Iron Curtain Trail Familiar with German Youth

29.08.2011: Three German students are cycling the Iron Curtain Trail. Article from Finland by Aleksanteri Pikkarainen

The Iron Curtain Trail Familiar with German Youth

Lapland offers cyclists an exotic history

Three students from Berlin are cycling along the Eastern Borders of Europe, where the Iron Curtain had previously divided it during the Cold War.

For Roman Schulte-Sasse, Janis Humann and Niklas Prenzel, the journey gives them an opportunity to learn about the history of the route, and to pass their experiences on to others back home.

They began their journey last Monday in Kirkenes, a city in Northern Norway, heading for St. Petersburg. On Wednesday the boys were in Kuusamo,

"In addition to our own interests, we hope our experiences could contribute to the newest editions of the ICT guidebooks, for example accommodation possibilities, especially in places where there is not much information, like a stretch in Russia" clarified Schulte-Sasse.

Before the long bike trip, the three read books to familiarize themselves with the Finnish landscape. So far the natural attractions have been better than the historical,

"To be honest we'd like to know more of the history, but Lapland's scenery is fantastic and the people are very friendly" Humann said.

They saw, for the first time, some horned animals grazing.

"There are more reindeer in Lapland than people, they are pretty amazing animals. What are the reindeer used for? Are they like cattle? "

After a brief explanation, they were informed that Reindeer are used mainly for consumption, as food.

"But it's no longer tasty if they're such nice animals" Humann said.

After ten days and over three hundred kilometers, the trio is still alive and kicking. All three have a background in hiking, but they are still surprised by its difficulty. They had not practiced traveling long distances with bikes before the trip.

"We bike in Berlin every day to go to school at the University but it's only forty minutes one way. It's quite different to peddle on this hilly terrain for so long. On the first day, Niklas and I had badly sore knees. Perhaps we should have done more resistance training" Schulte-Sasse admits.

"Our backsides have been fairly painful as well" Humann adds, laughing.

As visitors they learn that memories of the war are still strong in the north.

"Even in Norway we met people who were forced to flee their homes during the German occupation," Prenzel, a student of history, says.

In Savukoski the trio learned that during Germany's retreat 90% of the village had been burned down. It is still sometimes difficult for older Finns to see Germans in a positive light.

"Looking back on history can be hard, as Germans we can't avoid seeing the consequences it can entail. In our hometown, Berlin, we see the evidence of these memories along the street on a daily basis".

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