Trekking at the river: Where Germany once has had two ends

in TravelFeed2 months ago

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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.

This is the second one.

Here we go with the third one:

Inside of one of the last watchtowers.
Inside of one of the last watchtowers.

The next border we have to cross is the river Elbe, the one great divide between the west and the east on our tour. There is no bridge nearby, but a ferry connection between Schnackenburg and Lütkenwisch since the beginning of the 17th century. In 1945 the Russians stopped ferry traffic forcibly – no more way to the other side to get there because the inner-German border ran middle in the river, today a blue stream of water under a bright sun between green shores.

This is the little ferry ”Westprignitz”.
This is the little ferry ”Westprignitz”.

Spurred on by the successful readmission of neighboring ferry connections after the fall of the Wall, the Schnackenburger Klaus Reineke 1991 deep into the Bag and bought a ferry in Holland. Since September 7, 1991, the ferry „Ilka“ binds what belongs together. It tooked Reinecke all his power at the beginning and for the first eleven months.

A ferry bridge for Schnackenburg

He all shifts personally and witnessed countless emotionaller moments: people fell around the neck each other and didn't want to let go again. A memorial was erected during the War-born, trained inland waterwayfer and later customs officials lifetime set: At he Schnackenburger ferry dock reminds a not to be overseen sign pointing to the lifting of the unhuman separation of a continent.

On the other side.
On the other side.

The Ilka runs normally til today and with a little bit of luck you can find Klaus Reineke, in retirement since 2004 in the summer months temporary help at the wheel. But not in this summer because the Ilka is out of order. So we have to walk to Gartow, a small town a few kilometres away. Gartow has a ferry too who is going from Lenzen to Pevestorf under the name „Westprignitz“. It's a very small one and it needs only a few minutes to get over. On the other side we're back on the track: The Kolonnenweg now runs along the dam on the Elbe.

The remaining watchtower.
The remaining watchtower.

A last Watchtower as overlock

The first sign of the history is a watchtower direct on the border who overlooks the landscape, the wide river and the flat earth around. For the first time we met the bicyclists who drive along the Elberadweg by the hundreds. It's a kind of a highway for them with nice lookouts, some coffeehouses and beautifully renovated houses that no longer remind you of the bad times when the iron curtain ran here and nobody was allowed to come too close to the river.

Up on the dam.
Up on the dam.

Twice over the years all the people who lived here were brutally evacuated and taken away to make the border safe. Only very reliable citizens were allowed to live here. Peter, an older man, tells us that he worked here as a farmer. "Every time I had to go to the restricted area to look after the cows, a soldier would sit in the car behind me with his weapon to make sure I didn't escape."

Dark clouds over a historical area.
Dark clouds over a historical area.

Unreachable for 40 years

The historic town center of Lenzen is only 1.5 km away to the northeast. It was unreachable for nearly 40 years. With his first mentioned in 929, Lenzen is the place with the oldest documented history in the whole Prignitz. Hidden behind trees, the silhouette of Lenzen Castle can be foreseen. A thousand years ago the Slavs built a wooden fortified castle here. On the opposite Elbe side rose then as now the ridge of the Höhbeck, on which in the late 8th century king Karl der Große had a fort built to secure the border against the Slavs.

This is art: The ferryman on the hades
This is art: The ferryman on the hades

It is unbelievable to imagine this was cut into half for ages when you see the peaceful landscape, the bicyclists and the wide rolling river between the deep green on the shores and his sandy beaches. The famous ice oak at Mödlitz is the next landmark we passed by. She has seen all this. And she survived like the people who now live again here where Germany once has had two ends.

Bright lights are back again.
Bright lights are back again.
This kind of old houses are rebuild and beautiful again.
This kind of old houses are rebuild and beautiful again.
Remember the guard soldier Grzonka, who died at this place at the flood 1888.
Remember the guard soldier Grzonka, who died at this place at the flood 1888.
View from the watchtower.
View from the watchtower.
View into the telescope.
View into the telescope.
On this area - straight ahead is our way.
On this area - straight ahead is our way.
All along the watchtower... (Hendrix)
All along the watchtower... (Hendrix)

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Wow I have a few questions so has all of the mines and explosive ordnance been located and removed?

Good morning, thank you for your question. Your right, they buried 1,3 mio mines along the borderline (east side) and roundabout 33.000 of them were never found after the fall of the Berlin wall and the rest of the Iron Curtain. But otherwise: The former borderline is 1.400 km long in total and the mine strip is 250 meters wide. This means the area is 350000000 square meters large and you can expect one remaining mine on 10,000 square meters. This is one and a half soccerfield and the mines are NEVER buried under the Kolonnenweg. So your chance to survive the trip is huge ;-)

It was just a question that flew into my mind immediately upon seeing everything that's going on.

Amazing way to reallocate that space and turn it into a positive.

Absolutely amazing. I am surprised that the local metal detecting groups are not helping to track down and clean up the land mines. However I have a feeling they probably are.

Depending on when those mines were initially buried, most of them are probably corroded and non-functional.

Only 2,5 % remaining somewhere under the surface. And nobody is wandering there - we only met 2 hikers in our two weeks.

That is pretty incredible but considering the history I can see why it would be so sparsely visited.

At least they strongly promote it. https://www.bund.net/themen/gruenes-band/gruenes-band-erleben/ But on the way you see only very few signposts.

I have a feeling that pretty much everybody knows exactly where it's at but I could see how a lot of people would avoid the area due to the history and the 2.5% chance of stepping on a land mine

No, never. The most people don't know the path, they don't know the area and they don't know the fact that there were mines 30 years ago.