While East-West tensions are the highest they have been since the Cold War, European Union officials are planning to turn a symbol of that dark period — the Iron Curtain — into a bicycle path that will boost tourism and promote unity on the continent. The $2.4 million (€1.8 million) “Iron Curtain Trail” project will stretch 4,225 miles (6,800 km) from the Barents Sea on the Norwegian-Russian border to the Black Sea at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. The cycling route passes through 20 countries, including 14 EU members, along the former death strip that divided Warsaw Pact countries and NATO members from 1945 to 1991.
Image via Ebs Els
EU parliamentarian Michael Cramer, chair of the committee on transport and tourism, who unveiled the plan Monday in Vienna along with Austrian EU commissioner, Johannes Hahn, wants to mark the trail with small blue squares similar to what is already in place in north-east Germany and between the German-Czech border and Austria. He cites as a model Germany’s 99 mile (160 km) “Berlin Wall Trail” that was successfully scaled up to the 870 mile (1,400 km) “German-German Border Trail.”
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Cramer envisions the “Iron Curtain Trail” as transforming the dividing line into “a symbol of shared, pan-European experience in a reunified Europe.” In his introduction to the plan in the brochure, he also writes that the trail will allow bikers to pass monuments and other reminders of the Cold War that are “part of Europe’s collective memories which can help promote the much-talked about European identity.”
The route runs through Scandinavia, the Baltic states, the Polish Baltic coast, through Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and Slovenia, past the Balkans and to the Black Sea. The existing trail has been registered with the Eurovelo European cycle route network since 2012.
+ Iron Curtain Trail
Via Fast Company
Lead image Shutterstock, others via Scott Schroeder