The route through Germany
Along the German Baltic coast and the German border
A small bridge crossing a big divide: former inner German border at Mödlareuth
The German section of the Iron Curtain Trail combines the routes of two existing cycle trails. First the cyclist is led along the Baltic Coast Trail from the German-Polish border at Swinemünde to the Priwall peninsula at Travemünde. From thereon, the “German German Border Trail” leads along the former inner German border to the Czech border.
The first stretch along the Baltic coast is well worth a visit for its varied coastal landscapes and many historic spas and hanseatic towns. The starting point lies west of Swinemünde (Świnoujście) in the very interesting Usedom Nature Park. From Usedom, “Berlin’s bathtub”, with its fantastic beaches, the trail continues – still close to the sea – via the old hanseatic and new university city of Greifswald, past the Bodden and the Strelasund up to Stralsund.
The next stretch takes you around the island of Rügen with its chalk cliffs. Then you continue through the West Pomeranian Bodden landscape with its long sandy shoreline, banks overgrown with reeds and shallow waters. Before reaching Warnemünde you cross the extensive forest land of the Rostock Heide and you can take a detour to Rostock from. After that, the trail winds its way alongside unspoiled natural beaches and impressive steep cliffs, on through tranquil, gently sloping farming country, past Wismar and along the Mecklenburg Bay, until you finally reach the coastal town of Travemünde.
It is at this point, where the borders of the Federal Republic and the GDR once intersected at the Baltic Sea that the trail along the former inner-German border begins. Following the track of the German-German Border Trail, which has further commemorative sites, memorial stones and preserved border installations than any other section of this trail, you now head along small country roads towards the old hanseatic town of Lübeck. Before reaching this, you can visit the Customs House Museum in Lübeck-Schlutup to learn about the significance of the inner German border for the region. Of course you should also take a look at Lübeck itself, one of the most important of the hanseatic cities, with its old part of town that is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You now cross the Lauenburgische Seen nature park and the picturesque town of Ratzeburg situated between four lakes and then, after Schlagsdorf, cycle along part of the preserved original border paths used by the GDR border troops, before continuing along the Elbe. On the way you will see memorials of the outpost of Neuengamme Concentration Camp, Gorleben, known above all for its controversial nuclear waste disposal centre, and the Schnackenburg Border Museum. After passing through the medieval village of Salzwedel you continue past Zicherie-Böckwitz (also known as ‘Little Berlin’), a village that was once split in two by the border installations, and along the Drömling nature park to Wolfsburg. You can then visit the memorial site of the former Marienborn checkpoint or the 350-metre-long original border installations at Hötensleben before continuing past the lignite opencast mine at Schöningen.
The trail now takes you to the Harz nature park, and you could well take a trip from there to the mysterious Mount Brocken before going on to the picturesque towns of Duderstadt and Heiligenstadt. At the Duderstadt-Worbis border crossing you will find another informative border museum, which also comprises the former customs administration and control buildings. A few kilometres further, in Böseckendorf, you should also take a look at the border memorial by the German-American sculptor Roger Bischoff. The stones symbolise the desire of the people of Nesselröden and Böseckendorf to reunite. Now the Trail follows the banks of the Werra, passing Eschwege and the post-war documentation centre in Wanfried and, not far from Geisa, brings you to Point Alpha, one of the most important sites on the entire German section of the trail. At Point Alpha, the westernmost point of the Warsaw Pact and easternmost point of NATO territory, the armies of the two blocs came face to face at a distance of only 200 metres. Today it is the site of one of the most interesting of all border museums, with preserved sections of the border defence installations.
After cycling through the Rhön Biosphere Reserve, you go on past Bad Königshofen and the cross of peace on the Dachsberg hill, set up in memory of the forcible resettlement policy under “Aktion Ungeziefer” (pest control) in the year 1952. A little further, on the former border strip between Bavaria and Thuringia, between Mellrichstadt and Meiningen, it is also worth taking a short break in the spectacular sculpture park. If you want to take a look at the former border strip from above, you can do so near Zimmerau, the site of the 38-metre Bayernturm tower, from which you could once view the GDR’s border installations. Back on firm ground, you cycle on towards Ummerstadt. This was once the smallest town in the GDR and today has a jewel-like quality, with its half-timbered houses, market place and fountain.
Go on past the Görsdorf memorial of the Wall, Kronach and the medieval Lauenstein castle and continue through the Thuringian-Frankish schist mountains towards the Czech border. Shortly before you reach it, you pass through another divided village or ‘Little Berlin’, Mödlareuth, which was split in two by the German-German border during the Cold War. There are still traces of that split in the form of observation towers, border posts and a remnant of the concrete wall. At Prex, you finally reach the border with the Czech Republic, the end of the German section.