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.
This ist part 9:
One day Heike bought a piece of border fence and set it up right next to her apple orchard. Three pillars, two fences, a sign "Warning border, entry forbidden" are now next to the old school in Neu Wendischthun. This small building stands only a few stones throwns away from the Elbe bank. "I want wo show everyone how it used to be here", says the sympathetic woman, who has spent her entire life in the restricted area at the border.
The woman who has never seen the river
It's an incredible life: "For thirty years", she says, "I never saw the Elbe myself." Only when the border collapsed 30 years ago, Heike could walk up to the dam and take a look at the river. "That was so nice," she says. "Because our whole family was over there on the other side all these years and we were here and couldn't go over there."
Many cried when the first improvised boats bridged the gap between east and west. "And it was clear that everyone wanted to get rid of all the fences and towers and security systems very quickly." You just couldn't do it anymore, Heike believed. But before you knew it, everything was gone. No more watchtowers. No more fences. No more traces of the former iron border.
"The fence panels in particular were the very best goods," she complains, "the west german politician Franz Joseph Strauss had give east germans chief Honecker a billion-dollar loan for that." Heike isn't a woman who is sad about the fallen Iron Curtain. But she want's to remember the bitter and dark times. "It's over", she said, "but we should have it always in mind."
Nothing left of the borderline
Because cyclists and hikers kept asking why there was nothing left of the Iron Curtain, Heike drove down to Bavaria one day. "I had heard that someone was selling parts of the old border fence there." And really - the five meter wide piece that now stands next to the apple trees and the children's playground has traveled here from southern Germany. "It is exactly the same kind of fence as it was here with us," assures Heike, who should know it better than anyone else.
Jan nods and is amazed. The young man from Saxony is on his bike and, like us, ended up looking for a place for his tent in Heike's apple orchard. Jan has only been on the Elbe Cycle Path for five days. And has almost reached his first destination, Hamburg.
E-Bikes retirees, a plague
"After that I want to go to Copenhagen," he says. Is that almost another 500 kilometers? "Yes, but rather that than walking with your rucksacks", laughs Jan, who leaves us early in the morning. "Otherwise the e-bike retirees will be everywhere again." Jan calls them a plague. We too.
We're invited from Heike, to see the small museum she build in the old school house whit some documents from the dark age of division. You can see pictures here with east german border guards, from the un-human fence and from the happy moments as the wall falls and all the people of the area have had a party at the shore.
We are leaving Heike with a big smile, because we are have to go back to our trail. Back to the former dead zone who is now a place of life, of nature and rare animals. Up the giant backpack, trekking shoes on and straight ahead to the north again. Back down on the memory lane to find more stories, more interesting people and slowly disappearing traces of the cruel past.
A few more pictures for you: