It's 30 years after the german re-unification as we mind a bizarre plan: Since years we dreamed about a hiking trail along the former border between the two Germanys. What about to do that now? The complete borderline nowadays is a 1.400 kilometer long hiking way named „Grenzwanderweg“ or „Green Ribbon“ and it leeds hikers along the former Kolonnenweg, the path on which the east german border guards monitored the death zone or „Iron Curtain“ between the socialist world and the west. The is the first part of our adventure while we hike along the iron curtain.
The first episode of our hike you can read here.
Here we go with the second one.
Oh, what a wet awakening. Since 3 in the morning a heavy rain is coming down over the former death strip at the edge "Planken and Schlettauer Post" wood where our tent stand right in the middle of the no mans land of the cold war.
It’s a very peaceful place today. Only mother nature lives between the two moats which are left over from the border fortifications with which the communist GDR regime wanted to prevent its citizens from fleeing to the west. The moats are dry normally at the end of the summer, but the rain brings back the water. The death strip becomes a prison again, the tent get wet and we can only venture out at noon. Than we are making coffee. And we found an old door that maybe once closed a hole in the border fence.
The way we have to go after this is a liquid adventure too. The rains still here. And the Kolonnenweg today leads through deep and dark woods today, the “concrete biscuits” called way slabs are lost sometimes and we have to find our way along the historic line by searching for traces.
Some of the signs are very special: Think about the fact you will find some real apple trees deep in a regular mixed forest. A riddle – but with a very simple explanation. Years ago in the cold war the soldiers and border guards took apples as proviant with them during their watch shift. They eat them and threw the scraps into the wood. A good place to grow. Today you will see an apple grove where never an apple tree was all the ages since the last ice age. The trees not only survived the times of death, they owe their lives to them.
These are the stories you can’t find at another place. Even if the traces of the former border can often only be guessed at, there are still numerous signs of the forgotten times that used to take place here in the landscape. Many border guards immortalized themselves on numerous trees during the long and apparently boring hours of their guard duty.
Often there are lists of the remaining days of service that have been scratched into the tree bark. Althoughtheir officers cracked down on the costum, the letters "EK", which adorn not only trees but also concrete parts to this day, show that the dismissal candidates did never give up the hope of leaving the hated border service. Their work is now a highlight of this very special hike along the "Green Ribbon".
Another and much more greater tragic shows a landmark with a rest of the former border fence: Rainer Burgis, citizen of Ritzleben in the Altmark region was killed here in 1978 when he tried to escape the GDR. The young man was only 20 years old, his grave on the graveyard of Stappenbeck no longer exists.
What happened in the night of his death is unknown, his comrad Wilfried Senkel survived the drama, but his traces are lost in times. Regulary an cauth refugee must go to jail for years before the west buyed them free. They’re luckier than Harry Weltzin. a young man who was killed by a automaticly spring gun at the 4. September 1983 while he tried to cross the border on 15 October 1978 near Mechau-Ritzleben. Hundreds of refugees were arrested by the East German border guard regiments of Salzwedel and Schoenberg and handed over to courts where they had to endure several years of imprisonnıent in general as their punishment.
On our hike the sun is shining over the places of blood and grief. No one wanders this way. The woods are empty, the former death strip is silent.
A few more pictures for you: