over when, like 30 years ago in Dömitz, longing and determination made a huge bridge grow out of nowhere within just two years. But today the people say "we don't need bridged over troubled waters, we don't need a connection to the east. We're happy divided!
Today it takes an infinite amount of time, an infinite amount of arguments, strife and strife. In any case, we get on the ferry, which here is called "Tanja" and it takes five minutes to cross the river. On the other hand, we are back in the former East, which was formerly the GDR, but is now part of Lower Saxony. West in the middle of the east. What a crazy trail.
A few more pictures for you: